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Abstract

In information systems, most research on knowledge management assumes that knowledge has positive implications for organizations. However, knowledge is a double-edged sword: while too little might result in expensive mistakes, too much might result in unwanted accountability. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the lack of attention paid to the unintended consequences of managing organizational knowledge and thereby to broaden the scope of IS-based knowledge management research. To this end, this paper analyzes the IS literature on knowledge management. Research articles published between 1990 and 2000 in six IS journals are classified into one of four scientific discourses developed by Deetz (1996). These discourses are the normative, the interpretive, the critical, and the dialogic. For each of these discourses, we identify the research focus, the metaphors of knowledge, the theoretical foundations, and the implications apparent in the articles representing it. The metaphors of knowledge that emerge from this analysis are knowledge as object, asset, mind, commodity, and discipline. Furthermore, we present a paper that is exemplary of each discourse. Our objective with this analysis is to raise IS researchers’ awareness of the potential and the implications of the different discourses in the study of knowledge and knowledge management.

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