Creating Knowledge through Management Education: A Case Study of Human Resource Management

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the last two decades a new range of business improvement philosophies has emerged since existing versions of management and management theory were viewed as inadequate in a changing world (McAdam & McCreedy 1999:91; Bryans & Smith 2000:228; Martensson 2000:204). Currently organisations have to deal with an emphasis on knowledge, one of the most hotly debated issues in management literature at present (Roelof 1999-95; McElroy 2000:195). Moreover, the number of knowledge-based and knowledge-enabling organisations that consider intellectual capital as a prime source is increasing (Katz 1998:50; Roelof 1999:94; Hargreaves 1999:124; Smith 2000:236; McElroy 2000:195; Bassi 1997:26; Riley 1998:149). It is believed that staff members own the tools of production through the knowledge they possess (Kinnear & Sutherland 2000:106).

The increasing awareness of the value of knowledge embedded in experiences, skills and abilities of people has become an emerging discourse known as knowledge management (Todd 1999:11). Knowledge management is therefore developing as a significant challenge to improve organisations and has become a key concern of many (Katz 1998:50, Roelof 1999:94; Rolf & Ron 1999: 287; De Long & Seeman 2000:33; Martensson 2000:204; McElroy 2000:195; O'Connell 1999:33; Kinnear & Sutherland 2000:106). The success of organisations in the post-industrial world seemingly lies more in its intellectual abilities than in its physical assets (Hargreaves 1999:124; Bassi 1997:25; Riley 1998:154). This requires the transformation of personal knowledge into institutional knowledge that can be widely shared throughout the institution and appropriately applied (Bryans & Smith 2000:229). The acquisition of knowledge and skills can be seen as an investment in future (Robinson & Ellis 1999:27).

The relevance of and interest in `knowledge' as a critical component of the intellectual discourse is also evident to the academic community (Shariq 1998: 10; Hargreaves 1999:125; Bassi 1997:25). The purpose of this article is to explore the manifestation of this discourse, knowledge management, in an academic programme. Firstly a literature review explores the key concepts: knowledge creation and knowledge management. This provides a theoretical framework to a qualitative investigation which examines the perceptions of distance learners enrolled for a module in HRM as part of a M Ed in Educational Management.

Research question

To understand the knowledge and skills created through learning material and the role played by learners in knowledge management, it is crucial to determine the views of learners. The following question provided the organising framework for the study: To what extent does the module HRM as part of the MEd in Educational Management contribute towards knowledge creation in the schools/organisations of the learners? In an attempt to answer this question, the article aims to:

* explain the concepts, knowledge creation and knowledge management, which are pertinent to the research question;

* provide an overview of the module in HRM

* determine learners' perceptions of how the learning material contributed towards knowledge management

What is knowledge creation?

The question of the nature of knowledge is very challenging (Martensson 2000:208). Furthermore, knowledge is not static and changes continuously (Katz 1998:50; Riley 1998:147). The old knowledge equation was: knowledge is power, so collect it. This has been currently replaced by: knowledge is power, so share it in order for it to multiply (Allee 1997:71). This implies that people and organisations should continuously renew and create more knowledge (Allee 1997-71). The competitive advantage lies in people's skills and knowledge and the organisation's ability to nurture the concept of lifelong learning (Bassi 1997:25; Robinson & Ellis 1999:27; Martensson 2000:208; Hicks 2000:71; Cascio 2001:4). …