Getting over "Knowledge is Power": Incentive Systems for Knowledge Management in Business Consulting Companies

Getting over "Knowledge is Power": Incentive Systems for Knowledge Management in Business Consulting Companies

Harald F.O. VonKortzfleisch (University of Kassel, Germany) and Ines Mergel (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2002 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-931777-17-9.ch025


One of the most relevant aspects as to knowledge management is the need to make knowledge workers to actively participate in the diverse processes which are the objects of knowledge management. Especially the motivation to jointly share knowledge and to use the available knowledge of, e. g., colleagues or other third-party experts becomes an important issue for knowledge management in general and above all for business consulting companies which belong to one of the most knowledge-intensive and knowledge management-experienced industries. Therefore, we take a closer look at the importance of incentive systems for knowledge management in the business consulting industry. The findings of our empirical qualitative investigation in 10 leading German business consulting companies show a range of special qualities: First of all and in correspondence with the assumptions in the literature incentive systems do (!) play an important role in this knowledge driven industry. However secondly, there are almost no incentive systems with a special focus on the issue of knowledge. Rather, the existing incentive systems are somehow implicitly expected to guarantee respective behavior of the consultants. Thirdly and finally, in contrast to our expectations and most of the recommendations in the praxis-oriented and theoretical literature for knowledge management the dominant incentives were not immaterial but material. We conclude that the existing long-standing experience with the exchange and use of (new) knowledge, and the special knowledge-oriented culture of business consulting companies do motivate the consultants to share their knowledge and to use the existing knowledge of colleagues. However, in order to implement a more efficient knowledge management which supports the overall strategic goals in dynamic markets the examined business consulting companies should be aware of a special need for additional incentives – even if they do not know yet which incentives this can be and how to implement them.

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