Purpose – This study aims to empirically explore the key elements for classifying and differentiating knowledge-intensive organizations (KIOs) from other traditional organizations. Design/methodology/approach – The study’s conceptual framework is based on the prevailing propositions from the literature on KIOs and is explored using a survey of knowledge management (KM) professionals, a purposely selected community of practice (CoP). Findings – The results suggest that organizations can generally be divided into two groups – KIOs and non-KIOs, and there appear to be some clear factors that differentiate KIOs from non-KIOs according to the CoP.
Research limitations/implications – This study lays a foundation for the systematic development and evaluation of KIOs and their KM practices. The results from this study can stimulate issue formulation and hypothesis generation for investigation by KM researchers and academics. The study focused on a few types of organizations drawn from the literature which may limit the generalizability of the results. However, restricting the study to the core organizations identified in the literature provided the authors with leverage for an in-depth empirical exploration of these organizations’ characteristics.
Practical implications – To a KM practitioner this study aids in delineating the different elements to keep in mind when designing or evaluating KM practices in KIOs. Originality/value – This paper is among the early works to empirically explore KIOs. It advances a framework of how to recognize the knowledge-intense factors defining KIOs, thereby providing the required foundation for analyzing KM practices in KIOs. Also by identifying the core dimensions defining knowledge intensity, the study underscores the importance of the relations between workers, the community (organization) of which they are members, and the conceptions the workers have of their activities as presented in the theory of organizations as activity systems. While the importance of knowledge has often been demonstrated within work groups or for particular organizational processes, this study has demonstrated a useful foundation for analyzing an organization as a whole.
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