The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management publishes original articles on topics relevant to studying, implementing, measuring and managing knowledge management and intellectual capital.

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Journal Article

The Emergence and Diffusion of the Concept of Knowledge Work  pp103-116

Hanna Timonen, Kaija-Stiina Paloheimo

© Oct 2008 Volume 6 Issue 2, ICICKM 2007, Editor: Rembrandt Klopper, pp1 - 116

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The past decades have witnessed the proliferation of research on knowledge work. Knowledge work has mostly been used as an antonym to manual work, to refer to specific occupations characterized by an emphasis on specialized skills and the use of theoretical knowledge. The efforts to encompass all the different contexts where knowledge plays a relevant role in work tasks has resulted in various and ambiguous definitions of what knowledge work actually is. In order to shed light on the elusive concept of knowledge work, we studied how it has appeared in the scientific discussion, and diffused from one scientific community to another. As the circulation of new ideas and concepts in scientific discussion is apparent through academic literature, we examined the emergence and diffusion of the concept of knowledge work through a citation analysis on articles from the Social Sciences Citation Index. The data set consists of 273 articles with 7,057 cited references for the 1974 to 2003 period, and we used a dense sub‑network grouping algorithm on the co‑citation network to distinguish highly cited groups of references. We distinguish three periods of diffusion of the concept of knowledge work. The results show that Drucker's In the age of discontinuity (1969) and Bell's The coming of post‑industrial society (1968) were the main influencers when the concept emerged in the scientific discussion from 1974 to 1992. After this period, we can distinguish a slow diffusion period from 1993 to 2003, when the concept started to gain attention, and a fast diffusion period from 1999 to 2003, when the research proliferated. The discussion dispersed outside the management domain already in the emergence period, but the management domain has stayed the main domain of discussion also later on. However, from 1992 to 2003 the discussion inside the management domain dispersed into different groups. One of the main influences to a new group of research that appeared at this time was Zuboff's In the age of the smart machine (1984). This group, drawing on research conducted on knowledge‑intensive firms, has recently produced highly cited articles such as Blackler's 'Knowledge, knowledge work and organizations' in Organization Studies (1995). As the current discussion on knowledge work is dispersed in different groups, there is a need to engage in a common conceptual discussion and define what is actually meant by knowledge work.


Keywords: scientific discourse, knowledge work, bibliometric analysis, citation analysis


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Journal Article

Knowledge Management, an Enduring but Confusing Fashion  pp117-131

Ken Grant

© Apr 2011 Volume 9 Issue 2, ICICKM 2010 special issue, Editor: W.B. Lee, pp85 - 180

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Knowledge Management has been a subject of significant management interest for some 15 years. During that time it has been subjected to a variety of criticisms including the argument that it is little more than a “fad” — something that catches management’s attention for a while and then fades away because of a lack of sustainability. It has been compared to other major management fads such as quality circles and business process re‑engineering. This paper examines the discipline of Knowledge Management (KM) through the lens of management fashion theory. It demonstrates that KM is not a fad and that it has become an enduring management activity. Management Fashion Theory (Abrahamson and Fairchild, 1999) is an extension of Rogers’ Theory of Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 2003), that takes a skeptical view of business innovations, viewing the discourse about and the diffusion of innovations as a cultural phenomenon rather than a rational decision making process. After a brief introduction to the field of Knowledge Management (KM), a review of the theories of Diffusion of Innovations and Management Fashion is presented, along with a description of the methodology used to apply Management Fashion Theory to the discourse on KM. Bibliometric and content analysis techniques are used to examine publications and discourse in the field from 1990 to 2009. The analysis of discourse on KM demonstrates a significant period of “latency” from the late 1980s to 1994, during which foundational ideas and precursors to KM appear. Then a rapid growth period is identified, from 1995‑2001 during which KM becomes an innovation of interest to most major organizations. Finally, it appears that discourse has settled at a steady state, with no decline apparent. However, detailed analysis has also indentified a potential conflict between the interests of practitioners and researchers, with a separation of the discourse into distinct groups that may have inconsistent views on what is or is not “Knowledge Management”. In summary, this paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the evolution of discourse on KM. It provides bibliometric evidence that there has been a sustained interest in KM that is quite unlike that of other popular management themes over the last 30 years. It raises some questions about the relevance of some of the research being carried out.


Keywords: management fashion, innovation diffusion, bibliometric analysis, KM strategy


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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 2, ICICKM 2010 special issue / Apr 2011  pp85‑180

Editor: W.B. Lee

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Prof. W.B. Lee is Director of the Knowledge Management Research Centre of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.    Prof. Lee is the editor of the Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, and International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Science. He established the Knowledge Solution Laboratory, the first of its kind in Hong Kong and has pioneered research and practice of knowledge management and knowledge audit in various organizations.  Prof. Lee and his team have launched Asia’s first on‑line MSc. Program in Knowledge Management.  His research interest  includes manufacturing systems, knowledge management, organizational learning and intellectual capital‑based management.


The 7th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organizational Learning (ICICKM 2010) was hosted by the Knowledge Management Research Centre ,The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China, the first time in Asia.

The conference is well attended by more than 100 delegates from over 30 countries and regions.  This conference series is unique in the sense that it unifies all the important themes in this multidisciplinary area which can be pursued from either the knowledge management, intellectual capital management or organizational learning perspectives or any combinations of them.  The relationship between these themes is important. It is  only  through  the effective management of our knowledge assets  and the continuous  learning   of   individuals, teams and  organization  that we  are able to build the intellectual capital which is the underlying power driving corporation’s future growth.

Apart from the rich tacit knowledge exchange among delegates during the conference, the conference proceedings give a good record of papers delivered at the conference. Our thanks and appreciation go out to all those who presented papers and participated in the conference. Feedback to date from delegates and participants has been extremely positive. The support from departments within the University and our session Chairs and Keynote speakers is gratefully acknowledged. We also recognize the efforts of both the Executive and Conference Committees for their contribution to the double blind peer review process. Based on the input of the session chairs, we are able to select 10 papers of these to be published in this electronic Journal.  These cover a lot of topics including KM models, strategy, innovation, organizational leaning, and intellectual capital measurement, and provide various new insights to the readers.

Grant started by asking the question if knowledge Management (KM) is just another fab.   Through the lens of management fashion theory and a good review from bibliometric evidence he assures us that KM is unlike other management themes and is an enduring management activity. However, there is a potential conflict between the interests of practitioners and researchers. With different perspectives and prescriptions, Imani furthers the discussion by examining the KM strategy in 18 global companies and finds out how they are linked to the business strategy, which are either formulaic (to support routine activities) or embryonic (to address corporate strategic agenda).  On the other hand, Tan and Nasurdin focus on the influence of KM effectiveness on innovation in 171 large manufacturing firms in Malaysia and find out that the effectiveness of knowledge acquisition has a positive influence on both the technological and administrative (organizational) innovation. 

Another issue of concern to researchers in this conference is on how knowledge management  is linked to business performance and its evaluation. These findings and observations are reinforced in a study conducted by Rabhi in Saudi Arabia on the effect of KM on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including customer satisfaction, business savings and projects completed. Tiago et al. studied the relationship between the knowledge management and eBusiness activities by applying a structural equation model in a large database of KM activities of European and American firms. In a study of performance of a Quality Assurance Department conducted by Chan in an electronic factory, the performance of the quality management processes is related to the intellectual capital involved which is captured from a knowledge audit of the plant.

De Alvarenga Neto and Vieira from their Brazil experience described the four main components of KM Model in a Brazilian research  cooperation, that is, strategy, the environment (from social, information, cognitive and business), tool boxes, and  tangible and intangible outputs, and concluded that  for the model to be useful it should be collaboratively built  among  organization units instead of one from top‑down. Inter‑organizational and organizational learning has been recognized to be important for knowledge creation. Laursen, based on an empirical study of four organizational development projects at four Danish high schools revealdifferent perspectives on the projects set up by the staff and the management and how the perspectives have consequences  on what is actually learned by individuals as well as the whole organization.  As team learning and performance is closely related to the shared mental models of the team members, Zou and Lee explored the shared mental model of eight sigma project teams through collective sensemaking workshops conducted in an electronics factory in China. It was found that a high performance team perceived stronger interrelatedness between key teamwork concepts than average teams did.  An area that has been less studied is the effect of age diversity on knowledge transfer in workplace, which roots from the retirement of baby boom generation in many mature organizations. Wang and Dong undertook a study on some basic questions in intergenerational knowledge transfer such as analysis framework and transfer mechanism from a sociological perspective.  

Despite the diversity of topics they all tend to address on how KM performance is related to business goals, how the effectiveness is evaluated and how organizational learning takes place,  one feature of all these papers is that they all have data to support their cases and cut across various countries and cultures.  I hope this special issue serves as a timely and updated reference for the KM, IC and OL professions.


Keywords: Action Research, administrative innovation, BA, bibliometric analysis, data, development projects, educational partnerships, Embrapa, embryonic KM strategy, enabling contexts, , formulaic KM strategy, group quality assurance, human resource management practices, IC value tree, implementation of knowledge , innovation diffusion, innovative teaching, intellectual capital, intellectual capital statement, KM strategy, KM strategy as social practice, know-how, knowledge management effectiveness, knowledge management, , knowledge-based view of organizations, KPI, link between KM and business strategy, Malaysian manufacturing firms , management fashion, metrics, organizational coaching, organizational concepts, organizational learning, practicum, process innovation, product innovation, reflective practitioner, statistics, sustainable, taxonomy, the SET KM model, transfer of training, value added quality management processes, workplace development,


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