PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to investigate the knowledge management (KM) approach followed by small companies. In particular, after introducing the notion of emergent approach, the paper aims to examine if that notion is useful to properly describe the way small businesses approach their KM activities.Design/methodology/approachThe study is based on the results of a qualitative survey involving 12 owners and managers of small companies belonging to the knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) sector. The survey uses the case-study method.FindingsThe findings confirm that the approach to KM adopted by small companies can be defined as emergent: in the analysed cases, there were no formal KM plans, despite the fact that the examined companies have all introduced various KM practices. This shows that there can be the need to define KM approaches that better fit smaller companies.Practical implicationsAlthough an emergent approach may be seen as unplanned, companies should learn how to be aware of their KM practices and, once they are, how to develop them properly. For executives to be able to recognize emergent KM practices, notions and elements of KM need to be introduced in their business background and professional education (e.g. how KM fits into a small organization, what KM processes are, what KM tools and practices exist, etc.).Originality/valueThe study contributes to the understanding of KM in really small entities, still a much under-explored topic.
Journal of Knowledge Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 4, 2016
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