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Knowledge Management: Semantic Drift or Conceptual Shift?

Elisabeth Davenport and Blaise Cronin
Journal of Education for Library and Information Science
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Fall, 2000), pp. 294-306
DOI: 10.2307/40324047
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40324047
Page Count: 13
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Knowledge Management: Semantic Drift or Conceptual Shift?
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Abstract

This paper offers an exploration of knowledge management (KM), a concept only partially understood in domains that use the term. Three such domains are described: library and information science (LIS), business administration, and organization theory. In the first (KM1), KM is predominantly seen as "information management" by another name (semantic drift); in the second (KM2), it appears to be brought on board as an antidote to excessive focus on process at the expense of human expertise; the third (KM3) articulates a major conceptual shift, presenting organizations as adaptive entities that co-evolve with a given environment. What distinguishes KMl, KM2, and KM3? KM1 and KM2 may be distinguished from KM3 by an over-emphasis on codification, and a myopia with regard to human expertise, tacit knowledge, social learning, trust, and intuition. KM2 and KM3 (in contrast to KMl) focus on the internal as much as the external (reflexivity) and on the critical importance of relationships and exchange (reciprocity). The authors suggest that tensions will arise in any organization committed to KM where different domains have different understandings. KM is a complex and multidimensional concept that requires diverse insights.

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