One Size Does Not Fit All — Towards a Typology of Knowledge‑Centric Organisations


  • Marié Cruywagen
  • Juani Swart
  • Wim Gevers


knowledge management, knowledge-centric organisations, typology, social constructionism, configurational approach, systems thinking


Organisations are increasingly turning their attention to the creation and use of knowledge as a strategic resource. Too often however, knowledge management initiatives fail to deliver the competitive advantage expected from a strategic resource. The knowledge management literature is characterised by frameworks for knowledge management implementation which tend to prescribe best‑practice methods to a large range of companies. Although useful, a key weakness of these frameworks is their inability to account for contextual differences. Consequently many organisations attempt to apply a knowledge management framework that simply doesn't fit the organisational context resulting in little or no benefit from their efforts. A shift in focus from best practice to best fit is necessary to account for the difference in organisational contexts. Systems thinking emphasises context as an important element in understanding a system, and five concepts from systems theory are used to define the criteria for establishing a best‑fit approach. A social constructionist approach to the research further affords the opportunity to identify areas of significant variation in knowledge management context and practices within knowledge‑centric organisations. A multi‑method research strategy, comprising cluster analysis and case study research, is proposed to develop insight into the emergence of different configurations of knowledge management capabilities within different organisational contexts. The proposed conceptual framework forms the foundation for building a typology of knowledge‑centric organisations which will enable organisations to choose the most appropriate approach to knowledge management based on their specific context which varies along the dimensions of their knowledge‑orientation, knowledge management intent and knowledge management enactment.



1 Oct 2008



General Paper