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Research papers

  1. 1. Research PapersPurpose – There is no single way of achieving business success. The concept of knowledgemanagement (KM) builds on the existing management practices, integrating them into aphilosophy for improving performance. This paper aims to understand the various dimensions ofKM and how they differ in public and private sector organizations in India. It also attempts toidentify the dimensions where one sector is better than the other and areas needing improvement.IntroductionFlexibility and agility of an organization through knowledge gaining, due to growing complexityand rapid changes in the world, are considered as key success factors. Knowledge is known as aprincipal, unique, and exceptional source for creating competitive advantage (Greineret al,2007). Today, all organizations and companies around the globe acknowledge the benefits ofusing knowledge. Contrary to depreciable value of material capital, the knowledge capital valueincreases by using it (Davenport and Prusak, 2000). The knowledge salience and its applicationin the organization and management are considered as the key success factors for surviving andgaining constant competitive advantage. It is also discussed as a strategic asset in Economics(NiazAzary and Amuei, 2007). The current economy has transformedinto a knowledge basedeconomy in which 1) knowledge is introduced as the main source in industrial economy insteadof natural resources and capital; 2) intangible assets, services and brands are more importantthan tangible ones; 3) globe is a network supported by high technology communicationsleading knowledge to pass boundaries and distances (Canteret al, 2009). The knowledge isconsidered as the most important and valuable asset in hyper-competitive environments in thedeveloped countries because it is the only factor which contributes to change and innovation inan organization. The higher education is an important institution in the developing countriesbecause it not only trains elites and sets the ground for application of technology but also itinfluences broadly the culture and political affairs. According to the existing statistics, it can beconcluded that there is a huge gap between knowledge production process and valuing scienceand research in Iran. In a systemic view, this gap can be investigated through input, process andoutput dimensions of knowledge production in Iran. One of the main issues which needs to payattention is production, transferring and application of knowledge or in other words knowledgemanagementAll changes in societies are due to serious contribution of higher education. Therefore,institutions dealing more with learning in society have the chance to be introduced as learningorganizations, acquire higher levels of performance, make better decisions, and improvescientific and administrative quality (steyn, 2004). The higher education plays an important rolein knowledge creation and development of the human resources in all countries (Sukirno andSiengthai, 2011). The role of universities has extended over the past decades so that that they areat their “Third Stream” or “Third Mission”. This expression points to the role of universities indevelopment and improvement of the economy along with their traditional roles of education andresearch (Rossi, 2010). The higher education institutions are facing with numerous challengesand as (Milam, 2002) stated: extension of online resources and advent of virtual universitiesshow the necessity for implementation of knowledge management. They can increase the
  2. 2. number of students, employ and maintainknowledgeable and skillful employees, make profit outof new electronic training opportunities, and use other web-based facilities such as replacementof the existing administration systems by modern information systems which not only providesmanagers’ required data, but also satisfies lecturers and students’ informational needs at any timeand at any place. Iran is a developing country in which few studies about its educational systemshow many shortages and defects in fields of management, administration and education andtraining (Attafar and Bahrami, 2008). The current or main challenge against development ofscience and technology in this country is invention of a creative and innovative educational andresearch-based structure to set the ground for growth of knowledge and science among differentgroups of society, based on essential needs and priorities of that society in a continuous anddynamic form (Jamalzadehet al, 2011). Accordingly, the vision statement of Islamic Republic ofIran for the next twenty years has introduced the knowledge as the core pillar for development.Knowledge, technology, and expertise has mentioned as the major elements of producing addedvalue. The first section in law of forth economic, social, and cultural development plan(2004)has dedicated to “Knowledge-based Development” (Hasanzadeh, 2007). Due to thechanges in knowledge management and higher education structuresin all around the world along, it is a necessity for the public and private higher education systems to contribute toachievementof goals in the next twenty years . So, it is required to regard universities as learningorganizations by applying knowledge management system. Knowledge management in highereducation is a set of organizational processes supporting knowledge creation and transfer inuniversities and achievement of organizational and academic goals. Since measurement is theperquisite of performance improvement, a proper framework is required to measure theorganization readiness for knowledge management implementation. The current paperinvestigates and compares the readinessdegree of basic infrastructures for knowledgemanagement implementation in a public higher education system in the eastern north of Iran,Payam Noor University–Mashhad Center, and a private one in this region, Islamic AzadUniversity, Mashhad Branch. The results also provide the opportunity for universities to hinderprobable failures due to the weakness in these infrastructures by planning and employingsolutions to create or amend them. The comparison of public and private sectors in the highereducation system levels the ground for the senior managers to recognize the pros and cons ofeach sector and facilitate the cooperation among universities contributing to growth anddevelopment ofthe higher education in Iran or, generally speaking, Middle East.2. Literature reviewBefore discussing about knowledge management and knowing what is to be managed in it, it isrequired to explain some expressions and processes which are the integral parts of this system.Datais a series of unrelated facts and observations which may be converted into information byanalysis, cross-referencing, selecting, matching, summarizing or organizing. Information modelscan also be turned into an integrated body of knowledge and knowledge also consists of anorganized body of information. These kinds of information models are the basics of insight andjudgment which are called wisdom . It is accepted that data, as raw facts, will turn intoinformation when they are in the context or combine with a meaning in a structure. Theinformation is also convertedinto the knowledge when it is accompanied with experience andjudgment. This view shows that the data is a background for information and information is abackground for the knowledge
  3. 3. Knowledge is divided into the tacit and explicit knowledge. Based on Nonaka and Konno (1998)tacit knowledge is in individual’s mind. The results of this kind of knowledge appears in eachperson’s views, actions and habits
  4. 4. involving two types of knowledge which one form the cognitive knowledge, views and mentalmodels, and the other composes the skills and technical knowledge.But the explicit knowledge iscapable of being simply processed by computers, transferred electronically, and stored in thedatabases. It can be shared in the forms of words, numbers, formulas, instructions and so on.This knowledge can be simply encoded and transferred formally and systematically between theindividuals (Rezaeeyanet al, 2010). An important and difficult stage in the process oforganizational knowledge is conversion of the explicit knowledge to the tacit one (Lindner andWald, 2010). The knowledge management will be implemented in an organization providing thatthese two types of knowledge are capable of being transformed into each other and createcompetitive advantage for the organizations. This is the tacit knowledge which is the biggestchallenge for knowledge management and its management can level the ground for individualand group learning, innovations and achievement to the competitive advantage in theorganizations.2.1. Knowledge managementThere is no unique definition for knowledge management. Alavi and leidner (2001) stated thatdifferent approaches toward knowledge lead to several inferences. If we consider knowledge asa goal, knowledge management will have to concentrate on knowledge framework and itsstorage and if we regard it as a process, it will have to emphasize on the knowledge trend andprocesses of creating, sharing and transferring knowledge. Also, if we consider knowledge asthe superiority, knowledge management will focus on developing capabilities, understandingstrategic advantages, and creating intellectual capital. Knowledge management frameworkconsists of activities such as recognizing, gaining, creating, storing, sharing, and applyingknowledge by people and groups in an organization (Sun, 2010). In this respect, Wen (2009)defines knowledge management as sets of procedures for creating, gaining, sharing andapplying knowledge to improve organizational performance. In a comprehensive definition ofknowledge management, it is introduced as managing and preparing transfer of the tacitknowledge to the explicit one and vice versa in an organization through collecting, sharing andusing knowledge as an organizational capital in order to achieve the organizational goals . Itseems that all the researchers are agreed on the definition stated by Davenport : knowledgemanagement means utilization and development of knowledge assets of an organization toachieve its goals. A managed knowledge involves two types of the objective, explicit, and thesubjective, implicit knowledge .The management of this knowledge consists of all processesrelated to identifying, sharing and producing the knowledge. This requires a system forproduction and maintenance of knowledge repositories and promotion and facilitation ofknowledge sharing and organizational learning. Organizations which are successful inknowledge management consider knowledge as an organizational capital and develop theorganizational values and rules to support knowledge production and sharing.2.1.1. Knowledge infrastructure capabilityKnowledge infrastructure capabilities play a major role in organizational performance andinnovation and they facilitate the knowledge management activities such as coding and sharingknowledge assets among people in an organization (Mills and Smith, 2011). Also, theyencourage people to share their knowledge and experiences with each other . Knowledge
  5. 5. enablers have been discussed in many researches (Lee and Lee, 2007). Davenport et al (1998),Gold et al (2001), Alavi and Leinder (2001), and Lee and Choi (2008) have introduced theorganizational culture, structure and technology as the knowledge enablers, e.g. Davenport et al(1998), by investigating 31 knowledge management projects in 24 companies, found thatorganizations with better technical and structural infrastructures are more successful in theirknowledge management projects. Gold et al (2001) concluded that technology, organizationalstructure and organizational culture are the most important knowledge infrastructure capabilities.2.1.2. Organizational cultureOrganizational culture is a fundamental factor in knowledge management implementation. It is aset of values, opinions, norms,and perceptions people have in common. An effective cultureplays a major role in creation of a suitable environment for exchanging and supportingknowledge activities in organizations . The ability of organizations to learn, development oforganizational memory and knowledge sharing depend on the culture.
  6. 6. Many organizations imagine they can achieve knowledge management by purchasinginformation and communication technologies. However, the experience shows that the mostpowerful soft wares are unfruitful without persuading employees to share knowledge. Afundamental change in organizational culture and behavior is one of the main pillars ofknowledge management. Regarding knowledge as a value and capital, employing creativity andinnovation in employees’ activities and creating mutual trust among people in the organizationare needs which have to be satisfied. Also, paying attention to the social and group relations andorganizational ethics in knowledge management and establishing a creative and innovativeculture which is based on trust and knowledge sharing are the issues which cannot be addressedby technology. But they need planning and redesigning the organizational processes (Rabiee andNouroozi, 2011).2.1.3. Organizational structureFormality, concentration, complexity, size, reward system, communication channels, andemployee’s group work are the components of an organizational structure. The structure of anorganization is always the representative of communication type and organizational structures. Itcan help knowledge management to achieve its goals in various dimensions. For example, in anorganization with an open atmosphere, low formality, lack of concentration and a strongcommunicational channel, the employees are able to communicate simply with each other, solveproblems with their colleagues and build a trustable culture to share knowledge whichsubsequently results in an increase in the possibility of knowledge management implementation(Rabiee and Nouroozi, 2011). On the other hands, the organizational structure can affect theknowledge management processes and organizational leadership . It playsa major role inknowledge management team formation. Therefore, adopting appropriate strategies is influentialfor reaching success in the knowledge management plan.2.1.4. Information technologyA newest definition for information technology which is agreed by the most of the researchers isas follows: information involves a wide range of patents and communicational media linking theinformational systems and individuals to each other. Informational systems and informationtechnology are mostly mixed together so that they are called information technology (Rabiee andNouroozi, 2011). Recent studies show that organizations which are investing on knowledgemanagement concentrate generally on establishment of the proper information infrastructures toachieve their goals. Information technology results in facilitation in creating, sharing, storing andapplying knowledge in an organization (Lee and Lee, 2007). It also flattens the organizationalstructures and increasesthe knowledge management effectiveness . There are few researchesinvestigating knowledge management infrastructures in knowledge-based organizations such asuniversities: Abdullah et al(2008) surveyed the implementation of knowledge managementsystem in the public higher education in Malaysia. The research population consists of sixuniversities in Klang Valley. The findings showed that the knowledge managementimplementation is accepted by Malaysian public universities. Nevertheless, knowledge sharingculture and organizational structure in these institutions are not at an optimum level. Instead, theinformation technology readiness for knowledge management implementation indicates a highlevel of readiness. Mohayidinetal(2007) investigated the effect of knowledge managementemployment on the efficiency of eight public and private Malaysian universities. The resultsrevealed that infrastructure support, informational culture and knowledge provision, creation,
  7. 7. storage, and dissemination are the basic components in framing primary knowledge managementinitiatives. Informational culture is known as the main variable. The findings also indicated thatachange in culture and human factors is quite difficult. But, these changes affect the knowledgemanagement projects significantly. Rowley (2000) researched the capability of applyingknowledge management concepts in Canadian universities. He stated that there are somedifficulties againstthe creation of knowledge-based environment in universities. He concludedthat an effective knowledge management implementation in Canadian universities requires arevision in the organizational structures and reward system. He believes that the amount ofinformation technology in Canadian universities is a good facilitator for the knowledge sharingactivities.Fathollahietal(2010) surveyed the feasibility of knowledge management implementation inUniversity of Isfahan from researchers’ perspective. They found that, contrary to two structuresand information technology factors, this university has a favorable readiness for knowledgemanagement implementation in the culture dimension. Hosseini(2007) investigated theknowledge management infrastructure in two faculties of psychology and educational sciencesin University of Isfahan. He concluded that technical infrastructure status in the faculty level isrelatively more suitable than the managerial and organizational culture. Table 1 summarizes thepast researches done in the field of knowledge management implementation in universities allaround the world.5. Conclusion and discussionUndoubtedly, since knowledge is the main competitive advantage for the current organizations,implementation of knowledge management is a necessary strategy. Thus, universitiesandeducational and research institutions ought to be leading organizations in designingandimplementation of an appropriate knowledge management system. This requires theinvestigation of infrastructures of knowledge management and a practical action in the differentstages of knowledge management implementation. The current research studied these principalfactors in public and private universities in the north east of Iran. The findings showed that“culture and human factors” is the most important infrastructure in both public and privateuniversities. It also indicates that this dimension is not at an optimal level for implementation ofknowledge management in the public university. Abdollah(2008) and Hosseini(2007)also foundthat the culture is not optimal in public universities.Fathollahiet al(2009) stated that “culture andhuman factors” is relatively optimal in both public and private universities. Mohayidinetal(2007)expressed that informational culture in public and private universities in Malaysia is larger thanthe average. The main reason for the superiorityof “culture and human factors” in IAU (private)over PNU (public) is thehighsupport of IAU from its faculty members to record their thoughtsand experiences derived from their researches. The willingness to work with teams for thepurpose of sharing knowledge is the other reason for the relative superiority ofIAU over PNU.The second research question addressed “structures and processes” as the other influential factorin knowledge management implementation which was found as the least important infrastructurein PNU and the important one in IAU after “culture and human factors”.These findings areconsistent with Fatholahiet al(2009); Hosseini(2007); Abdollahet al(2008); and Rowley(2000). Italso shows that IAU is relatively ready in respect of “structure and processes”.Mohayidinetal(2007) found that the organizational structure status is better than the average inMalaysian public and private universities. The relative superiority of IAU to PNU in this
  8. 8. research could be due to the low level of bureaucracy, relative flexibility of the processes andactions, decentralization as well as clear and rapid communications.The last research question took “information technology” into account. Analyses demonstratedthat this infrastructure is the most significant factor after “culture and human factors” in PNU.Contrary, it is the least significant one in IAU. “Information technology” is not also ready toimplement knowledge management in the public university (PNU). These results are alignedwith Fathollahietal(2009). But, Husseini (2007) and Abdollahetal(2008) concluded thatinformation technology is at an optimal level. On the other hand, findings indicated that thisfactor is at an average level for IAU. Mohayidinetal(2007) stated that the technicalinfrastructure is larger than the average in Malaysian public and private universities.Rowley(2000) believes that information technology inCanadian universities is suitable forfacilitating the knowledge sharing. The relative superiority of IAU in information technologyinfrastructure in the current research is justifiable since this university, a private institution, ismore flexible in relation to allocation of the financial resources and provision of the informationtechnologycomparing tothe high complicated procedures and regulations of the publicorganizations.The more willingness to communicate and share knowledge in IAU is the otherreason for its relative superiority in this infrastructure.