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The role organisational culture plays in creating a knowledge culture

One of the most striking things about the current era is the unbridled access that individuals and organisations have to data and knowledge.

Organisations that build their culture around gathering, sharing and exploiting knowledge often have increased levels of intellectual capital. Knowledge is a highly valued resource, due to its potential to enhance a business’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Creating a Knowledge Culture

Creating a knowledge culture is highly challenging for many organisations, however, culture is composed of many different elements and characteristics such as foundational values, norms and behaviours. These are unique to each organisation, as are the types of knowledge and information technology each one uses (including video conferencing or email for example).  

Cultural and technological differences make it hard to determine which types of organisational cultures are optimal for creating a knowledge culture. Researchers are, therefore, attempting to narrow it down to provide guidance and recommendations for leaders.

Previous research looking at the importance of culture and knowledge

Previous studies looking the importance of culture and knowledge, including factors that play a vital role in knowledge sharing, have found that:

  • Culture is constructed and founded on value pillars, examples of which are:
    • trust
    • support from senior management
    • storytelling
  • Knowledge is the most critical source of competitive advantage for many organisations.
  • The programmable information technology systems that are embedded in an organisation’s culture are key tools for knowledge sharing and culture development.
  • Leaders are often not able to develop and use knowledge management initiatives to their full effect until they fully understand the organisation’s structures and processes.
  • Knowledge management is a key component in the relationship between an organisation’s capital and organisational learning.
  • Knowledge management also mediates the relationship between how well a high-performance work system functions and the organisation’s overall performance.

A new study

A new study by researchers from Delhi Technological University in India has looked at how organisational culture and knowledge management impact the creation of a knowledge culture, as well as what factors in organisational culture can promote knowledge management.

Findings

The study found that organisational culture is a critical factor to successfully implementing knowledge management. This can be easier or harder, depending on the type of culture present.

Organisational culture is a critical factor to successfully implementing knowledge management

Based on their findings the researchers developed a framework for analysing the relationship between knowledge management and organisational culture. This model identifies potential enablers in organisations that promote knowledge management:

  • strategy
  • leadership
  • people
  • information technology
  • trust
  • quality interpersonal relationships

These all play a role in gathering, sharing and applying useful information to workflow processes for productivity enhancement.

Part of the issue with such research is…

Part of the issue with such research is the many different types of organisational cultures. Each type of culture not only has a very different impact on the development of a knowledge culture, but requires different processes and thinking to help its development.

Primary types of cultural dimensions

The primary types of cultural dimensions that organisational cultures can be described against include:

  1. Result-oriented vs process-oriented cultures
  2. Tightly controlled vs loosely controlled cultures
  3. Job-oriented vs employee-oriented culture
  4. Closed system vs open-system cultures
  5. Professional-oriented culture vs parochial-culture

Each of these has a different impact on the nature and route to a knowledge supporting culture.

Such models, however, tend to produce unspecific, contradictory results that can make it hard for leaders to use as a guide and there is an insufficient body of evidence about the impact of culture on knowledge management.

Despites these problems, the researchers recommend…

Despite these problems, however, the researchers recommend the following:

  1. Provide recognition and rewards to employees for knowledge creation and sharing activities to promote knowledge management.
  2. Build activities, such as ideas cafes, to share ideas, insights, expertise and how to apply knowledge into daily routines.
  3. Support knowledge management through resource allocation for daily routines.
  4. Document any knowledge management failures and problems, both to avoid repeating mistakes and to learn from them.

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Reference
Gaur, N., & Gupta, D. (2021). Devising a Knowledge Culture. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government, 27(1), 1587-1622.

Can knowledge management really change an organisational culture?

Disclaimer: This is a research review and briefing. As such it contains other studies, expert comment, interpretation and practitioner advice. It is not a copy of the original study that is referenced. The original study should be consulted and referenced in all cases. This research briefing is for informational and educational purposes only. We do not accept any liability for the use to which this review and briefing is put or the research accuracy, reliability or validity. This briefing as an original work in its own right is copyright Oxford Review Enterprises Ltd. Any use made of this briefing is entirely at your own risk.

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