Managing knowledge in hybrids

Few weeks ago, I had a presentation at 15th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning conference. My participation was made possible by the grant from Foundation for Economic Education. Many thanks to the foundation for supporting my work!

I have been around in knowledge management research for 15 years and this presentation aimed to shortly capture my view on knowledge management and some of the reasons that make it so difficult.

What I find crucial is the alignment of knowledge management with organizations’ governance model.  

Therefore, my paper discussed governance modes and described how hybridity increasingly challenges otherwise so clear and simple knowledge management models.

In defining hybridity I follow Johanson and Vakkuri (2017) who state that when approaching hybridity from the public administration viewpoint it is about combining private and public interests. My view is justified because I work in a project led by these two professors. The HYPER project.

In this light, the purpose of my article was to connect hybridity to my own experiences in the knowledge management area.

So, what is special about knowledge management in hybrid context?

I have seen many times in practice how difficult it is to agree with the purpose and means of knowledge management when multiple institutional levels (e.g. state, regional, local), organization types (e.g. public, private, third sector) and professional logics (e.g. administrative, health care, technology) comprise complex power and identity relationships.

So, what I tried to argue in my presentation and article was that there might be a need to step away from the dominant knowledge-based view and admit that knowledge management as a discipline may not be able to tackle all the prevailing management problems alone.

My argument was that sometimes we knowledge management researchers (the same may concern also other management disciplines) try so hard to solve problems with our knowledge management toolbox without really thinking whether the problem is a knowledge managment problem at all.

So what is the outcome of this? In a worst case, we lose our audience. We push but no-one wants to hear us.

I think there are two main reasons why we still do that.

First, we use the tools we have. Those that we know something about and those that the customer is calling for. In a knowledge society knowledge management is considered as a legitimate way of spending money in many organizations.

And we are delighted to hit anything with our hammer.

Second, another reason may be ignorance or even indifference. We think that we know. And are not willing to admit that we don’t actually know how to solve the problem.

Sadly, this seems to be an increasing concern. We push our own models and there is less and less time and patience to consider whether our approach fits the situation at all. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether it is ignorance or indifference.

What I’m suggesting is that knowledge management scholars and practitioners should pay more attention to the institutional context and in finding solutions to such questions that are actually relevant in the particular context.

In this paper, I’m referring to governance modes and my argument is that knowledge management differs between governance modes and this has been mostly ignored in knowledge management discussions.

I will tell you more about my thoughts next year.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!

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