The masters thesis… Patterns in the knowledge management discourse : an analysis of selected knowledge management theorists

12 Apr

Finally I’ve managed to submit my thesis for the MPhil (Information and Knowledge Management) degree at the University of Stellenbosch.I Here is the abstract for my thesis. The full text is available from the SUNScholar repository –

Knowledge management is a fragmented and ambiguous management practice. This is evident from the plethora of definitions available for this field. The premise of this study is that different discourse patterns in knowledge management also contribute to the ambiguity. Four theoretical lenses describe the typical discourses that are associated with the formation of management practices, namely management innovation, umbrella construction, management fashion cycles and institutionalisation of management practice.

The following propositions are indicative of the types of discourses involved – the rationale, business outcome, management niche, solution definitions and the means provided for the enactment of the practice. The discourses of seven proponents were analysed according to the above, viz. Verna Allee, Nancy Dixon, Leif Edvinsson, Ikujiro Nonaka, Laurence Prusak, David Snowden and Mathieu Weggeman. Three main patterns were identified based on the manner in which the discourses associated with the four theoretical lenses manifest in the analysed discourses. These patterns represent three different conceptualisations of knowledge management, namely –

(i) Knowledge management as a meta-practice framework: the focus is on the assimilation and synthesis of the various knowledge-based practices that are part of other management practices (such as quality management), or practices that originate from fluid initiatives in organisations (e.g. the role of the librarian transforming to become a information broker), or practices that are defined through systematic experimentation (such as the potential of social media for intelligence analysis).

(ii) Knowledge management as a platform and catalyst for systemic management innovation: the quest is to define new approaches that are appropriate to manage organisations as complex knowledge-based systems. These approaches should supersede management practices still rooted in Newtonian or mechanistic thinking. Knowledge management is regarded to be a revolutionary practice that proposes, conceptualises and diffuses such new approaches, e.g. value network management (Verna Allee) and the Cynefin framework (David Snowden).

(iii) Knowledge management as a master idea or master narrative: this knowledge management discourse is about the theorisation of novel structural arrangements that emerge in organisations as a response to the new requirements of a knowledge-driven economy. This theorisation influences the thinking, premises and practices of various management fields, such as strategic planning, human resource management and organisational design.

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Posted by on 12 April 2013 in Knowledge Management


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