Adaptation and Context
- Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Anders Örtenblad
Chapter 11: Knowledge management in small and medium-sized enterprises: navigating informality and resource constraints
Knowledge management is pervasive with an almost exclusive focus on large organizations (McAdam and Reid 2001). There is limited consideration of knowledge management approaches in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (Chen et al. 2006; Wei et al. 2011). Hutchinson and Quintas (2008) suggested that the field of knowledge management is immature and has become associated with activities such as the introduction of new information and communications technology systems, the creation of knowledge management structures and new organizational roles such as chief knowledge officer. These activities are expensive and require major expenditures, which are beyond the resources of many SMEs. Researchers have called for further study of knowledge management in SMEs, utilizing a ‘realistic lens’ so that it is possible to better understand how knowledge management operates in SMEs (Durst and Edvardsson 2012). Debates within the knowledge management literature focus primarily on whether knowledge management is easier to implement in small rather than large organizations. Lim and Klobas (2000), for example, argued that knowledge management is easier to implement in an SME due to the ease with which tacit knowledge can be accessed and the greater intensity of knowledge sharing resulting from the high level of informality found in SMEs. Other researchers (Hamzah and Woods 2004; Wong and Aspinwall 2004) have argued that there is a strong resistance to the adoption of formalized knowledge management practices in SMEs and they do not understand the concept of knowledge management as it is understood in large organizations.
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