Manual Sharing Expertise: Beyond Knowledge Management (MIT Press)

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An overview of expertise sharing, an approach to knowledge management that emphasizes the human components of knowledge work in addition to information storage and retrieval. The field of knowledge management focuses on how organizations can most effectively store, manage, retrieve, and enlarge their intellectual properties. The repository view of knowledge management emphasizes the gathering, providing, and filtering of explicit knowledge.

The information in a repository has the advantage of being easily transferable and reusable. But it is not easy to use decontextualized information, and users often need access to human experts. This book describes a more recent approach to knowledge management, which the authors call "expertise sharing. Rather than focusing on the management level of an organization, expertise sharing focuses on the self-organized activities of the organization's members. The book addresses the concerns of both researchers and practitioners, describing current literature and research as well as offering information on implementing systems.

The researcher may enter the research with a well articulated theory and use the research as a way of validating — or refuting, or modifying — the theory Popper, In practice many researchers use elements of both approaches. They come into the study with at least some tacit framework and use the outcome to articulate the theory; theory building is cumulative and, as social constructionist point out, laden with assumptions and a priory positions relating to the context of the study.

In the absence of channels of communication to enable the subordinate to explain why the system might be dysfunctional, resistance or sabotage may be the last resort of the individual or group concerned. At the other end of the continuum, other problems emerge. In interventionist-style research, the researcher intervenes in a business activity or process, in collaboration with the employees of the organization, in order to find practical solutions to organizational problems.

The approach may be problematic, for various reasons. By extension, such an equation, also bears relationship to the knowledge produced by such an enquiry and the use and accessibility of such knowledge. The knowledge that is produced is likely to benefit the particular group in question, and the organization as a whole, but only in so far as management or the sub-class of management involved represents the organization.

Similarly, it may be said that KM initiatives and systems are yet another management tool designed to enhance the working of the organization but only in as far as management reflects the organization. Which instrumentality is dominant may be difficult to discern, in particular as the motivation for self enhancement is often tacit. The problem is manifest at both internal and external levels. At the internal level the assumption is that managers know, in other words managers are experts, and subordinates follow.

Sharing Expertise: Beyond Knowledge Management

Stories from senior management are more likely to be taken as authoritative, and representative of the organization, then stories told by lower level employees. Yet experience suggests that on important issues, knowledge is more evenly distributed then the authority structure implies Land, Discussion and Conclusion KM is a term devised as recently as a decade ago to lump together activities connected with the creation and use of knowledge within organizations — itself a set of activities as old as civilisation. The original impetus which led to the elevation of KM to its present day eminence were the discussion on the role of the knowledge worker in a modern economy which took place in the late s and early s.

Despite its eminence the notion of KM as a subject of study, there have been critics who, at the most extreme, have declared KM to be a contradiction in terms. More have criticised particular aspects, such as the definition of knowledge. Others have questioned the emphasis on tools to support KM, usually delivered by information technology, and have preferred to stress the need for human interaction as the most important enabling mechanism for KM to be enacted.

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But neither the technology, nor the relationship oriented models have specially noted that KM involves ethical issues. This paper has shown that we can trace notions which might be interpreted as Knowledge Management to wide range of older disciplines and that a study of these provides us with a richer picture and broader understanding of KM. It is as if — to use a metaphor - the study of KM in the literature of the subject has focuses a light on an iceberg so that we can see it in its full glory, but omit to note that there is more under the water than above it. What this paper has set out to do is to expose some of the underside of the iceberg.

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On the other hand, knowledge sharing can and does take place without any management intervention at all — without a conscious KM. This poses ethical problems for society as a whole, but also for the individual, whether in the role of employee, outside observer for example, journalist or researcher. These are individuals who manage to penetrate the deception but may fear sanctions or reprisals or who fear that their own motivation or actions may be questioned.

The argument in section two shows that the researcher is subject to a number of tensions and ethical dilemmas. Neither the researcher nor the subjects of the research are value free. In entering the inter-subjective space of the research the value systems of the parties involved may collide. The researcher has to decide whether to be subject to the values of the organization and its employees or to withdraw from the research. Whilst there are many examples of such conflicts there are relatively few examples of withdrawal.

A similar dilemma may face the junior researcher subject to the values of the research leader. For the researcher engaged in action research, the outcome of the intervention is rarely one that results in win-win situations. Since the values and objectives of management often drive the research project, and provide its funding, outcomes which result in a win for management objectives are deemed acceptable even if they imply a loss for other stakeholders or society as a whole.

And that poses an ethical dilemma. It should be noted that the dilemma exists whenever the client for the research represents a vested interest, so that research done on behalf of, say, a trade union is subject to similar dilemmas. Again the researcher may during the course of the study discover some major or minor deceptions perpetrated within the organization being studied. These may be management scams or employee deceptions. In either case the researcher faces the whistle blowers dilemma. Respondents from within the organization as a sounding board or even as a conduit to pass unwelcome messages to other parts of the organization sometimes use the researcher.

How should the researcher respond? The knowledge hierarchy also affects the dilemma around ethical conduct. A junior researcher may be in a more difficult position than the more senior members of the team.

Knowledge Management is not a chimera. But much of the work currently defined as being about KM takes a one eyed stance. If the study KM is to have an enduring future it must take a more holistic stance and recognise that its antecedents come from many more disciplines than those which are cited its literature. Of course, research into the part of the iceberg above water is easier, in the sense that the stories that are told about it reflect the views of off those who want to extol its beauty.

Diving into the cold water below the iceberg and explaining what is there is more difficult. The dark side of KM is protected against exposure. It is perhaps not surprising that it requires more than auditors or academic researchers to reveal what lies under the iceberg. But students, researchers and practitioners alike have to recognise the instrumentality of which drives action and he problems it gives rise to in terms of values, truth and ethics.

The source of knowledge, the dissemination of knowledge and the motives of the knowledge provider and knowledge seeker have received less attention in the literature than their significance warrants, both in terms of practical outcomes and in terms of ethical issues. There is still a long way to go.


Knowledge Management is not an oxymoron. Unfortunately, the darker side of KM can be found everywhere. Acknowledgements We would like to thank Lucia Lorenzo-Garcia for her insightful comments. References Ackerman, M.

Beyond Knowledge Management

Alvesson, M. Avison, D. Barnett, C. Baskerville, R. Beer, S. Cruver, B. Drummond, H. Davenport, T. Deetz, S. Drahos, P. The role of information technology in the collapse of Barings' bank. Foucault, M. Friere, P. Garcia-Lorenzo, G. Glaser, B. Gray, J. Hammer, M. Harrison, R. Hosein, I. Hughes, I. Land, F. Brown ed. Miller, D. Mitleton-Kelly, E. Mumford, E. Nolas, S. Investigating the contradictions in knowledge management.

Larsen, L. De Gross Eds. Sulston, J. Sussman, L.

Sharing Expertise: Beyond Knowledge Management

Journal of Business Ethics, 40, Swan, J. Taylor, F. First published in Thompson, J. Polity, Cambridge. Tsiavos, P. Related Papers. The Ethics of Knowledge Management.