Analyzing the Evolution of KM: Theory and Practice

M. Robertson, J. Swan, and C. Oswick (UK)


Knowledge Management, discourse, implementation, professions, IS/IT


Definitions of Knowledge Management (herein KM) abound, along with prescriptive recommendations regarding its appropriation within firms. In this paper we focus on the evolution of KM and consider whether it may be considered just another management fashion. A defining feature of management fashions is their semantic ambiguity and we demonstrate that KM is often presented in the management literature both simplistically yet ambiguously. We consider the effects of this semantic ambiguity on (a) the reproduction of the KM discourse itself and (b) the implementation of KM within organisations. We show that whilst the label has been retained KM has undergone substantial changes since its inception. The indeterminacy inherent in the interpretative flexibility of the concept has allowed for a significant shift from a predominantly technical intervention towards more general managerial practice.

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