This paper presents a view of the evolution of the use of Knowledge and Knowledge Management (KM) through four stages, and suggests a composite model for Next Generation Knowledge Management (NGKM), derived from the theories presented by several prominent authors. The four stages are:
* Knowledge as the domain of philosophers and scientists
* Precursors to knowledge as a management issue
* The emergence of Knowledge Management as a discipline and First Generation Knowledge Management
* Next Generation Knowledge Management
The paper concludes with a discussion of the model's practical implications and makes suggestions for testing the model in practice.
It has significance both for the future management of knowledge-related functions and the role of IT in helping to create and share knowledge.
Stage I: Knowledge as the Domain of Philosophers and Scientists
For more than two millennia, trying to understand the nature of knowledge has been the key of philosophers and scientists. Figure 1 provides a simple pictorial representation of the philosophical thinking about knowledge (at least from the Western perspective), demonstrating the roots of the philosophy of knowledge that have led to the much more recent concept of Knowledge Management. Seven key groupings can be seen. The discussions on knowledge start with the work of Plato and Aristotle. Plato, in the Theaetetus, one of his Socratic dialogues (Plato, 369BC) tries to answer the question "What is knowledge?" He proposes three key concepts: "Knowledge is perception"; "Knowledge is true belief"; and "Knowledge is true belief with an account".
Although some re-visitation of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle was evident in the Scholasticism of the later Middle Ages it was not until the beginning of the 17th Century that the next wave of thinking about knowledge emerged.
The Rationalists, following in the footsteps of Plato, argued that the fundamental characteristics of the physical world are known independently of the senses, while the Empiricists, in supporting the views of Aristotle, argued for more practical evidence.
By the early 20th century, epistemologists' arguments had developed with a recognition that it was much more difficult to be certain about anything, exemplified by Wittgenstein's thought evolution on the role of language.
This debate happened largely in the University and in the laboratory. Meanwhile, for much of this period, there was a parallel process of knowledge creation and transfer that was happening in the workplace--that of the apprenticeship within a skilled craft. In evidence in many early societies, this method of acquiring both cognitive and practical skills was based on the transfer of skills from master to apprentice and the three stage evolution from apprentice to journeyman to master.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Stage II: Precursors to Knowledge as a Management Issue
By the mid 20th century, a number of activities, both theoretical and practical, had demonstrated an emergence of knowledge as a subject of interest to management.
Michael Polanyi & "Personal Knowledge"
Of special note in this evolution is the work of Michael Polanyi. In common with many other philosophers in the early to mid 20th century he saw the weaknesses inherent in the "objective" scientific method and moved towards a more post-modernist view. In his major work, "Personal Knowledge" (Polanyi, 1958), he develops his theory of Personal Knowledge, based on the belief that all knowledge is to some degree tacit, and sets the foundation for much of the later theoretical work done in the KM field. In many ways, Polanyi can be seen as a bridge between the philosophical works on knowledge and the beginnings of an approach to the explicit role and use of knowledge in business communities. …