PURPOSE - Academic authors tend to define terms that meet their own needs. Knowledge Management
(KM) is a term that comes to mind and is examined in this study. Lexicographical research identified
KM terms used by authors from 1996 to 2006 in academic outlets to define KM. Data were collected
based on strict criteria which included that definitions should be unique instances. From 2006 onwards,
these authors could not identify new unique instances of definitions with repetitive usage of such
definition instances. Analysis revealed that KM is directly defined by People (Person and Organisation),
Processes (Codify, Share, Leverage, and Process) and Contextualised Content (Information). The paper
aims to discuss these issues.
DESIGN / METHODOLOGY / APPOACH – The aim of this paper is to add to the body of knowledge in the KM
discipline and supply KM practitioners and scholars with insight into what is commonly regarded to be KM so
as to reignite the debate on what one could consider as KM. The lexicon used by KM scholars was evaluated
though the application of lexicographical research methods as extended though Knowledge Discovery and
Text Analysis methods.
FINDINGS – By simplifying term relationships through the application of lexicographical research methods, as
extended though Knowledge Discovery and Text Analysis methods, it was found that KM is directly defined
by People (Person and Organisation), Processes (Codify, Share, Leverage, Process) and Contextualised
Content (Information). One would therefore be able to indicate that KM, from an academic point of view,
refers to people processing contextualised content.
RESEARCH LIMITATIONS / IMPLICATIONS – In total, 42 definitions were identified spanning a period
of 11 years. This represented the first use of KM through the estimated apex of terms used.
From 2006 onwards definitions were used in repetition, and all definitions that were considered
to repeat were therefore subsequently excluded as not being unique instances. All definitions listed
are by no means complete and exhaustive. The definitions are viewed outside the scope and context
in which they were originally formulated and then used to review the key concepts in the
SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS – When the authors refer to the aforementioned discussion of KM content as
well as the presentation of the method followed in this paper, the authors may have a few implications
for future research in KM. First the research validates ideas presented by the OECD in 2005 pertaining
to KM. It also validates that through the evolution of KM, the authors ended with a description of KM
that may be seen as a standardised description. If the authors as academics and practitioners, for
example, refer to KM as the same construct and/or idea, it has the potential to speculatively,
distinguish between what KM may or may not be.
ORIGINALITY / VALUE – By simplifying the term used to define Knowledge Management, by focussing on the
most common definitions, the paper assist in refocussing Knowledge Management by reconsidering the
dimensions that is the most common in how it has been defined over time. This would hopefully assist in
reigniting discussions about Knowledge Management and how it may be used to the benefit of an
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