Knowledge Assets, E-Networks and Trust

Knowledge Assets, E-Networks and Trust

G. Scott Erickson (Ithaca College, USA) and Helen N. Rothberg (Marist College, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-414-9.ch001
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Abstract

Development of knowledge assets and protection of knowledge assets are both complementary and competing concerns for the contemporary business. Each has specific issues related to trust that need to be understood and addressed before an individual firm launches a knowledge management initiative. Further, with important contemporary trends such as enterprise systems, external knowledge management networks, and aggressive competitive intelligence efforts, decision-makers must increasingly evaluate their circumstances and establish the appropriate levels of trust between individuals and the organization and between cooperating organizations. This chapter reviews and elaborates on such issues. It then passes to a consideration of how these concerns might vary by industry, presenting selected data on knowledge development and knowledge protection conditions in a variety of industries.
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Background: Knowledge Assets And E-Networks

A number of components constitute the knowledge assets of the firm. Although the field of knowledge management generally limits itself to intellectual property and the now fairly well-understood and well-accepted concept of intellectual capital, the basic framework can be easily extended to information and raw data with potential to become intellectual capital. This view is important, as both knowledge management systems and enterprise systems for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) typically extend throughout a firm and reach outward to all the members of its e-network. All aspects of intellectual property, knowledge, information, and data are routinely shared through these extended networks, a practice raising important questions about trust between organizations and among the individuals within them.

The discipline of knowledge management (KM) arose out of an increasing recognition that often the most critical source of competitive advantage is found in the people of an organization and what they know (Zack, 1999a, Grant, 1996). Intellectual property such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks is formalized knowledge and has been recognized for quite some time as being of value to an organization. KM developed as scholars and practitioners realized that firms possess countless examples of less formal knowledge assets that are also of value. Just because an innovative product or process isn't protectable by a patent doesn’t mean it isn't worth something to the owner. From this basis came the related fields of knowledge management and intellectual capital (IC). IC is largely concerned with categorizing and measuring knowledge assets while KM focuses more on their identification, use, and sharing. These concepts and other definitions are summarized in Table 1 (Erickson & Rothberg, 2008b).

Table 1.
Definition of terms
Data“Observations or facts out of context” (Zack, 1999b, p.46)
Information“Data within some meaningful context” (Zack, 1999b, p. 46)
Knowledge“That which we come to believe and value on the basis of the meaningfully organized accumulation of information (messages) through experience, communication, or inference” (Zack, 1999b, p. 46). Also sometimes termed know-how, learning that takes place leading to individual expertise (Zander & Kogut, 1995).
Knowledge assetsValuable, intangible assets of the firm. Personal knowledge, corporate culture, intellectual property or any other valuable organizational knowledge.
Intellectual propertyFormalized knowledge assets, qualifying for a patent, copyright, trademark or other institutionalized protection mechanism.
Intellectual capital (IC)Identified knowledge assets of the firm. The field of intellectual capital focuses on the identification, measurement, and management of these intangible assets. Includes IP and less formalized knowledge (Edvinsson & Malone, 1997).
Knowledge managementThe practice of managing knowledge assets, focused on identification, capture, organization, sharing, and analysis. Closely related to IC, the differences are more in emphasis on measurement (IC) and management (KM).
Tacit knowledgeKnowledge assets that are personalized and hard (perhaps impossible) to communicate (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Polanyi, 1967).
Explicit knowledgeKnowledge assets that are captured by the organization, more easily communicated, perhaps stored in a formalized manner in an IT system or elsewhere (Choi & Lee, 2003).

Source: Erickson & Rothberg, 2008b

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