Title: Evolution and changes in knowledge management practices in 21st century
Sub Category: Research Essay
Subject: Management Sciences
Origin of term knowledge management dates back from earliest civilization of Elba in Syria which is more than 4000 years old who attempted to organize records of civilization, government and commerce in an information which contains therein of guide for new transactions and preserve the loss of knowledge from generation to generation. Ancient Egypt civilization, also provides traces of knowledge management when 500,000 hand written documents were retrieved to contain knowledge. In a nutshell, prewriting traditions for the preservation of knowledge and ideas were mnemonic which aimed to promote memory, instructions and knowledge preservation. By the advent of 15th century when printed reforms were introduced a new era of knowledge distribution was started which was later on replaced by continuous evolution of digital computer and internet. (Spender, 2005)
The concept of knowledge management (KM) started in the late 1980s from a term of the consulting community. The awareness is because of the two major factors: the emergence of the internet and the importance of the organizational knowledge and informational assets through recognizing them and the recognition for the internet utility in sharing the information and knowledge through tools in geographically dispersed organizations. There are four stages in the evolution of knowledge management which are given below (Koenig & Neveroski, 2008).
Knowledge management emerged as a valuable asset and primary resource for organizations, which help them to compete in the information age through a fast-paced and changing environment. Knowledge assets result in rising new ideas and sharing the knowledge within the organizations by staying connected, enriching the receivers and the givers of knowledge (Prusak & Davenport, 1998).
1) Knowledge management emphasizes new technologies and development through learning from the lesson of best practices.
2) Through development in the communities of practices and providing recognition in terms of the cultural and human factors through facilitating in information sharing
3) By increasing the importance of the retrievability and the system’s design and giving importance to the structure and the data design through utilization and the development in the taxonomy.
4) The organization’s knowledge management system practices extending the system while including the customers, users, suppliers, and vendors.
According to the knowledge-based theory, knowledge is considered an asset for the organization for its competitive advantage in the competitive environment. Organizations are now using knowledge in the competitive environment as strategic importance through transferring knowledge and developing a knowledge management system to facilitate the integration and sharing of knowledge. With the growth and importance of knowledge management during the economic crisis, several companies have already adopted and implemented knowledge management in their organizations. With the technological changes and the highly competitive market, knowledge management has become necessary for the companies as strategic tools or resources for their success in the international market (Alavi & Leidner, 1999).
The knowledge management practices have become crucial resources for organizations since 2000, when it has a major shift in the practices in terms of organizational culture and the commitments for the organization in their working style, through using effective use of knowledge management in the organizational climate and the culture which leads to learning more knowledge and practices in resolving the problems (Gupta, Iyer, & Aronson, 2000).
Knowledge management is defined as “the process of applying a systematic approach to the management, structure, and knowledge dissemination in an organization to adopt best practices and work faster to reduce the cost of rework of different projects (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 2000)”. Knowledge is considered the skills, organizational culture, reputation, codified theory, and the intuitions that impact human thoughts and behaviors (Hall & Andriani, 2003).
In the fast-growing and innovative world of business, the knowledge management in organizations has changed with the changing technological advancement and innovation; the global growth of the advancement and technologies in communication have transformed knowledge management, through adopting the rapidly changing environment, organizations have to adopt latest technologies in managing, sharing and forward information through innovation. The reach of knowledge and the information can be recognized and managed by ensuring the successful implementation of the innovation in the knowledge management practices (Plessis, 2007).
To understand the knowledge management historical development, it’s necessary to analyze the modern theories of organizations, especially through knowledge-based views and the resources-based views of the organizations. The major contribution in knowledge management is the resource-based view of the organization, which focuses on the competitive organizational forces in terms of strategic thinking and the internal organizational resources, which are a necessary key factor for the organization’s success. The knowledge-based view of the organization contributes to recognizing knowledge as the most important strategic resource for the organization. Several management theorists have contributed to the evolution of knowledge management, which emphasizes knowledge management as a resource for the organization’s competitive advantage.
Looming forces of cheap credit and lax lending practices fueled housing bubble which resulted in worldwide economic crisis of 2007 triggered great economic collapse where many companies filled for bankruptcies and massive downsizing. As a response to the crisis many companies recognized the importance of knowledge management when building a strategy to cope up with crisis through improvement in business process and communication flow at the same time managing the departure of knowledge workers erupting from the dissolving organization. (Tsakalerou & Lee, 2015). From that day, knowledge management becomes a valuable resource for the companies as it provides organizations with critical information about the crisis and managing the crisis through knowledge management practices and becoming competitive in the market. Knowledge management during the crisis is necessary for the companies to arrive at better knowledge practices in coping with the crisis better and remain the competitive advantage in the market environment while facing the challenges in a better way (Cania & Korsita, 2015). Unstable business environment and changing technological advancement have enabled companies to adopt new capabilities to face the challenges and competition in the market, the key factors for organizational success are the speed in the implementation of the decision and the adaptability of the new technologies properly and ability to think ahead in using the knowledge and information which can be possible through knowledge management practices.
Liebowitz (2009) has identified three major knowledge management components: technology, process, and the people or organizational culture. In the modern age of technological advancement, it has been believed that knowledge management components in terms of the process and the people become 80% of the knowledge management practices. Technology has transformed knowledge management practices and has changed the way of sharing and managing knowledge, made it easier for an organization to acquire and access knowledge from any location quickly, and enabled the sharing and creation of knowledge.
During the economic crisis, companies sacrifice their resources to minimize the cost through all possible means, resulting in laying off their human capital to reduce the cost, which leads to change in the company’s organizational structure because of the loss of knowledge and knowledge holders for the organization. Majority of consulting firms widely follow knowledge management in their development of innovative knowledge and creating knowledge through the potential use of the knowledge workers and considered as strategic agenda for the company (Ambos & Schlegelmilch, 2009).
Wang & Belardo (2009) studied the effective role of knowledge management in crisis management of two Taiwan companies. The findings demonstrated that there is a positive impact of knowledge management on crisis management. The combination of the strategic crisis management through using Zack’s knowledge of the strategic framework. The findings further explained that companies must employ different knowledge strategies on different business crisis phases to achieve crisis management outcomes. The knowledge strategies, crisis characteristics, and crisis phases have a significant relationship in knowledge management.
Andreeva & Kianto (2012) have investigated the linkage of knowledge management practices and economic performance and competitiveness. The finding concluded that human resource practice and information communication technology in managing knowledge significantly impact organizational competitiveness and financial performance. Furthermore, the findings also explained that ICT has a major role in enhancing the knowledge management and performance of the organization while using HRM practices.
Antunes & Pinheiro (2020) investigated the linkage of knowledge management and organizational learning, where the findings described that organizational learning is a dynamic process based on knowledge management on a different level of the activities. The organizational ability in managing and using the knowledge depends upon the human resources, which have a major role in creating, sharing, and using the knowledge. Furthermore, the findings suggested that knowledge management is the internal resource for companies in storing, creating, and accessing the information and strategic objectives to increase organizational knowledge and capability (Antunes & Pinheiro, 2020).
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The study is suggested to identify the gap in knowledge management practices and identifying the IT implementation and the organizational culture which impact the organizational performance during the economic recession and crisis. Several authors have demonstrated the organizational practices in knowledge management through knowledge management implementation and evolution through organizational culture and the adoption of new technologies and innovative practices with time. With the technological advancement and the changing business environment from the last two decades, the importance of knowledge management and creation is growing rapidly as it has a certain impact on the knowledge management process of an organization. Knowledge management in the modern age of technology has changed the way of working, decision-making style, reduced the cost of labor and time, and improved organizations’ competitiveness and efficiency. The growing technologies and innovation allow the organization to transform their knowledge management to meet business needs and demands by offering quicker access to information and resources in practicing innovation and knowledge management more quickly (Koenig & Neveroski, 2008; Liebowitz, 2009).
The biggest challenges for the knowledge management practices for companies are the obsolete technology in terms of storing and sharing knowledge within the organization while using the specific technologies which needs to be updated with the growing and advancing technology practices of knowledge management through the cloud, online data store and the knowledge sharing because of the rapidly changing working style of remote working. The second challenge in terms of knowledge management is the employee motivation of using the technologies and practices in knowledge management; the majority are employees are rigid to technologies as supported by the literature in the past demonstrated that employee motivation is also a challenge for the companies in enhancing the knowledge management, easy access of the information and knowledge in the modern era is also challenging in the knowledge management because of outdated, irrelevant and incomplete knowledge sharing and practices.
The gap is to bridge the connection between knowledge management and organizational culture and adopting innovation and technology to achieve organizational performance during the financial crisis. Knowledge management has a major role in boosting organizational performance by effectively implementing innovation in knowledge management practices during the recession or economic crisis. It’s become important for the organizations to integrate the knowledge management practices with the technological advancement and the organizational culture through learning, implementation, and adoption of the modern practices of knowledge management, which will provide an organization to face the challenges in the future in terms of knowledge management. The knowledge management practices become valuable for the organization after the financial crisis of 2008 and the pandemic of Covid-19, which have transformed the way of working style as remote working has increased the importance of knowledge management for many companies worldwide. Effective knowledge management practices can be done by using the latest technology and innovation and bridging the connection between organizational culture and IT in knowledge management, which will lead to creating a positive environment and achieving the organizational goals and objectives.
Rationale for the Study:
The analysis of evolution of knowledge management over last two decades suggests that the term “knowledge management” is still multi facet and not yet coherent in the academic field with well established body of ideas, methods and target phenomenon. Pluralism of this concept has created considerable challenges as many believes that its old wine in the new bottle.
Approach of the Study:
Primary data on KM related practices will be gathered from high performing organizations using interviews. The rationale for choosing qualitative approach instead of quantitative approach is to understand the plurality and subjectivity of concepts in organizations based upon reaction and responses of participants who are directly and indirectly engaged with KM in their respective organizations. Participants perspective can be captured by interviewing Generation Y and Millennials who have seen the evolution of KM practices.
Results of the Study:
Considering the current pandemic of Covid-19 which have raised eye brows on importance of Knowledge management, this study aims to understand its implications from organizational governance perspective, staff function perspective, operational function perspective and realization of value of knowledge from organizational perspective.
Discussion of the Study:
Discussion will consolidate findings to create a framework for KM in the modern organization in Post Covid-19 enterprise.
Limitations and strengths of the Study:
Limitations of the study is the study only targets high performing organization, unlike small medium enterprise who have been quite active on KM practices. However, the intensity of the concept fully nurtured and matured catering a sample of participants from small and medium enterprise. Secondly, the study intends to only target MNC’s in GCC countries as a high performing organization including executives from various MNC’s companies and their subsidiaries in GCC. Thirdly, findings are not generalizable as qualitative approach to research methods has been adapted.
Strengths of the study is the phenomenon is explored from the perspective of Generation Y and Millennials which accounts the workforce in organization these days. Another strength of the study is interviewing executives from high performing organizations who have nurtured process and established KM functions within their organization.
Implications of the Study:
Findings of this study will benefit various stakeholders in organization. Firstly, it will benefit shareholders in understanding KM from firm’s perspective. Secondly, this study will benefit managerial staff to understand KM practices from agent perspective. Thirdly, this study will benefit academic community in understanding the intensity of concepts which can further be explored by future researchers.
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Ambos, T. C., & Schlegelmilch, B. (2009). Managing knowledge in international consulting firms. Journal of Knowledge Management , 491-508.
Andreeva, T., & Kianto, A. (2012). Does knowledge management really matter? Linking knowledge management practices, competitiveness and economic performance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 617-636.
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