From the end of the 20th century until today, the main source of economic wealth creation is knowledge . It has been considered that the main source of competitive advantage of an organization lies in what it knows, in how it uses what it knows and in the capacity to learn new things (Barney, 1991).
Based on this conception of knowledge as a source of wealth, our era has been baptized as knowledge society (Viedma, 2001). What implications does this have in the world of organizations?
Managing knowledge and competitiveness
To maintain their competitive advantage, organizations need to establish a strategy. The starting point for the formulation of that strategy is to identify and assess the resources and capabilities available in the organization. These resources can be: tangible (products, income), intangible (culture) and human capital (knowledge, skills and capabilities).
Not all of an organization’s knowledge becomes a source of sustainable competitive advantage; only those that contribute to the generation of economic value will. Here, knowledge is also understood as skills, experience, contextualised information, values, attitudes, know how , etc., the set of which has been called essential knowledge or “core competencies” (Viedma, 2001).
Knowledge as an individual asset
It is important to indicate that knowledge is fundamentally located in people. It is an individual asset that is developed, mainly, through learning .
In the current context, which is more demanding and dynamic than any previous era, organizations need to bring this knowledge to the surface in order to turn it into the common good and be able to control it. In recent decades, a new trend has been initiated, both at the research and operational levels, which aims to achieve this end: knowledge management (KM) .
Based on the premise that knowledge resides in the individual, QA is understood as a process of transforming such an individual asset into an organizational asset. For this process to take place successfully, it is essential to have a commitment among all members of the organization, a correct dissemination of knowledge, and the successful incorporation of processes and systems necessary to ensure that such knowledge is institutionalized and remains among its members.
QA is fundamental to the adaptability of organizations, their survival and competitiveness in environments where change is rapid, increasing and discontinuous. QA synergistically involves people, organizational systems, and information and communication technology.
Knowledge Management as a discipline
QA is a young and promising discipline aimed at enhancing innovation and competitive advantage of those organizations that integrate in their operational and business processes activities to capture, document, recover and reuse knowledge, as well as to create, transfer and exchange it (Dayan and Evan, 2006).
Knowledge Management does not only affect business organizations, it is also important in research practice, at the scientific level. It is a broad and complex concept, with multiple dimensions and interrelated activities (identification, creation, development, exchange, transformation, retention, renewal, dissemination, application, etc.) that generate a valuable asset for the company, knowledge (Lloria, 2008).
Researching in knowledge management
QA research has been approached from different disciplines. Thus, there are studies that come, for example, from psychology, sociology, economics, engineering, computer science or management .
Each contribution from these areas has served to provide discoveries on different aspects of Knowledge Management, but so far no comprehensive explanatory framework has been reached universally, nor for any specific domain. It follows that there is a need for interdisciplinary research, rather than research activities focused on a single area of knowledge (Nonaka and Teece, 2001).
What is and isn’t QA?
QA is a process:
1. Management continuum that serves to (Quintas et al., 1997)
- Knowing current and emerging needs
- Identify and exploit acquired knowledge
- Develop new opportunities in the organization
Facilitator of knowledge flows and sharing to improve individual and collective productivity (Guns and Välikangas, 1998)
3. The dynamics of turning unthinking practice into reflective practice, so that: (a) brings to light the rules governing the practice of activities (b) helps to shape collective understanding and (c) facilitates the emergence of heuristic knowledge (Tsoukas and Vladimirou, 2001)
Processes and Phases of QA
There are authors who differentiate three types of processes in QA (Argote et al., 2003):
- Creation or development of new knowledge
- Knowledge retention
- Knowledge transfer
Lehaney and colleagues (2004) define QA as: “systematic organization, (…), with appropriate objectives and feedback mechanisms, under the control of a sector (public or private) that facilitates the creation, retention, exchange, identification, acquisition, use, and measurement of information and new ideas, to achieve strategic objectives, (…), that are subject to financial, legal, resource, political, technical, cultural, and social constraints.
QA should not be confused with information management or management of the technology that supports it . Nor is it exactly the same as talent management. Knowledge and its management require human intervention and, in this sense, learning and tacit knowledge are fundamental in this process. Information technology is nothing more than a support for the entire process, but it is not the ultimate goal of KM (Martín and Casadesús, 1999).
- Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99-120.
- Dayan, R., & Evans, S. (2006). KM your way to CMMI. Journal of Knowledge Management, 10(1), 69-80.
- Guns, W., & Välikangas, L. (1998). Rethinking knowledge work: creating value through idiosyncratic knowledge. Journal of Knowledge Management, 1(4), 287-293.
- Lehaney, B., Coakes, E., & Gillian, J. (2004). Beyond Knowledge Management. London: Idea Group Publishing.
- Lloria, B. (2008). A review of the main approaches to knowledge management. Konwledge Management Research & Practice, 6, 77-89.
- Martín, C. (2000). The 7 Cybertendencies of the 21st Century. Madrid: McGraw Hill.
- Nonaka, I., & Teece, D. (2001). Research directions for knowledge management. In I. Nonaka, & D. Teece (Edits.), Managing Industrial Knowledge: Creation, Transfer and Utilization (pp. 330-335). London: Sage.
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- Viedma, J. (2001). ICBS Intellectual capital benchmarking systems. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 2(2), 148-164.