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Moving KM to the next generation: The contribution of critical systems thinking

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conference contribution
posted on 20.06.2017, 10:59 authored by Sharon Simatwo, Gillian Ragsdell, Tom JacksonTom Jackson
Knowledge Management (KM) is multifaceted and grounded in various disciplines including psychology, strategy, organizational behavior, economics, and management. It is therefore not surprising that KM has developed rapidly as a field with a myriad of frameworks designed to address KM needs in organizations. The emphasis of studies tends to be on the application of KM with paucity in the discussion of its theory and underpinning philosophy. As a result, KM is varied in definition and application. The range of KM tools and practices has caused some concern with authors suggesting that there is need for KM to be applied in an integrated manner. Systems Thinking (ST) is the conceptual framework for problem solving that views situations holistically. Critical Systems Thinking (CST) is the latest movement in ST that was born from the need to appreciate the diversity in approaches so as to identify the most suitable methodology for a problem context. CST is described by the commitments of critical awareness, sociological awareness, pluralism, complementarity and human emancipation. The application of CST is said to have reformed ST through its commitments and brought synthesis through the provision of a rational approach of combining system methodologies. Activities that create, capture and utilize knowledge are inherent in systems methods thus indicating a similarity between ST and KM. Authors have as such, called for the use of CST to underpin KM theory and practice. This paper highlights the contribution of CST to the maturity of Systems Thinking as a discipline. Potential use of CST in developing more unified, systemic and holistic approaches to handling KM is put forward. The aim is to spark conversation on the need for a new generation of KM that is grounded theoretically and philosophically, and based on more than practical case studies.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

18th European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM 2017)


SIMATWO, S., RAGSDELL. G. and JACKSON, T., 2017. Moving KM to the next generation: The contribution of critical systems thinking. IN: Marimon, F. al., (eds.) Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM), International University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, 7-8th Sept. Reading: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, Vol. 2, pp. 1205-1211.


Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Barcelona, Spain