Research Output

Knowledge management: semantic drift or conceptual shift?

  This paper offers an exploration of knowledge management (KM), a concept only partially understood in domains that use the term. Three such domains are described: library and information science (LIS), business administration, and organization theory. In the first (KM1), KM is predominantly seen as information management by another name (semantic drift); in the second (KM2), it appears to be brought on board as an antidote to excessive focus on process at the expense of human expertise; the third (KM3) articulates a major conceptual shift, presenting organizations as adaptive entities that co-evolve with a given environment. What distinguishes KM1, KM2, and KM3? KM1 and KM2 may be distinguished from KM3 by an over-emphasis on codification, and a myopia with regard to human expertise, tacit knowledge, social learning, trust, and intuition. KM2 and KM3 (in contrast to KM1) focus on the internal as much as the external (reflexivity) and on the critical importance of relationships and exchange (reciprocity). The authors suggest that tensions will arise in any organization committed to KM where different domains have different understandings. KM is a complex and multidimensional concept that requires diverse insights

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 November 1999

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Association for Library and Information Science Education, Arlington, VA, ETATS-UNIS

  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    HD28 Management. Industrial Management

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    658 General management


Davenport, E. & Cronin, B. (1999). Knowledge management: semantic drift or conceptual shift?. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science. 41, 267-361. ISSN 0748-5786



Information science; firm management; Definition; Information management; knowledge; human capital; knowledge management; organization theory;

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