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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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Knowledge Management: Perils and Promises

During the last decade or so, knowledge management—a set of management activities, aimed at designing and influencing processes of knowledge creation and integration including processes of sharing knowledge—has emerged as one of the most influential new organizational practices. Numerous companies have experimented with knowledge management initiatives in order to improve their performance. At the same time, the literature on knowledge management has virtually exploded (e.g. Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; Choo, 1998; von Krogh et al., 2000; Easterby-Smith et al., 2000; Nonaka and von Krogh, 2009).

Knowledge management would thus seem to be one of those areas where managerial practice and the academic literature develop simultaneously and perhaps even co-evolve. Here knowledge management is not much different from many other management fads of the recent decades such as business process reengineering or total quality management that also promise to contribute to competitive advantage—although this is asserted rather than carefully demonstrated. The analogy goes further, for knowledge management is also akin to these fads in that there is no clear disciplinary foundation for it. Indeed, the underpinnings of knowledge management are a mixed bag, ranging from Eastern philosophical traditions over ideas from organizational behavior to notions from information science. Strikingly (to us, at least), organizational economics plays a limited role in ...

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