Monday 24 September 2018

Is knowledge management part of the 4th wave of technological revolution?

According to a recent blog post, KM is the human-centric response to the 4th technological revolution.

The blog post, entitled What explains the evolution of management models over the past two centuries? is from the Business Review of the London School of Economics, and is written by Latko Bodrožić and Paul S. Adler

Bodrožić and Adler suggest that new management models emerge in response to the organizational challenges created by technological revolutions, and that KM is associated with the fourth and most recent. They also suggest that each revolution is accompanied first by a new organisational paradigm or management model, and then by what they describe as "a secondary cycle which generated another model that consolidated the new paradigm by mitigating the dysfunctions of the primary cycle’s model".

The revolutions, models and second cycles are listed in the table below.

Technological revolutionNew management model Second cycle
Railroads and steamProfessionally managed firmIndustrial betterment
Electricity and steelFactoryHuman relations
Automobiles and OilCorporationQuality Management
Computers and telecomsNetworkKnowledge Management

I think this is an interesting analysis. Certainly KM emerged as a result of better communications and computer power, and the authors suggest that KM is a human-centred response to this revolution.

"This 4th cycle seems to have led to the neglect of the human element and thereby weakened the innovation-generating capacity of firms. These problems, in turn, have provoked a secondary cycle that has encouraged the emergence of a cluster of concepts that appears to be cohering around Knowledge Management and novel types of communities of practice".
They also suggest that this may be why KM has not followed the typical trajectory of a business fad, and say

"Our theorization aims to go beyond the accounts that see new management concepts and models as an endless stream of fads and fashion. While we agree that many contemporary concepts show only a faddish quality, our neo-Schumpeterian approach links the popularity of concepts and models to their ability to help firms deal with the distinct organizational challenges created by each technological revolution".

In other words, KM is not a fad, but is a response to the networked model that puts humans at the heart of the networks, and represents a new way for humans to work in a networked world. 

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