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Knowledge Erosion and Degradation: A Single Case-Study of Knowledge Risks and Barriers in a Multi-Business Organisation

Watson, Judith (2020) Knowledge Erosion and Degradation: A Single Case-Study of Knowledge Risks and Barriers in a Multi-Business Organisation. PhD thesis, Victoria University.

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Abstract

The nature and value of knowledge is well documented throughout history, including within organisations. The preservation of knowledge is an acknowledged although neglected area within the evolving field of knowledge management, particularly with pressures for improved organisational performance on organisations both within private and public sectors in dynamic, competitive global environments. Organisations are facing increasing challenges due to industry disruption and faster-paced or high-velocity work environments and the need for agility. Additionally, increasing casualised labour, skills shortages, ageing workforces and increasing migration of employees and other effectscombine to impact organisations’ capacity to manage and retain knowledge. Failed projects, due to neglect of knowledge practices within organisations, have raised recognition of knowledge risk, conceptualised as knowledge erosion and knowledge degradation. This contextualist study initially considers western philosophical roots of knowledge and contrasting paradigms with implications for how critical knowledge may be at risk of erosion or degradation; the study also explored societal, modernist and neo-liberalist forces influencing knowledge. Societal and neo-liberalist perspectives raise questions about how knowledge is sourced, produced and dispersed. Technological changes (e.g. internet, artificial intelligence, social media and digitalisation) are also considered, in terms of the value of human versus machine knowledge. Knowledge in its various forms has become one of the most important commodities, globally. While globalisation, digitalisation and associated changes have greatly facilitated knowledge creation and management, they have also created challenges for accessibility and preservation of some forms of traditional knowledge and have recently resulted in the recognition of knowledge erosion, degradation or loss; however, to understand these latter concepts it is necessary to understand the nature of knowledge and contextual influences. Reviewing the origins and evolution of knowledge from a Western perspective, it is clear that: knowledge is multi-dimensional; a number of types of knowledge are recognised in several major philosophies; knowledge is valued in different ways; major contextual influences on knowledge include social status, political system, community literacy and accessibility; and there are many potential direct and indirect forms of erosion or degradation. To address the question of whether a complex multi-function organisation (wholesale and retail operations), understands and experiences risks of key knowledge being eroded and degraded, a quasi phenomenological cross-sectional study was undertaken using purposive sampling methods. Semi-structured collaborative interviews, with a small sample of managerial participants, focused on thoughts, perceptions, and experiences of knowledge erosion and degradation, as well as the extent to which knowledge erosion and degradation risks impact work areas and organisational effectiveness or performance. Responses reveal that while participants from varying functional areas were aware of the value of knowledge and acknowledged the need for long-serving individuals to be allocated time to impart knowledge, that the organisation was hierarchical leading to the perception of decision–making by a small senior managerial group – resulting in disadvantage where knowledge transfer was not adequate or timely. Other issues raised included overreliance on technology that could result in information erosion and degradation with varied impacts on operations, including organisational and financial performance. These investigations demonstrate that, in this organisation: the risk of knowledge erosion degradation and loss is recognised; increased knowledge exchange and expanded participation in decision-making would be beneficial; and a need is confirmed for a comprehensive, integrated knowledge management system – including strategies to preserve knowledge. Despite limitations due to the small sample size, this study is useful for Management and Human Resource Management personnel and practitioners in crafting strategies to optimise knowledge practices including knowledge preservation. The broader implication is that in a world where knowledge is one of the most important and expensive commodities, the multiple risks of knowledge erosion, degradation or loss as well as preservation techniques will become increasingly significant.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
Uncontrolled Keywords: knowledge philosophies; knowledge types and values; knowledge degradation and loss; knowledge preservation; knowledge management
Subjects: Current > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Depositing User: VUIR
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 01:26
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2020 01:26
URI: http://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40722
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