Managing Knowledge; IN THE Last of Our Series of Articles by Leading Academics at Queen's University School of Management, PROFESSOR PAUL JEFFCUTT Looks at Research and Development within Management Knowledge and the Contributions Made by Queen's Research Centre to Various Disciplines

Article excerpt

KNOWLEDGE Management is a relatively new, rapidly developing and complex field of knowledge. It was initially established in the UK around 50 years ago, but has grown exponential over the past decade to become the most popular subject of study for undergraduates, postgraduates and overseas students. Over the same period, there has been a sevenfold growth in UK Management Schools, to over 100, which currently employ around a quarter of all the active social science researchers in the UK.

Yet as Management has rapidly become a very dominant field of knowledge (on a worldwide basis), the value and relevance of its insight has become increasingly controversial. For over the past five years in particular, there have been a series of enquiries in the UK, Europe and the USA, involving managers, professional bodies, academics, policy makers and governments, which have been investigating the relevance of management Knowledge to the different communities that seek to use its insight. These reports have much in common, finding that Management is a field of knowledge that has a 'double challenge' of relevance, in relation to the world of practice and to the world of theory (ie like Medicine or Engineering). However, these reports also argue that due to rapid changes in the practical world of work and organisation and in the theoretical world of social science, the knowledge of management is in danger of becoming out of touch with both of these worlds. In response, leading UK Management Schools now recognise the 'double challenge' of relevance as a significant hurdle that requires imaginative and innovative approaches to successfully overcome.

In this context, as part of a broader programme of development, Queen's University has recently established a Research Centre in Management Knowledge. the Centre as been drawing together and building upon existing strengths in the school of Management in order to achieve fresh synergies in this developing area of activity. The Research Centre is multidisciplinary (involving 12 different units of the University, from engineering to politics) and concerned with a wide range of organisations (eg from Manufacturing to the Media and from sole traders to multinationals). Interconnecting this work are fundamental and applied concerns for the complex interrelationship between 'management' and 'knowledge' which produce two main areas of activity:

The Knowledge of Management. The major need here, as I have already suggested, is to develop more flexible and versatile forms of knowledge, raising a series of key questions for contemporary Management research. These include the critical analysis of where the theoretical foundations of Management knowledge have come from (often North America), how they have become established and how appropriate these are to other cultures and contexts. …