Reconceptualizing Knowledge Management: Knowledge, Social Energy, and Emergent Leadership in Social Complex Adaptive Systems
The field of knowledge management struggles among apparent paradoxical standpoints. Beyond the facts that knowledge remains poorly defined, and is also not easily ‘managed’, theories of knowledge management propose opposing views traditionally ranging from an information science perspective to a more social orientation. There is also an epistemic gap between the concepts of knowledge and knowledge management. Although this is primarily experienced at the practitioners’ level, it is essentially due to a theoretical disintegration at the academic level between the micro and macro levels of knowledge management and a myriad of non-integrated frameworks. There is currently no integrated theory of knowledge management. This thesis employs a radical socio-cultural constructivist epistemology, adopting complexity theory as a lens to provide the first step towards an integration of the field of knowledge management. Using a disjunctive logic and a holistic approach, this thesis makes several significant contributions: • This research presents a Delphi study utilizing a panel of experts to explore existing consensus and dissension within the field of knowledge management. • This research introduces the E2E Model, a new complexity-based conceptualization of the cognitive system of knowledge which revisits the position of the traditional constructs of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom within an interlinked feedback system of increasing levels of understanding, allowing multidirectional interstate transitions, bound between two states of being: existence and enlightenment (hence “E2E”). • This research introduces the LIFE Model (Leadership Invigorating Flows of Energies) which provides a comprehensive description of the organizational Knowledge Processing System. It highlights the role of emergent leadership and flows of social energies as forces invigorating the Knowledge Processing System, and describes how knowledge is created, assimilated, and diffused dynamically within an organization through the Knowledge Processing. • This research also presents a first application of the LIFE model with the case analysis of Wikipedia illustrating why this organization can be considered as a social complex adaptive system and how the LIFE model facilitates its analysis. This analysis demonstrates how continuous flows of positive and negative feedback among users and the processes of the Knowledge Processing Cycle lead to the emergence of a complex feedback system that nurtures the self-organization of the Wikipedia community and its outputs. Together, the E2E Model and the LIFE Model provide a sound foundation for a reconceptualization of knowledge management. They open the path to the creation of an integrative theory of knowledge management, of which a first stepping stone is presented in this thesis.
Advisor: Lawson, Rob; Everett, André
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Marketing, Management
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Knowledge Management; Social Energy; Knowledge; Leadership; Complexity Theory; Emergence
Research Type: Thesis