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Keywords:

  • Knowledge;
  • M-form;
  • Hierarchy;
  • heterarchy

Abstract

A model of knowledge management is developed. It builds on the interplay between articulated and tacit knowledge at four different levels: the individual, the small group, the organization, and the interorganizational domain. The model is applied on differences between Western and Japanese patterns of knowledge management. These are related to organizational characteristics, such as employment systems, career patterns, and organization structure. Effective knowledge management is argued to require departures from the logic of hierarchical organization and the M-form structure. The alternative N-form is characterized and suggested as more appropriate. It entails combination of knowledge rather than its division, which is the basic principle in the M-form. Other attributes of the N-form are: temporary constellations of people, the importance of personnel at ‘lower levels’, lateral communication, a catalytic and architectural role for top management, strategies aimed at focusing and economies of depth, and heterarchical structures.