The rhetoric of ‘knowledge hoarding’: a research-based critique

Clive Trusson, Donald Hislop, Neil F Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract


Purpose
This paper responds to a recent trend towards reifying “knowledge hoarding” for purposes of quantitative/deductive research, via a study of information technology (IT) service professionals. A “rhetorical theory” lens is applied to reconsider “knowledge hoarding” as a value-laden rhetoric that directs managers towards addressing assumed worker dysfunctionality.

Design/methodology/approach
A qualitative study of practicing IT service professionals (assumed within IT service management “best practice” to be inclined to hoard knowledge) was conducted over a 34-day period. Twenty workers were closely observed processing IT service incidents, and 26 workers were interviewed about knowledge-sharing practices.

Findings
The study found that IT service practice is characterized more by pro-social collegiality in sharing knowledge/know-how than by self-interested strategic knowledge concealment.

Research limitations/implications
The study concerns a single occupational context. The study indicates that deductive research that reifies “knowledge hoarding” as a naturally occurring phenomenon is flawed, with clear implications for future research.

Practical implications
The study suggests that management concern for productivity might be redirected away from addressing assumed knowledge-hoarding behaviour and towards encouraging knowledge sharing via social interaction in the workplace.

Originality/value
Previous studies have not directly examined the concept of knowledge hoarding using qualitative methods, nor have they considered it as a rhetorical device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1540-1558
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Volume21
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • knowledge workers
  • IT service management
  • Knowledge sharing
  • rhetoric
  • knowledge hoarding

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