The Knowledge Management Pyramid:
a Complex Discipline
A Preface to the Encyclopedia of Knowledge
Management, 2nd Edition
David G. Schwartz and
Much has happened since the 1st edition of the Encyclopedia
of Knowledge Management appeared in 2006. There has been an explosion of
social computing applications, huge strides taken in knowledge categorization
through automated methods and human tagging, and the continued growth of the
knowledge-as-an-asset view of organization theory.
The storehouse of journals dedicated to the exploration of
knowledge management continues to grow and now numbers well over 30 (see Table 1).
Table 1. KM-focused
and Knowledge Engineering
Mining and Knowledge Discovery
Journal of Knowledge Management
Academic Conferences Limited
Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
IEEE Computer Society
J. of Info. and Knowledge Management
Informing Science Institute
J. of Applied Knowledge Management
J. of Intellectual Property Management
J. of Knowledge, Culture, and Change Management
Common Ground Publishers
J. of Knowledge and Learning
of Knowledge Management
Idea Group Publishing
of Knowledge Management Studies
of Learning and Intellectual Capital
of Nuclear Knowledge Management
of Software Engineering and Knowledge Engineering
of Information and Knowledge Management
of Intellectual Capital
of Knowledge Acquisition
of Knowledge Management
of Knowledge Management Practice
of Universal Knowledge Management
Know-Center and Graz
University of Technology
and Innovation: J. of the KMCI
Technology, and Policy
Management for Development J.
Taylor & Francis
Journal of Knowledge Management
Knowledge Engineering Review
Cambridge University Press
Management Research and Practice
Journal of Knowledge Management
of Knowledge Management Studies
Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems
Burden’s (2000) KM bibliography, which encompasses both
research and industry/trade publications, cites over 900 books and a whopping
8000 articles devoted to the field. In Rollett’s (2003) KM bibliography we are
treated to over 1000 academic research articles on KM. Gu’s (2004) compendium
finds 2,727 unique authors contributing KM articles within the ISI Web of
Science database. More recently, Serenko et al. (2010) has enumerated 2,175
articles published between 1994-2008 across 11 key KM/IC publications.
All this in addition to the established
list of more general Information Systems and Information Science journals and
conference venues that serve as a forum for knowledge management research. And
of course an abundance of industry magazines and newsletters dedicated to the
understanding, development, and adoption of organizational knowledge
As the discipline of knowledge management (Jasimuddin 2006,
Croadsell & Jennex 2005, Schwartz 2005) continues to develop and expand the
need to summarize, categorize, organize, and analyze the myriad contributions
and directions being taken grows paramount. This 2nd edition
continues toward our goal of creating an authoritative repository of knowledge
management concepts, issues, and techniques; keeping in mind the ever-present
need to create a logical structure that maps out the field of knowledge
management across its diverse disciplines.
The Significance of Articles in the Volume
How does this differ from a traditional encyclopedia? Every
scientific and intellectual pursuit presents a spectrum of knowledge ranging
from the speculative to the experimental to the proven to the well-established.
An encyclopedia traditionally presents definitive articles that describe
well-established and accepted concepts or events. While we have avoided the
speculative extreme, we continue to encourage and attempt to attract entries
that may be closer to the ‘experimental’ end of the spectrum than the
‘well-established’ end. The need to do so is driven by the youth of the
discipline and the desire to not only document the established, but to provide
a resource for those who are pursuing the experimental.
Alavi and Leidner, in their oft-cited Review of Knowledge
Management and Knowledge Management Systems (2001) bring three pointed
conclusions to the fore:
There is no single clear
approach to the development of knowledge management systems – it is a
Knowledge management is a
dynamic, continuous organizational phenomenon of interdependent processes with
varying scope and changing characteristics
Information technology can be
used to extend knowledge management beyond traditional storage and retrieval of
Not only does this Encyclopedia reinforce those conclusions,
it relishes and thrives in the complexity and diversity to which they allude. The
systems and technology perspective is but one of many that have been dealt with
in this volume. While we do not wish to lose focus on our main goal of managing
knowledge in organizations, in order to better achieve that goal it is
necessary to look at areas of study as diverse as epistemology and anthropology
in order to map the future directions of knowledge management.
With that goal in mind, once again a wide net was cast in
the Call for Papers (CFP) in an attempt to attract researchers from many
relevant disciples. This edition, as well, includes a number of invited
articles where the Editorial Advisory Board found it desirable to fill in gaps
that were not covered by the response to the CFP. Aside from those invited
contributions, the resulting articles that appear in this volume were selected
through a double-blind review process followed by one or more rounds of
revision prior to acceptance. Treatment
of certain topics is not exclusive according to a given school or approach, and
you will find a number of topics tackled from different perspectives with
differing approaches. A field as dynamic as KM needs discussion, disagreement,
contradiction - and wherever possible, consensus. But we must not sacrifice any
of the former on the altar of the latter.
To that end, each author has provided a list of terms and
definitions deemed essential to the topic of his or her article. Rather than
aggregate and filter these terms to produce a single “encyclopedic” definition,
we have preferred instead to let the authors stand by their definition and
allow each reader to interpret and understand each article according to the
specific terminological twist taken by its author(s). The comprehensive Index
provided at the back of this volume provides pointers to each concept and term
in its multiple incarnations.
Printing the 149 articles of this edition in alphabetical
order was a decision made based on the overall requirements of IGI’s complete
series of Reference Encyclopedias. Following the very positive feedback received
from the 1st edition, we once again provide a content-oriented
logical map to the articles that are printed in alphabetical order by title. We
trust that as an increasing number of our readers turn to the online digital
versions of these articles, this logical categorization will ease the
The Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management is divided into
seven logical sections:
Foundations of Knowledge Management (15)
of Knowledge Management (34)
for Knowledge Management (20)
Knowledge Management (17)
Aspects of Knowledge Management (35)
Aspects of Knowledge Management (11)
Aspects of Knowledge Management (17)
A change here from the 1st edition is the split
of Organizational and Social aspects into two distinct categories – a testament
to the growing importance of social network related research to the field of
knowledge management. Given that some of the modern roots of knowledge
management lay in the early work of Egan and Shera (1952) and Shera (1961) on
Social Epistemology, this development is most welcome.
The Table of Contents appearing on page [X] will help you
find articles based on this logical section structure.
Within each of the seven major sections are one or more
articles on each of the sub-categories that comprise that section – often
multiple articles on different aspects of a given topic.
Building Upon Strong Foundations
The seven sections are the result of what we would
characterize as a multifaceted approach to the discipline of Knowledge
Management. It is this multifaceted view, as shown in Figure 1 that we have
sought to reinforce with these encyclopedic volumes.
Figure 1. The Knowledge Management Pyramid
Consider the view presented in Figure 1 giving a holistic
view of the knowledge management and its foundations. The view we have taken
combines three primary faces - Managerial, Organizational, and Social – across
four strata – Theory, Processes, Technologies, and Applications. Each primary
face has its theoretical basis, its derived processes, its choice technologies
for implementation, and its applications. The three faces, as in a pyramid,
support each other. Remove one face, and the other two fall.
The Managerial aspects of knowledge management from the left
face. The central face holds those aspects of knowledge management specific to
Organizations. The rightmost face is that of Social aspects.
At the base, running through each of the faces, is the
Theory layer. Atop the Theory layer we have placed that of Processes. The
primary processes that make up Knowledge Management in practice should ideally
derive from the core theories that are to be found in each of the faces of
Management, Social, and Organizational sciences. Without grounding our processes in theoretical
soil we run the very real risk of simply cobbling together processes on an
opportunistic basis. We must, in a disciplined manner, turn to our theoretical
core in determining the essential processes of KM. In cases where experience
begets a process that has yet to be identified with a core theory one must not
belittle the need to eventually discover that grounding. At the end of the day
this is what will help distinguish fad from enduring science. The Processes
layer presents one view of the different stages, activities, and cycles that
comprise knowledge management. Processes need to be pragmatic, in terms of our
ability to implement them, comprehensive so that we can achieve end-to-end
solutions, replicable and generalizable so they can be applied across a wide
range of organizations. The Processes Layer too cuts across through the three
faces of Organizational, Social and Managerial aspects.
As is often the case, our implementations of Knowledge
Management in practice are based to a large degree on information and
communications technologies. The Technologies layer, therefore, rests upon the
Processes and Theories that have come before it and finds its expression across
the three faces. Being driven by technology is not necessarily negative. Consider
how the development of the electron microscope led to the discovery of a
plethora of atomic and elemental behaviors. The observation of these behaviors
led to the development of new theories upon which those discoveries were
validated and new discoveries predicated. So too the computing, storage, and
communications technologies available today are enabling the implementation and
study of new types of knowledge representation, sharing, communications, and
The multiple facets of knowledge management are intertwined.
The recent advancements in social media have changed the processes of knowledge
sharing dramatically. But these changes in knowledge sharing raise theoretical
issues of the subjective and objective nature of knowledge – the personal
subjective knowledge versus the world objective knowledge. And, further,
theoretical questions arise concerning the managerial aspects of the interdependency
between knowledge sharing and relations among colleagues, as well as questions
concerning the social aspects of knowledge sharing among ‘friends’ through
social media such as the impact on trust and emotions in knowledge sharing.
Only a few chapters begin to address these emergent phenomena (e.g., the
chapters on personal knowledge and emotional capital). As Shera (1961)
recognized almost 50 years ago “From
such a discipline should emerge a new body of knowledge about, and a new
synthesis of, the interaction between knowledge and social activity”. Much more is needed.
Finally, at the apex, we reach the Applications layer. The
wide range of knowledge management applications could fill many volumes, and in
fact keep a number of annual conferences quite busy. We have brought just a few
of the potential applications to round out this volume yet each provides some
new insights into the potential of our field as a whole.
The flow of knowledge indeed can move up and down the
pyramid, and permeates each stratum as it moves between the Managerial,
Organizational, and Social aspects. As the theoreticians among us deepen their
understanding of the many diverse technologies that impact KM, they can
experimentally apply those technologies more effectively and creatively. As the
technologists among us are enriched with a solid theoretical foundation they
can focus their efforts on the most promising application areas and most
difficult theoretical challenges. And our management, social, and
organizational scientists provide us with lenses through which we can view
theory, processes, and technologies, and perhaps build the bridge between
theory and praxis. Everyone benefits from a richer more constructive research
and development environment.
to Use this Book
As a Research Reference
The primary purpose of this volume is to serve as a research
reference work. To that end extensive indexing has been undertaken to allow the
reader quick access to primary and secondary entries related to keywords and
topics. The seven logical sections and sub-categories provided for each section
will enable the reader to locate and delve deeply into any given area of
knowledge management from their desired perspective.
As a Course Reference
The sheer comprehensiveness combined with the logical
structure of this volume also lends itself towards use as a reference for
Knowledge Management courses.
Selecting two to three articles from each of the seven section
results in many possible study sequences for a comprehensive introductory
course in Knowledge Management. Alternatively, the logical sections of this
volume can be used individually as the curricular foundation for courses in: Knowledge
Management Theory; Designing KM Processes, Technologies for Knowledge
Management, Applied KM, Organizational KM; Social KM, and Managing KM
The need for an updated Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management
is driven by the tremendous growth and diversity that has become associated
with knowledge management, and this second edition brings a number of new
perspectives to the fore. Whether treated as an emerging discipline (Jasimuddin
2006, Croadsell & Jennex 2005, Schwartz, 2005), or a possibly recycled
concept (Spiegler, 2000), knowledge management will continue to make its mark
on organizations of all forms and sizes. The need to help organizations manage
their knowledge has been extolled in nearly a quarter century worth of
management literature. In order to truly understand and appreciate what goes
into making knowledge management work, we need to approach it holistically from
social, managerial and organizational perspectives.
Even the second time round the process of editing this
encyclopedia has been enlightening. Most enjoyable has been the interaction
with the authors, some of whom have appeared from the most unexpected of
places, and others who have come forward from established bastions of knowledge
It is our sincere hope that this volume serves not only as a
reference to KM researchers, both novice and veteran, but also as a resource
for those coming from the hundreds of disciplines and organizations upon which
knowledge management has, should, and will have an long-lasting impact.
Alavi, M., & Leidner,
D.E. (2001). Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems: Conceptual
Foundations and Research Issues. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 107-136.
(2000). Knowledge Management: The Bibliography, Information Today Inc.
Retrieved November 2004 from http://domin.dom.edu/faculty/SRIKANT/lis88001/kmbib.html
Egan, M. E. &
Shera, J. H. (1952). Foundations of a theory of bibliography. Library
Quarterly, 22(2), 125–137.
Gu, Y. (2004).
Global knowledge management research: A bibliometric analysis. Scientometrics,
(2006) Disciplinary roots of knowledge management: a theoretical review. International
Journal of Organizational Analysis, 14(2),
Jennex, M.E., &
Croasdell, D. (2005), Is Knowledge Management a Discipline?, International
Journal of Knowledge Management, 1(1).
Rollett, H. (2003).
Knowledge Management Bibliography . Retrieved November 2004 from http://www2.iicm.edu/herwig/kmbib.html
Bontis, N., Booker, L., Sadeddin, K., & Hardie, T. (2010). A scientometric
analysis of knowledge management and intellectual capital academic literature
(1994-2008). Journal of Knowledge
Management, 14(1), 3-23
(2005). The Emerging Discipline of Knowledge Management, International
Journal of Knowledge Management, 1(2).
Shera, J. (1961).
Social epistemology, general semantics, and librarianship. Wilson Library Bulletin, 35, 767-770.
Spiegler, I. (2000). Knowledge Management: A
New Idea or a Recycled Concept? Communications of the Association for
Information Systems, 3(14).