Ignorance management

This paper identifies an alternative perspective on Knowledge Management (KM) in multinational organisations by definition of the concept of Ignorance Management. Furthermore, this paper discusses the difficulties employees face in understanding and comprehending what they need to know to do their jobs, and what implications this can have within global technology intensive environments. The focus is given in particular on multinational organisations where innovation and new knowledge is essential to both shortterm opportunistic value capture and long-term business sustainability. Hence, this paper discusses why managing ignorance is essential for maintaining a strategic knowledge sharing culture within multinational organisations. Furthermore, it develops a novel theory on the nature of knowledge and ignorance while making the distinction between knowns and unknowns as well as between consciousness and ignorance. The theoretical findings have been applied to technology intensive and innovative environments. A case study is explored within the paper, based on findings from one of the largest military contractors in the world, which employs over 100,000 people across the globe. The paper adopts an interpretative philosophy, using the primary strategy of qualitative research. In addition, due to the complexity of the topic, a mixed methods approach has been used for the data collection process. Moreover, participatory action research is undertaken to study individuals’ actions in a particular context and improve organisational strategies and KM practices. The study shows that managing ignorance and adaptiveness in multinational organisations is becoming increasingly important. Thus, the critical question is not just managing what is known but also trying to find ways to manage the unknown. This viewpoint of acknowledging ignorance, if successfully incorporated within a company’s KM strategy, will not only facilitate and enhance knowledge storage and transmission processes but will also undoubtedly play a vital role when referring to a company’s efficiency, productivity and overall performance.