Conclusions and New Avenues for Research

You can’t live without an eraser.

Gregory Bateson

Organizational knowledge has proven to be a very fruitful concept. It has provided researchers with a useful frame for exploring a wide range of topics, as the diversity of the chapters in this volume attests. Yet, while researchers have gained a much better understanding of how knowledge is created and transferred, there are still important dynamics of knowledge that remain unexplored. In this chapter, we have begun to discuss one of these dynamics, knowledge loss, and its role in knowledge processes in organizations.

We hope it is clear from our discussion up to this point that knowledge loss plays an important role in the dynamics of knowledge, a much more important role than its current status in the literature would indicate. While there have been some initial empirical investigations, the study of knowledge loss has been largely neglected, and as a consequence we are still theorizing without much evidence.

Our own empirical work indicates that organizations spend considerable time either trying to unlearn something that is no longer (or never was) functional or trying not to forget things that are highly valued but in danger of being lost. In fact, the organizations we studied spent much more time on these activities than they devoted to knowledge creation or transfer. Managing knowledge loss was a major management concern and consumed a surprising amount of time and effort. Both ...

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