In this chapter, we will explore the field of KM in order to set the context for the study. We will examine the tools and techniques for the management of knowledge from a historical perspective and also explore the issues for managing knowledge in a spatially distributed environment. We will see that there is a tension between different views of knowledge and, for the purposes of this book, we will regard knowledge as "soft" and "hard" as a working definition.
We have already seen in Chapter I that commercial organisations have come to recognise the value of the knowledge that is held in the organisation. As knowledge has come to be recognised as an important resource and a valuable asset, it has also been recognised that it must be managed as such. KM is a rapidly growing field that is dismissed by some as simply the most recent management trend but recognised by others as essential if organisations are to cope with pressures brought about by downsizing, outsourcing, and globalisation.
There is a wealth of definitions of KM available, most of which will have different meanings for different people. However, if something is to be managed, many people feel it must be able to be quantified, counted, organised, and measured (Glazer, 1998), and it must be able to be built, owned, controlled, and its value maximised (Allee, 1997). This view of "management" has influenced attempts to manage knowledge and led to attempts to quantify, capture, and control it as an object. More recent developments in KM have demonstrated that this approach to the management of knowledge is too restricted and that some aspects of knowledge cannot be captured. Therefore, the concept of KM has had to be broadened to include elements of sharing, learning, the generation of new knowledge, and the application of knowledge.