The relevance of knowledge management and intellectual capital Research

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    (KM/IC) research, 12 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with KM/IC professionals.


    Wethat at least 80% of all management research is useless. in 1990, a BusinessWeek article questioned whether

    criticism of business academic research is men-l



    journal issues (e.g., see Baskerville andMyers, 2004;

    Knowledge and Process Management

    Volume 15 Number 4 pp 235246 (2008)

    Published online in Wiley InterScience

    ( DOI: 10.1002/kpm.314*Correspondence to: Lorne D. Booker, DeGroote School ofa long-standing tradition in scientific circlestrial and organizational psychology (Andersonet al., 2001; Rynes et al., 2001), and internationalbusiness (Daniels, 1991). There have been specialThe discussion of academic research relevance isThe field of knowledge management/intellectualcapital (KM/IC) is alluring to both practitioners andacademics (Nonaka and Peltokorpi, 2006), but is ituseful? The purpose of this paper is to assess therelevance of academic research in this field. In orderto perform this assessment, the relevant literaturewas reviewed and semi-structured interviews wereconducted with 12 KM/IC professionals.

    tioned in various business domains such as generamanagement (Starkey andMadan, 2001), marketing(Ankers and Brennan, 2002; Varadarajan, 2003)strategy (Bailey and Ford, 1996; Gopinath andHoffman, 1995; McGahan, 2007; Shrivastava, 1987)information systems (Anandarajan and Lippert2006; Baskerville and Wood-Harper, 1996; Benbasatand Zmud, 1999; Breu and Peppard, 2003), indus-Leif EdvinssonWorlds First Chief Knowledge OfficerMcMaster World Congress on Intellectual Capitaland Innovation, January 21, 2005

    academic research meets the needs of practitioners(Byrne, 1990). This article captured the attention ofthe business community (Bennis and OToole, 2005)and even some renowned scholars started ques-tioning the applicability of academic findings. ThisBusiE-ma

    CopOverall, this study is the first documented attempt to empirically investigate the issue ofrelevance of KM/IC academic output. Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


    all know based on our common sense and experience

    (Ruback and Innes, 1988). For business schools,the public debate can be identified as beginningin 1959 when the Ford and Carnegie reportstriggered a fixation with rigorous research. Later,Based on the findings, a framework was constructed and eight implications were suggested.& Research Article

    The Relevance of KnManagement and InCapital Research

    Lorne D. Booker1*, Nick Bontis1 an

    1DeGroote School of Business, McMaster Universit2Faculty of Business Administration, Lakehead Uni

    In recent years, there has been a growing pmore useful to practitioners. Consequently, tto the subject. In order to assess the relevanness, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON,

    yright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wledgellectual

    Alexander Serenko2

    amilton, Ontario, Canadaity, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

    ure on business schools to make their researchASCB International dedicated an entire reportf knowledge management/intellectual capitalGray, 2001; Lee, 2001) and conference panels (e.g.,

  • resources, we found no study that empirically

    RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Managementsee Kock et al., 2002) that are totally devoted to thistopic.For business disciplines, the debate calls into

    question the purpose of business schools (Grey,2001). If the difference between professional schoolsanddisciplines basedonpure sciences is in their outputthen the objective of business schools is to informcurrent practice and educate future managers. Withregards to research, the goal is to create knowledge thatmanagers may utilize to advance practice. There areclaims that business schools are failing in both goals(Bennis and OToole, 2005; Ghoshal, 2005).Only a small number of researchers have studied

    the relevance problem empirically. However, eventhese studies do not form a coherent program ofinquiry. For example, Duncan (1974) discoveredsubstantial disagreement between researchers andpractitioners on the academic knowledge utilizationprocess. Ankers and Brennan (2002) reported thatmarketing managers knew very little about the stateof research and claimed that academics did notunderstand business realities. Pearson et al. (2005)observed that the academic field of informationsystems did not have much impact on the state ofpractice. At the same time, Baldridge et al. (2004)demonstrated that there is a positive relationshipbetween the academic quality and practicalrelevance of academic publications which showsthe possibility of producing rigorous and highlyrelevant research output. Therefore, there is a needfor more empirically based research in the discus-sion of academic relevance.Currently, KM/IC is in its embryonic stages of

    development but it grows at an accelerated rate(Bontis, 1999, 2001; Serenko and Bontis, 2004). It hasa number of characteristics of a scientific field. Forexample, it can boast its own journal ranking system(Serenko and Bontis, 2009), theories (Serenko et al.,2007), and scientometric studies (Gu, 2004a,b;Harman and Koohang, 2005; Ponzi, 2002). At thesame time, KM/IC is a practice-driven disciplinewith many practitioners contributing to the body ofknowledge and many academics actively partici-pating in commercial and government projects. Forinstance, case studies are the most frequentlyemployed methodology of KM/IC researchers. InKM/IC, the scholarly contribution of practitionersis higher than that in other management domains(Serenko et al., 2008). KM/IC is a very attractivesubject for business students (Bontis et al., 2006,2007). In the past, it has been demonstrated that theapplication of KM/IC practices has a positiveimpact on the performance of organizations (Bontis,2002; Bontis and Serenko, 2007; Choo and Bontis,2002) and their organizational learning capabilities(Bontis et al., 2002). Hence, it is crucial to form the236investigated this issue except for a brief discussionby Bailey and Clarke (2000, 2001), the theoreticalinsights by Andriessen (2004), and elaboration byFerguson (2005). Overall, prior works concludedthat it is important to empirically investigate theissue of the relevance of KM/IC academic output.Before the problem of academic relevance can be

    solved, the problem has to be defined and rootcauses have to be identified. Yet, there is littleagreement regarding how the relevance problemshould be defined or framed. The problem has beenviewed as a difference in culture between academicsand practitioners (Barley et al., 1988), as a linkingprocess among scholars (Daniels, 1991), as aknowledge transfer problem (Rynes et al., 2001),as theory-practice linkage issue (Tenkasi and Hay,2004), and as a paradigm clash (Gulati, 2007). Noneof these perspectives have been embraced as theaccepted standard. In this study, the relevanceproblem or the managerial relevance of scholarlyresearch is defined as the degree to whichacademic theory influences industry practices. Itis acknowledged that there are various definitionsand conceptualizations of research processes andtheir effects on the society (Kuhn, 1962). In thisproject, we only concentrate on the extent to whichscientific research in the KM/IC domain generatesprescriptions, makes recommendations, offerssolutions, and develops principles that are actuallyapplied by KM/IC professionals. Throughout theproject, the underlying objective is to clarify whatwe term the relevance problem and to empiricallyidentify its root causes.As a first attempt toward this goal, the purpose of

    this study is to develop a theoretical framework thatexplicates the phenomenon. In the future, thisframework may be empirically tested through asurvey of KM/IC practitioners by using quantitat-ive methods that will allow formulating furtherpractical recommendations for scholars, businessprofessionals, and journal editors, who wish todevelop, disseminate, and apply highly relevantacademic research.


    In order to better define the relevance problem,12 semi-structured interviews with KM/IC prac-titioners frompublic (eight participants) and privatefoundation for research outcomes that are alignedwith the needs of practitioners.After an extensive literature search of all major

    indices (e.g., ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Emerald,etc.), major conference proceedings and onlineL. D. Booker, N. Bontis and A. SerenkoDOI: 10.1002/kpm

  • and consultant. Researchers also approached

    Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLEseveral KM/IC managers they knew personally.A snowballing sampling method was thenemployed; early interviewees were asked to recom-mend their colleagues who could be potentiallyinterviewed. Most of the approached professionalsagreed to participate in the study; this produced theresponse rate of over 60%. Each interview lastedapproximately 1 hour.In order to develop a list of questions, a

    comprehensive literature review was conducted.We were unable to identify prior empirical studiesof academic relevance in the field of KM/IC.However, a number of dimensions of relevancewere identified from other management fields and aseries of questions were devised to capture eachdimension. The questions were reviewed byindependent KM/IC experts, and their feedbackwas utilized to revise the initial instrument. Aftereach interview, modifications to the questions weremade based on the subjects responses to bettercover the phenomenon under investigation. Forexample, the researchers continuously incorporatedcomments made in previous interviews to expandon interesting or promising avenues of discussion.On one occasion, two interviewees were emailedadditional questions and asked to comment on theinsights gathered from a later interview.Each interview was transcribed into NVivo and

    subjected to qualitative data analysis by two coders(Miles and Huberman, 1994). The interpretiveparadigmwas followed during the analysis process.The coding scheme evolved as the researchersanalyzed the interviews. As patterns emerged,previous interviews were revisited and some nodeswere recoded.


    One way of characterizing a problem is that itrepresents a gap between an actual and a desiredstate of affairs.While coding the interviews, we keptthe goal of clarifying the problem of academicrelevance in mind. As key themes evolved, the(four participants) Canadian and US organizationswere conducted. Interviewswere undertaken over a3-month period; eight were conducted face-to-face,three over the phone, and one electronically. Aninitial list of interviewees was obtained by con-ducting a search on the Government of Canadasemployee directory utilizing the job title knowl-edge. Google was employed using variations ofsearch terms such as knowledge managementThe Relevance of KM and IC ResearchDOI: 10.1002/kpmAttributes of academic publications

    In this section, we discuss the attributes of academicpublications and the articulation of knowledge. Wealso report on those attributes and articulationprocesses from the practitioner perspective. Thepurpose is to identify a number of factors associatedwith academic publications and their distributionprocesses.The key finding about the knowledge manage-

    ment practitioners is that they have an immenseworkload. As a result, they cannot afford the luxuryof reading and interpreting lengthy academicpublications. While scientists need to report theirfindings in meticulous detail, the respondents wereunanimous in asserting that they do not have timeto read extensive academic articles. The sentence andpaper structure represent a problem. Some managersbelieved their organizations do not have a need forknowledge, whereas some just need a quick fix and areadily accessible solution:

    I just havent got the. . . you know. . . I get hundredsof emails every day.

    No one has time to read! These are busy people. Dothey have time to sit down and first of all find researchthat is relevant and read it? Absolutely not!framework indicated below emerged. The frame-work describes how academic output is actuallygenerated. It then outlines what practitioners needand expect from scientific research.At the heart of this framework are two

    key players: researchers and practitioners. Theresearcher undertakes scientific investigations inorder to create and validate theory. Practitionersseek to obtain competitive advantage throughincreased productivity. There is an expectation thatresearchers would produce knowledge that isdirectly useful to practitioners, but that is not whatalways happens. The framework provides a repres-entation of the barriers to the effective productionand dissemination of academic knowledge. Theframework is presented in Figure 1.In the following section the needs of practitioners

    will be contrasted with the attributes of academicpublications. The differences that are revealed as aresult of this comparison form the basis of ouranalysis of the relevance problem. The researcherand factors that influence him/her are examined inorder to clarify how research topics are chosen.Subsequently, knowledge dissemination processesare described and assumptions regarding theseprocesses are examined.237

  • earch

    RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process ManagementI do think that theres another issue there in terms ofthe length of the articles.

    Figure 1 KM/IC resIn addition to paper length, the respondentsindicated that they had problems with the style ofacademic thinking and writing. Academics arefixated with contributing to academic theory. Theyseek universal laws and conclusions with highgeneralizability. They communicate their findings at ahigh level of theoretical abstraction. Practitioners, incontrast, need information that is instruction based,concrete, customized, and context-specific (Aramand Salipante, 2003). As a result, most respondentsreported a large gap between academic findings andtheir actual applications:

    There is a gapat least in the KM fieldbetweentheory and practice. That gap needs to be filled.

    Im constantly being told by practitioners that theyare not interested in theory. Im constantly being toldby theorists that they are not really interested in thepractice side.

    The academic research comes from a totally differentcontext. So, trying to apply it into a differentcontext. . . it may just not work. It is really, reallytough for a regular practitioner to take the stuff andconvert it into something useful for the organization.

    238necessarily going to be grounded in insights that aregoing to be applicable to the new context.But it has also got to be taken with some context andit has got to be used with care because it is not

    relevance frameworkPractitioners envision academic results presentedin a format that is easy to read and interpret. Thisconflicts with academic needs. Academics need tobe precise in their use of language. They speak ina specialized language of statistics, validity,reliability, and generalizability. In...


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