Exploring the Knowledge Management Landscape: A Critical Review of Existing Knowledge Management Frameworks

Exploring the Knowledge Management Landscape: A Critical Review of Existing Knowledge Management Frameworks

Stavros T. Ponis (National Technical University Athens, Greece), George Vagenas (National Technical University Athens, Greece) and Epaminondas Koronis (University of Warwick, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch103

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Back in 1987, Robert Solow was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for identifying the main sources of growth, capital and labor. Since then the global socioeconomic scene has dramatically changed, leading researchers such as Krugman (1991) and Lucas (1993) to propose that in addition to traditional production factors, knowledge has also become a vital source of growth. Along this evolution path organizations are not becoming more labor, material or capital-intensive, but more knowledge intensive (Drucker, 1993), thus giving rise to a brand new economy labeled as the knowledge economy.

Surprisingly, despite the wide acceptance and the proliferating implementations of Knowledge Management (KM), many organizations have failed to realize its expected results. These failures and shortcomings form the ground for severe criticism, which cannot be easily overlooked. In our view, overcoming current deficiencies requires the design and development of a solid architecture integrating methods, processes, tools, knowledge resources and technologies capable of supporting Knowledge Management in a holistic fashion. In other words, in order to take the field a step further, it has to be structured, through the development of a comprehensive and practical approach. Otherwise, the field’s “progress is nothing but a fortunate combination of circumstances, research is fumbling in the dark, and dissemination of knowledge is a cumbersome process” (Vatter, 1947).

This need has already been recognized drawing the attention of researchers coming from a variety of disciplines, including Organizational Science, Strategy and Management Science, as well as Information Systems. As a result, there have been several efforts at developing frameworks, varying in scope and nature, trying to understand and describe the Knowledge Management phenomena. Despite, or maybe because of, this multicultural attention, a consensus regarding Knowledge Management has not been achieved yet. Such a deficiency is widely accepted and is summarized by Spender (2003) who states that, “as we look at the literature it is immediately clear that it is neither homogeneous nor well integrated. There is no single set of terms or even theoretical constructs”.

The aim of this chapter is to investigate the current understanding of the discipline by analyzing and critically evaluating existing frameworks. In doing so, we first explore the concept and definitions of Knowledge Management in an effort to set the boundaries of the field. Moving to the core of the chapter the benefits and limitations of standardization are discussed, and a short description of some of the most well cited approaches is provided. Finally existing approaches are critically evaluated in order to understand current theoretical and practical shortcomings of the field and set a roadmap towards the development of an improved approach, supporting the successful adoption and assimilation of Knowledge Management in contemporary organizations.

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