Interaction management: the next (and necessary) step beyond knowledge management

Abstract

Purveyors of knowledge management software have a disconcerting tendency to promote the myth that all problems may be solved by more powerful tools for the exchange of information in the workplace. This fallacy is based on the faulty assumption that knowledge management is about the management of knowledge (as if knowledge were a commodity that could be managed), as opposed to the management of people whose work depends critically on what they know. The origins of knowledge management are far more firmly rooted in the psychological legacy of organizational communication than they are in the technological legacy of information management systems. However, even organizational communication is an inadequate foundation, since various schools of thought in social theory, particularly the structuration theory of Anthony Giddens, inform us that interaction (in the workplace or in any other social setting) is not strictly limited to communication. Knowledge management thus requires moving beyond simplistic models of information exchange to more challenging problems of leveraging social interaction to the advantage of the enterprise. This paper focuses on the claim of structuration theory that the dimension of communication should be supplemented with additional dimensions of power and sanction. This perspective is then examined in light of a case study of crisis management practices, and the case study provides a basis for addressing implications for technological support.