On Knowledge Management: A Field Study

On Knowledge Management: A Field Study

Peter H. Carstensen (Technical University of Denmark, Denmark) and Ulrika Snis (University of Trollhättan/Uddevalla, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2000 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-82-7.ch009
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It is widely acknowledged that knowledge is one of the most important assets of today’s organizations. According to Davenport and Prusak (1998), knowledge is often a company’s greatest competitive advantage in a global economy. How to support the company’s knowledge-intensive work processes (e.g., quality support, product design or strategic planning) is therefore becoming a vital issue in many organizations worldwide. Identification, analysis and characterization of the knowledge-intensive work processes become essential in order to qualify a discussion of how to support knowledge management processes. This chapter presents, discusses and reflects upon findings from a study of how highly skilled actors manage information and knowledge, i.e., how information is gathered from a wide range of sources, structured according to needs and relevance for the users, and disseminated to the relevant suppliers in the organization. The aim of the chapter is two-folded: first, to contribute to the general empirical body of knowledge about knowledge-intensive work, especially focusing on the central characteristics of the knowledge management processes; secondly, to initiate a discussion of which overall requirements we must set up for how knowledge management processes could be supported by means of information and communication technology. Knowledge-intensive work processes often concern collaborative problem-solving and mutual support that require effective ways of handling information and knowledge between different people, both in short-term and long-term situations. The distributed and dynamic nature of knowledge management work also imposes a high degree of complexity involving many different actors with different conceptualizations, interpretations, perspectives, needs, etc. of the knowledge produced and approached. The various actors have different perspectives on the concept of knowledge. The work needed to articulate knowledge and make information and knowledge accessible becomes extremely demanding and complex. Often face-to-face interaction is required. However, in complex and collaborative work settings the problem of articulating knowledge by rich interaction and communication is obvious. The actors are distributed both geographically and temporally. There is a need for computer-based mechanisms for interaction and coordination of information and knowledge (cf. e.g., Carstensen and Wulf, 1998).

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