The Formulaic and Embryonic Dimensions of Knowledge Management Strategy: A Social Practice Perspective


  • Yassaman Imani


KM strategy, embryonic KM strategy, formulaic KM strategy, link between KM and business strategy, KM strategy as social practice


Knowledge Management (KM) literature is populated with a variety of perspectives, prescriptions and studies of practice, which can be complex, contradictory and confusing to practitioners who seek to make sense of, and adapt them for practice. A sub‑set of this literature argues that a clear link to business strategy is critical to KM strategy’s success (see Storey & Barnett, 2000; Zack, 1999, 2002), but extant research shows that this link is often weak (Leidner, 1998; Ruggles, 1998; Storey & Barnett, 2000; Zack, 1999). These debates however, adopt a mainly rational perspective which overlooks the ‘emergent’ and ‘sensemaking’ aspects of strategizing. This paper argues that an extended ‘social practice’ (Hendry, 2000), which brings together rational, emergent and sensemaking aspects of strategizing process, provides a useful multi‑perspective framework for investigating the extent to which practitioners’ approach to setting up KM strategies in their firms are influenced by their firms’ business strategies. Using an extended social practice framework, I examined the managerial accounts of the processes of setting up KM strategies in 18 global firms. This study contributes to a better of understanding of the ways in which business strategy influences the KM strategizing process. The findings support extant research by suggesting that a weak link between KM and business strategy existed in these firms. However, this study demonstrates that from the social practice perspective, firms take two different approaches to their KM strategy, formulaic (to support their routine activities) and embryonic (to address their immediate strategic agenda), which signify their enduring and transient KM practices. Finally, this study concludes that further research is needed to explore the dynamic interactions between the formulaic and embryonic KM approaches.



1 Apr 2011



General Paper