Fads and Fashion of Management Knowledge Creation

management fadsFads and Fashion in Management Knowledge ___________________________________________________________________________

Over the past few decades, just about every notable company around the globe has been hard at work acquiring, creating and/or diffusing knowledge to help professional managers to effectively control and continue to expand our knowledge of an increasingly complex nature of business organizations (Hamel, 2007; Barley and Kunda, 1992). I concur with Hamel (2007) that for modern management knowledge creation proclaimed to advance organizational causes involved more than simply the process of acquiring, diffusing and/or creating a suite of useful tools and techniques; it is a paradigm. A paradigm obviously is “ a worldview, a broadly and deeply held belief about what types problems need solving or are even solvable “ (Hamel, 2007).

The development or evolution of this knowledge creation paradigm is one that must be located in cultural and historical context, and the social and economic conditions of the context within which it is created.  The role and relationships played of the various actors in the knowledge creation process have also helped us understand the cycle of innovations existing in today’s organizations.

From the Western perspective the historical and cultural context, knowledge creation within the field of management may be traced back to the rise of large corporations and the professionalization of management. Barley and Kunda (1992) identified the epochs of managerial ideology since 1870 as follows:

  • Industrial Betterment,      1870-1900
  • Scientific Management,      1900-1923
  • Human Relations,      1925-1955
  • System Rationalism,      1955-1980
  • Organization Culture      and Quality, 1980 – Present.

The British’s follows more or less the same patterns as that of US except for the former relative openess to Marxist influence ideology which allows for a deeper analysis of the so called embedded structural conflict between labour and management within a capitalistic form of organizations. Ramsay (2011) for instance argued that the progression towards employees participation within the workplace has largely been the result of a consistent attempts to secure labour’s compliance (Ramsay, 2011)

Applying reflexive methodology to the historical and cultural context of knowledge creation within my own country (Indonesia) and region (East Asia),   we can also cluster the process of knowledge creation into the following eras:

  • The Pre Independent – Chinese      Eastward Mass Migration Era 1900s-1945. Business and organizational      knowhow mainly adopted from the knowledge earlier created in the      mainland.  The Western colonial      masters utilised the better educated and experiences in trading and      bureaucracy and get them to serve as their runners within the trade,      economy and business sectors (Studwell, 2007)
  • The Independence and      the rebuilding of Japan– 1945-1970s. New generations of East Asian      (excluding China) led by Japan seek actively to acquire knowledge from the      West by sending young people for educations in the West; by opening up to      Western foreign direct investments.       Local businesses began adopting the then pertaining managerial      ideology and management paradigm – particularly relating to professional      management and organizational design – of the West (Studwell, 2007).
  • The rise of Japan      -1980s to early 1990s ‘Japanese management system’ and research on the      organizational culture and Japanese firms saw an upsurge not only from      fellow East Asians but also from Western business practitioners and      academics. The Japanese system became symbolic with ‘high commitment,      loyalty, morale of employees, docile unions, and low turnover rates’      (Chikudate, 2004).  What made the      Japanese management system more fashionable was the fact that US based      guru like Peters and Waterman (1982) found similarities between the      ‘Japanese Management’ with successful companies in the US.  Peters and Waterman confidently claimed      that performing companies as exemplified by these companies ability “..create a broad,      uplifting shared      culture..such purposes inevitably emanates from love of product, providing      top quality services…(p 516). This represents an acknowledgement of the      need to understand the ‘unique’ process of knowledge creations from within      non Western cultures, norms and values (Chikudate, 2004)
  • The rise of Korea,      East Asia and China – 1990s to the present.  This      the era which sees the emergence of what are supposed to be a unique national      management system: ‘K-Type Management’ from the successful Korean      conglomerates; such ethnic management values and practices as the ‘Chinese      values’.  Among academics and      practitioners the fashionable buzz words is now the ‘Asian values’,      ’Confucius management system’; ‘Yin Yang Management system’ (Chikudate,      2004).

The role of various actors in the knowledge diffusion process is undeniable and indeed one that is indispensable. As Huczynski (1993) has noted the management consultants of the world (the establishment and expansions of consulting companies across East Asia – MC Kinsey with its Kenichi Ohmae for example); the management ‘gurus’ (who travels to give seminars across Asia), the hero managers, business media (which consistently seeks for the hype and excitement of the latest ‘management ideas’) and the business schools which has mushroomed into every corner of Asia (regardless of qualities) have all ensured that the procession, succession and diffusion of management ideas- in fad and fashion-like manner  – continue to accelerate. management fads 3

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