Knowledge Management

Teaching methods

Lectures and tutorials

Prerequisites

General understanding of organisation theory and systems theory

Objectives

At knowledge level, by the end of the course, students are able:

  • to recognise and understand the core concepts of knowledge management;
  • to recognise and understand alternative specifications of these core concepts;
  • to identify meaningful relationships between these core concepts;

At reflection level, by the end of the course, students are able:

  • to analyse and evaluate discussions of knowledge management;

At application level, by the end of the course, students are able:

  • to diagnose practical problems in stylised situations from a knowledge perspective;
  • to define functional demands for knowledge management interventions.

Contents

Knowledge has always been highly important to organisations. As far back as the end of the nineteenth century, the economist Marshall noted that "Knowledge is our most powerful engine of production". Without knowledge, no production is conceivable, irrespective of whether the production of goods or services is at stake. In the current post-industrial era, in which more than 80% of the GNP of Western countries is generated in the service sector, knowledge is more important than ever. To be able to understand the organisational relevance of knowledge, a knowledge perspective on organisations - or `knowledge-based view' of organisations - is needed. Typical of any knowledge, and therefore also of organisational knowledge, is that knowledge is dynamic and that in many cases it will be only be considered fully-fledged knowledge if it is being constantly renewed. For that reason, knowledge and learning are close relatives. Organisational knowledge not only concerns what the organisation or its members know, but also what they do not yet know and should therefore learn. The concepts of organisational knowledge and organisational learning are therefore twin concepts, just like the concept pair of knowledge-intensive organisations and learning organisations. Consequently, a perception of management in connection to knowledge will have to connect both to the goal of adequately applying what is known within the organisations and to the goal of individuals and groups supporting each other in expanding their knowledge (e.g. in the form of innovation). In connection to these objectives, Knowledge Management (KM) focuses on facilitating individuals and groups to apply their knowledge and to learn not only in their own interest, but also in the interest of the larger organisation.
The Knowledge Management course looks at organisations as 'distributed knowledge systems', a term coined by Nobel Prize laureate Friedrich von Hayek in the 1940's. Seeing themselves as distributed knowledge systems confronts organisations with a fundamental challenge because a 'supermind'[1] that connects all possible knowledge sources within the organisation cannot exist. In its aims to identify these challenges and prepare for meeting them, the course pays attention both to (a) the strategic and (b) the infrastructural aspects of knowledge management  (KM):

  • The strategic aspects concern the question of how organisations can use their collective knowledge, distributed between individuals and groups, as the basis for a meaningful contribution to modern society. Characteristics of that society, and therefore challenges to organisations, include competition on a worldwide scale, changing competitive relations due to the internet and mobile technology, much pressure on the ecological system of the earth, an emancipated class of knowledge workers, shortened product life cycles, increased turbulence in societies and economies, and increasing pressure on organisations to develop an awareness of their corporate social responsibility. All these characteristics signal the primordial need for organisations to learn continuously.
  • The infrastructural aspects of KM refer to how an organisation can facilitate or improve its knowledge processes (sharing, retaining, applying and creating knowledge) and the associated organisational learning capability, if it is to fulfil its societal role.

The course aims to stimulate critical reflection about:

  • the practice of KM, with respect to possibilities and limitations of affecting knowledge and learning processes via interventions and
  • the theory of KM, and the scientific stature of contributions to that theory. As an important instrument for achieving both goals, the course offers and develops a conceptual framework that identifies and connects core concepts of knowledge management, organisational knowledge, learning organisations and organisational learning. The framework is used for assessing the need for and possibility of KM interventions in practice. It also helps to identify and order discussions in recent academic literature on the central KM themes.

[1] See Hayek, F.A. (1945). The Use of Knowledge in Society. American Economic Review, 25(4), 519-530.

Examination

Written exam and papers

Literature

To be announced


Course ID
MAN-BCU322A
Credits
6 ec
Level
BA 3
Period
quarter 2
Show schedule
SWS / PersoonlijkRooster
Course Co-ordinator dr. B.R. Pas

Lecturers

Included in