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An exploration of knowledge management and intellectual capital in a nonprofit organisation context

Quink, Ute (2008) An exploration of knowledge management and intellectual capital in a nonprofit organisation context. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

In recent years, practitioners and researchers alike have turned their attention to knowledge management (KM) in order to increase organisational performance (OP). As a result, many different approaches and strategies have been investigated and suggested for how knowledge should be managed to make organisations more effective and efficient. However, most research has been undertaken in the for-profit sector, with only a few studies focusing on the benefits nonprofit organisations might gain by managing knowledge. This study broadly investigates the impact of knowledge management on the organisational performance of nonprofit organisations.

Organisational performance can be evaluated through either financial or non-financial measurements. In order to evaluate knowledge management and organisational performance, non-financial measurements are argued to be more suitable given that knowledge is an intangible asset which often cannot be expressed through financial indicators. Non-financial measurement concepts of performance such as the balanced scorecard or the concept of Intellectual Capital (IC) are well accepted and used within the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to evaluate organisational performance. This study utilised the concept of IC as the method to evaluate KM and OP in the context of nonprofit organisations due to the close link between KM and IC: Indeed, KM is concerned with managing the KM processes of creating, storing, sharing and applying knowledge and the organisational KM infrastructure such as organisational culture or organisational structure to support these processes. On the other hand, IC measures the knowledge stocks in different ontological levels: at the individual level (human capital), at the group level (relational capital) and at the organisational level (structural capital). In other words, IC measures the value of the knowledge which has been managed through KM.

As KM encompasses the different KM processes and the KM infrastructure facilitating these processes, previous research has investigated the relationship between KM infrastructure and KM processes. Organisational culture, organisational structure and the level of IT support have been identified as the main factors of the KM infrastructure influencing the KM processes of creating, storing, sharing and applying knowledge. Other research has focused on the link between KM and OP or organisational effectiveness. Based on existing literature, a theoretical model was developed to enable the investigation of the relation between KM (encompassing KM infrastructure and KM processes) and IC. The model assumes an association between KM infrastructure and KM processes, as well as an association between KM processes and the various levels of IC (human capital, structural capital and relational capital). As a result, five research questions (RQ) with respect to the various factors of the KM infrastructure as well as with respect to the relationship between KM infrastructure and IC were raised and included into the research model:

RQ 1 Do nonprofit organisations which have a Hierarchy culture have a stronger IT support than nonprofit organisations which have an Adhocracy culture? RQ 2 Do nonprofit organisations which have a centralised organisational structure have a stronger IT support than nonprofit organisations which have decentralised organisational structure? RQ 3 Do nonprofit organisations which have a stronger IT support have a higher value of Human Capital than nonprofit organisations which have a less strong IT support? RQ 4 Do nonprofit organisations which have a stronger IT support have a higher value of Structural Capital than nonprofit organisations which have a less strong IT support? RQ 5 Do nonprofit organisations which have a stronger IT support have a higher value of Relational Capital than nonprofit organisations which have a less strong IT support?

In order to investigate the research questions, measurements for IC were developed which were linked to the main KM processes. The final KM/IC model contained four items for evaluating human capital, five items for evaluating structural capital and four items for evaluating relational capital.

The research questions were investigated through empirical research using a case study approach with the focus on two nonprofit organisations providing trade promotions services through local offices worldwide. Data for the investigation of the assumptions were collected via qualitative as well as quantitative research methods. The qualitative study included interviews with representatives of the two participating organisations as well as in-depth document research. The purpose of the qualitative study was to investigate the factors of the KM infrastructure (organisational culture, organisational structure, IT support) of the organisations and how these factors were related to each other. On the other hand, the quantitative study was carried out through an online-survey amongst staff of the various local offices. The purpose of the quantitative study was to investigate which impact the level of IT support, as the main instrument of the KM infrastructure, had on IC.

Overall several key themes were found as a result of the study: • Knowledge Management and Intellectual Capital were complementary with each other, which should be expressed through measurements of IC based on KM processes. • The various factors of the KM infrastructure (organisational culture, organisational structure and level of IT support) are interdependent. • IT was a primary instrument through which the different KM processes (creating, storing, sharing and applying knowledge) were performed. • A high level of IT support was evident when participants reported higher level of IC (human capital, structural capital and relational capital).

The study supported previous research in the field of KM and replicated the findings from other case studies in this area. The study also contributed to theory by placing the KM research within the nonprofit context and analysing the linkage between KM and IC. From the managerial perspective, the findings gave clear indications that would allow interested parties, such as nonprofit managers or consultants to understand more about the implications of KM on OP and to use this knowledge for implementing efficient and effective KM strategies within their organisations.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 28598
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Newton, Cameron
Keywords: knowledge management, intellectual capital, nonprofit organisations
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 12 Nov 2009 09:39
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:53

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