Sustainable Communities for Knowledge Management Systems in the New Technological Era

Sustainable Communities for Knowledge Management Systems in the New Technological Era

Elham Mousavidin (University of Houston, USA) and Lakshmi Goel (University of North Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch110

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The topic of knowledge management (KM) has received considerable attention in research as well as practice. However, the success of knowledge management systems (KMS) remains elusive (Akhavan et al. 2005; Hammer et al., 2004). There is a considerable body of literature that has studied factors for KMS success (Jennex and Olfman 2005). In this paper, our goal is to contribute to this line of research by identifying how these success factors may be achieved. Specifically, we restrict our scope of inquiry to a certain type of knowledge management systems; those that are designed to support communities of practice (CoPs).

Prior literature that has sought to identify important factors in KM success has adopted either the individual level of analysis (e.g. Bock et al., 2005; Kankanhalli et al., 2005), the organizational level of analysis (e.g. Brown and Duguid, 2000), or the technological level of analysis (e.g. Markus et al., 2002). We propose an approach that incorporates research on individuals, organizations, and the technology pertaining to knowledge management to suggest a set of design principles for sustainable communities of practice. Communities of practice have proven to have significant economic and practical implications on organizational practice (Brown and Duguid, 1999 and 20002000). A growing body of literature in knowledge management recognizes the importance of communities that foster collaborative learning in organizations and almost all knowledge management systems have a ‘network’ component that facilitates connecting people in communities of practice. Evidence has shown that community has been a key element in knowledge management systems of many companies including Xerox PARC, British Petroleum Co., Shell Oil Company, Halliburton, IBM, Proctor and Gamble, and Hewlett Packard (Brown and Gray, 1995; Cohen, 2006; Cross et al., 2006; McDermott, 1999a; McDermott, 1999b). Technological advancements in social systems such as weblogs, wikis, social networking sites, and virtual worlds enable new ways in which such communities can be supported. In this study we take into account properties of these technologies, which enable and constrain different uses of the technological environment (i.e. the technological affordances) (Gibson, 1977; Zammuto, 2007) in facilitating knowledge management.

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