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Knowledge Management and the Learning Organization

IKON's research in the area of Knowledge Management (KM) and Organizational Learning has produced a number of commissioned reports (for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), papers and book chapters. Jacky Swan and Harry Scarbrough have produced work on KM as a management fashion and also on its contribution to innovation. They were co-editors of two journal special issues - Journal of Management Studies and Journal of Information Technology - which were based on papers presented to the Warwick Conference on Knowledge Management in 2000. 

Research Output

Project Reports

Research report for the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD)

Knowledge Management and the Learning Organization represent important approaches to the problems of competitiveness and innovation confronting organizations and to the difficulties associated with new organisational forms. They have begun to exert a significant influence on management discourse, on the ways managers view their employees and on the kinds of commitment they seek from them. This research report, developed and written for the IPD, provides a critical evaluation of available literature on Knowledge Management and the Learning Organization in terms of their implications for people management. The report shows how the new discourse of Knowledge Management departs significantly from that on the Learning Organization. In particular, critical issues concerning people management and human resource management activities are often neglected in discussions of Knowledge Management, where the dominant emphasis has been on tools and systems. The report attempts to begin to redress this emphasis on tools, focusing instead on people management implications of new (and old) approaches to Knowledge Management including, for example, critical issues of trust, commitment, culture, career development and incentives, and the roles to be played by Personnel Management professionals. 

Scarbrough, H., Swan, J. and Preston, J. (1998). Knowledge Management and the Learning Organization: The IPD Report. Institute of Personnel Development, London.

Case report for the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) 

Knowledge Management (KM) is being heralded as an important new approach to the problems of competitiveness and innovation currently confronting organisations. The intellectual argument for the development of KM rests on a presumed paradigm shift in the business environment, where knowledge is increasingly seen as central to organisational performance.

The impetus for this case report was the need to address two major gap in KM practice and theory. Firstly, the case report focuses on the processes and practices of people management during KM initiatives. As a literature review conducted by the editors for the Institute of Personnel and Development (Scarbrough, Swan and Preston, 1999) revealed most examples of KM practice focus on tools and methodologies - mostly information technology-based. With a few exceptions, people management issues are almost entirely neglected. Yet there are obvious implications for people management and development that need to be addressed if the claims about the many advantages of KM are to be realised.

Secondly, the case report fills an empirical gap in the KM debate which is dominated by anecdotal or glamorous examples of 'best practices'. Rather, the case report provides detailed and empirical examples of actual KM practice in organisations and their relation to the processes and practices of people management and development. A rich and diverse range of KM practices across a range of companies and sectors have been investigated to address the real and complex problems associated with KM especially in its relation to the managment of people. 

Scarbrough, H. and Swan, J. (eds.) (1999) Issues in People Management: Case Studies in Knowledge Management. Institute of Personnel Management, London.

Journal articles

Scarbrough, H. and Swan, J. (2002). 'Knowledge communities and innovation', Trends in Communication, 8, 7-20.

Swan, J. and Scarbrough, H. (2002). 'The paradox of knowledge management', Informatik, 1, 10-13. 

Carter, C. and Scarbrough, H. (2001). 'Towards a second generation of KM? The people management challenge', Education and Training (Special Issue on Knowledge Management and E-Learning), 43, 4/5, 215-224. - link

Carter, C. and Scarbrough, H. (2001). 'Regimes of Knowledge, Stories of Power: A Treatise on Knowledge Management',  Creativity & Innovation Management, 10, 3, 210-220. - link

Scarbrough, H. and Swan, J. (2001). 'Explaining the diffusion of knowledge management: The role of fashion', British Journal of Management, 12, 1: 3-12. - link

Swan, J. and Scarbrough, H. (2001). 'Editorial', Journal of Management Studies, (special issue on Knowledge Management), 38, 7, 913-921. - link

Scarbrough, H. (1999). 'System error', People Management, 8 April 1999, 68-74. 

Book chapters

Scarbrough, H. (2003). 'Knowledge Management' pp. 135 -154 in Holman, D., Wall, T.D., Clegg, C.W., Sparrow, P., Howard, A. , The new workplace: A guide to the human impact of modern working practices, Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Scarbrough, H. and Swan, J. (2003). 'Discourses of Knowledge Management and the Learning Organization: Their production and consumption' in M. Easterby-Smith and M. Lyles, Blackwell Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Oxford. 

Project Team:

Harry Scarbrough
Jacky Swan
J Preston