Knowledge management: how ethical is your organization’s knowledge?

Goncalo Jorge Morais da Costa, Nuno Miguel Araujo da Silva


The goal of the paper to present is to investigate on the problem due to the creation and transmission of knowledge in organizations, given that, in spite of a great deal of discussion regarding knowledge management and the ethical dilemmas involving the same, the truth is that, if you try to analyze how extent the organizational knowledge is ethical, very interesting subjects can be presented, by chance in a philosophical sense. In fact, the pertinence of philosophy regarding management is advocated by countless authors.

The analysis in cause will be elaborated with the purpose to answer the presented subject in an exact way, although it subjects to strong bibliography conditions, because the existent academic production in knowledge management worries fundamentally with the technological analysis and their implications in management, forgetting in a clear way the subjects of ethical nature, as we may observe in the several existing creation and transmission knowledge models.

In a turbulent involving environment as we lived, in that the technological changes are happened to a hallucinating rhythm turning out products and processes obsolete, the competition among companies stands not only in the capacity to innovate, but also of maintaining ahead of the competitors, thanks to the use of resources, which can be tangible and intangible.

The resources of tangible nature are without a doubt important for the accomplishment of the daily activities of the organization, but are in fact the intangible resources and the human resources that deserve more attention today, being considered essential sources regarding the creation of value among organizations. It is in this category that we encounter knowledge. However, the resources of intangible nature present own specificities, as for instance: their identification and accountancy are hardly ever figured as easy, in addition, they present ethical and moral dilemmas, in dissociable that the tangible resources don’t present, generating for that a continuous and necessary discussion.

If we analyze the several definitions of knowledge management, as for instance, the one of Brelade & Harman: “knowledge management is the acquisition and use of resources to create an environment in which information is accessible to individuals and in which individuals acquire, share and use that information to develop their own knowledge and are encouraged and enabled to apply their knowledge for the benefit of the organisation”, we noticed the ethical and moral implications associated to the intangible resources immediately, that is, management and the collaborators present responsibilities in the elevation of knowledge in organizational terms, for that, it will be natural that those responsibilities incur equally in the ethical and moral domain.

For then to be possible to give a plausible answer to the problem in cause, for besides explaining what is knowledge management, the fundamental issue it will be to investigate the creation and transmission process in the organizational context and the ethical and moral dilemmas that emerge to managers and the workers.

As we know, there are arguably two types of approaches to the field of organizational learning and knowledge management: “knowledge while a process” that is focused in issues like the creation, use and recreation, as well as, in the dynamics associated to the process; and, “knowledge as product” that is focused in the form as it is shared, used and stored.

Both perspectives configure highly known analytical models, as it is, the case of Nonaka & Takeuchi´s model, the social interaction models or relational models advocated by Glaser, Weiss, Fiske, among other authors, however, as it is common sense, the degree of precision of any model that describe the real behaviour of the “systems” is directly proportional to our knowledge of the forces that are behind those systems. In practice, we tended to consider the factors whose effects are significant, despising the less relevant forces, especially when these they are intimately related with subjects of moral and ethical nature, as it is case.

However, we should not purge or to reject such models, on the contrary, we owed yes, to value them to the light of the great ethical and moral subjects that incur regarding the process of generation, creation and use of knowledge in organizational terms. Why? Firstly, with the purpose to “generate new knowledge” (in sense of new questions), and in second to try to give answer to the possibility of measuring to what extent the knowledge of an organization is in fact ethical.

Finally, we should enhance that, while “product” due to the human nature the knowledge management will constantly present new ethical and moral challenges, given the imperfection of the human species.


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