A very positive review of my book has been published in the current issue of Knowledge Management Research & Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Knowledge Management Research & Practice (2007) 5, 71–72. doi:10.1057/palgrave.kmrp.8500122
New Frontiers of Knowledge Management
Kevin C. Desouza (Ed)
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke (UK), New York (USA), 2005,
ISBN-13: 978-1-4039-4240-1, ISBN-10: 1-4039-4240-4, 275pp
Reviewed by, Yanqing Duan of the University of Bedfordshire Business School, U.K.
New Frontiers of Knowledge Management is a contributed volume edited by Kevin C. Desouza. The book contains a collection of 12 chapters, which cover a range of topics focusing on the new frontiers in knowledge management with creative thinking, novel insights and innovative ideas. Any attempt to edit a book on 'the new frontiers' of this multi-disciplinary and widely debated field would be a challenge. Therefore, the editor should be commended on his attempt.
The book starts with an excellent introduction by the editor, which is a must read section for any reader before embarking the rest of the chapters. It defines the term 'new frontier' in knowledge management, sets up the rationale for the book and provides a succinct summary of each author's novelty in his/her contribution to the book. The editor stresses the necessity of sharing options and feelings on the new frontiers and highlights his three motivations in pulling together this unique book, which aims to
'provide an avenue for researchers and practitioners to be adventurous, venture out, and postulate some of their creative thinking.'
'assemble authors who would cross the local space and write on knowledge management in an integrated fashion' and
'seek out some of the new insights and provide an avenue for them to be presented.'
There is no doubt that the editor has achieved the above by providing an opportunity for knowledge management scholars and practitioners to share and exchange their insights and views and be explorative in seeking new ideas and innovative development.
Topics covered in the book include: science and technology knowledge management, knowledge visualization, personalizing knowledge delivery services, knowledge security in organizations, knowledge markets, software artefacts for knowledge management, ubiquitous computing in networked organizations, collaborative enterprises, knowledge flow dynamics, knowledge integration in teams, the role of incentives in knowledge transfer, and innocuous knowledge management.
The book is a mix of debates from social, organizational, technological and economic perspectives, all aiming to offer their thoughts and insights in addressing knowledge management challenges and problems, and attempting to seek new solutions. The strength of the book lies in its diversity, quality, depth and the authors' employment of multi-disciplinary perspectives in their treatments.
For example, from an organizational perspective, Chapter 5 addresses knowledge security in organizations in three focused areas: people, products and processes; and Chapter 10 draws from knowledge flow theory to develop a multi-dimensional model to inform organizational design. From a more technological point of view, Chapter 13 argues the value of innocuous knowledge and explores the management of innocuous knowledge with distributed knowledge networks. The discussion on how market mechanisms can help facilitate knowledge management in Chapter 6 and the role of incentives in knowledge transfer in Chapter 12 offers different aspects of arguments from an economic dimension. Chapter 9 argues the importance of collaborative enterprise from a more humanistic aspect and proposes a generic framework for collaboration, which incorporates the influential factors and the types of capability that needs to be developed.
Most of the authors set forth their arguments on addressing knowledge management problems and challenges from mixed perspectives of social, organizational and technological dimensions. For example, Chapter 2's contributors share their insights on science and technology management emphasizing the conversion of technical textual data to technical knowledge; Chapter 3 emphasizes the importance of making knowledge visible and postulates how this can be achieved; Chapter 4 addresses the challenges in personalizing knowledge delivery services, arguing that knowledge is emergent and needs to evolve based on its particular context; Chapter 7 explores the diversity of software artefacts use in supporting information and knowledge management through the four analytical lenses of interaction, interpretation, connection and collaboration; Chapter 8 argues the potential impact of the ubiquitous information environment (UIE) and proposes a framework for studying the UIE technologies and invites more research in this area; and Chapter 11 explores knowledge integration processes within teams and tests the link between a team's human capital and its knowledge integration competency with case analysis.
For any edited book on new frontiers, the selection of contributors would be critical to its attraction and success. A number of respected scholars and renowned executives in the knowledge management field, especially from America, have contributed to the book. The contributions from both academics and practitioners should be particularly appreciated by readers. However, out of 12 chapters, apart from two from the UK and one from Denmark, the rest of the authors are mainly based in the USA. The heavily American-based contributions may be seen as a weakness in offering a comprehensive reflection of thoughts on future directions worldwide.
In a similar way to most edited books, the collection of chapters represents a mix of depth, length and style. Readers may find that some chapters are better argued and in more depth than others. Others may challenge the novelty, significance or the 'eligibility' as a new frontier in certain topics. It can also be argued that some important or emerging topics may have been left out, such as dealing with culture and trust, dealing with tacit knowledge, transnational knowledge transfer in the global economy, communities of practice, intelligent knowledge systems, etc. However, one of the purposes of the book, as the editor stressed in his opening page, is for 'interested readers to embrace or criticize, to build on or refute, and above all to share' the contributors' views. To this end, the editor's effort can be well justified. As it is not possible to include all new frontiers in one book, the reviewer acknowledges this limitation. The book serves as a call for attention to the continuous effort in seeking new frontiers in this evolving field.
Overall, the editor has done a good job in terms of quality, depth and range of the papers collected. The book makes a unique contribution to the knowledge management literature and is a valuable source of innovative ideas and rich insights on advancing the understanding and achievement in knowledge management. Most of the chapters are well argued and easy to follow, although some of them may be more intellectually demanding for readers to digest. The book would not be recommended as a textbook for students, but is a useful reading for both knowledge management academics and practitioners who would like to further their thoughts on new directions and understand the implications of the new developments. It will also be particularly beneficial to new knowledge management researchers who seek inspiration and thought-provoking debates in their projects and research. I find the book an inspiring, and enjoyable read and hope that KMRP readers will feel the same.