An Exploratory Case Study into the Cultural Effects on Knowledge Management Practices in the Solomon Islands
Knowledge management (KM) is an emerging discipline and in recent years it has received increased attention both from academics and practitioners. At the academic front, the major debate is over the conceptual plurality of KM. This is as a result of the subject having its roots from various disciplines. To practitioners the subject is attractive since it promises the management of knowledge, an abstract concept and the most elusive one to manage. Some think KM is just another fad but the realities experienced by multinational corporations trying to do business across cultures forces both academics and practitioners to constantly think about knowledge management and culture. This thesis posits that there is such a thing as national cultures. In this work, Solomon Islands' national culture with its main features of multiplicity of subcultures, bigmanism, wantokism, pijin and the people's experiences through mission work, government and war are highlighted as providing encouragement and also barriers to knowledge management. Using De Long and Fahey's four frameworks, a case study was conducted informed by the ethnographic tradition. The study drew on methodological triangulation which included semistructured interviews, focus groups, document analysis and observations. The use of multiple data collection tools was employed to ensure convergence of data and the dependability of this work. This study finds two important considerations. First, important knowledge is cognitive understanding and to a lesser extent technical. Structured knowledge is not central to KM. There are two reasons given for this view. One, due to scarcity of resources, there is high competition for education which is regarded as cognitive knowledge, although in practice it is structured knowledge. Two, indigenous knowing is socially constructed and mainly exists in tacit form. Second, even when solicited, participation from subordinates is difficult to come by. This behaviour is embedded in kastom relating to bigmanism. This thesis contributes both to theory and practice. The main theoretical contribution is the argument that knowledge management theorist must take into consideration the effects of national cultures on knowledge recognition and the evaluation of knowledge management concepts. For practitioners, an understanding of the recipient culture is critical for implementing proposed changes. Particularly for Solomon Islands practitioners, a special awareness is necessary from leadership to understand the minds of workers, otherwise change interventions will always be a frustrating vocation.