Power matters: The importance of foucault’s power/knowledge as a conceptual lens in km research and practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Knowledge Management, 2015, 19 (4), pp. 756 - 769
Issue Date:
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© Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to engage knowledge management (KM) researchers and practitioners with Foucault’s power/knowledge lens as a way of thinking about and recognising the central role of power in organisational knowledge cultures. Design/methodology/approach - The empirical illustrations in this paper are drawn from two qualitative studies in different professional and institutional contexts (insurance and theatre work). Both studies used in-depth interviews and discourse analysis as their principal methods of data collection and analysis. Findings - The empirical examples illustrate how practitioners operate within complex power/knowledge relations that shape their practices of knowledge sharing, generation and use. The findings show how an application of the power/knowledge lens renders visible both the constraining and productive force of power in KM. Research limitations/implications - Researchers may apply the conceptual tools presented here in a wider variety of institutional and professional contexts to examine the complex and multifaceted role of power in a more in-depth way. Practical implications - KM professionals will benefit from an understanding of organisational power/knowledge relations when seeking to promote transformational changes in their organisations and build acceptance for KM initiatives. Originality/value - This paper addresses a gap in the literature around theoretical and empirical discussions of power as well as offering an alternative to prevailing resource-based views of power in KM.
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