A Cross-Cultural and Institutional Approach
Edited by Kate Hutchings and Kavoos Mohannak
Chapter 2: Social Institutions and Knowledge Management
2. Social institutions and knowledge management J.C. Spender INTRODUCTION Knowledge management (KM) sees itself as a new theoretical field equipping us for the Information Age. Knowledge, we are told, has become the most strategic of corporate assets, and managers need new techniques and sensitivities to succeed in this new environment (Boisot, 1998; Lubit, 2001). Prusak (2001), intimately involved in the growth of the field, argues the impetus comes from three trends: (a) powerful new information technologies, (b) globalisation of the world’s trade and its major companies; and (c) increasing attention to the economic implications of learning-by-doing and intellectual property management. There may be more to this story than these KM boosters suggest, for knowledge has always been crucial to commerce, politics, romance and warfare alike: Bacon famously remarked ‘knowledge is power’ in 1597. While we obviously have new technologies with the capacity to capture, move, analyse, store and deliver data like never before, it is not clear how this might affect today’s developed and developing economies. We are on a technological trajectory but unclear about where it is leading – to a land of health and plenty perhaps, or the disappearance of privacy and community, to a utopia or a dystopia? Looking at global flagship companies like Microsoft, Dell, Amazon and eBay, we see new commercial opportunities and business models capturing the rocketing global business and household spending on computing and communications. These opportunities are as present in the developing economies as they are in the developed world. Whether the penetration...
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