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Title: A whole greater than the sum of its parts? : a critical investigation of the synergy concept within knowledge management
Author: Tait, Alan
Awarding Body: Glasgow Caledonian University
Current Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University
Date of Award: 2007
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The concept of synergy has been a mainstay of a management discourse for over forty years. Within the field of Knowledge Management (KM), it offers the possibility of addressing the conceptual barriers tormenting the field. In particular, it promises to form a possible conceptual core for KM that is both relevant and robust. Offsetting this promise are pitfalls inherent to the synergy concept: its inherent vagueness arising from its meaning having been taken for granted over the past forty years; its inherent imprecision arising from an inability to identify the extent of the gap between theory and practice; and its inherent inertia arising from the inattentiveness of synergy's proponents to criticism and disconfirming evidence. Hence, the purpose of this research is to address these pitfalls by identifying the underlying connotations implied by the current usage of synergy within KM theory, ascertaining the extent of the theory-practice gap, and revising the concept in order to close the gap. This is achieved by using a methodology comprising four methods that address each of the pitfalls in tum. The connotations are identified through an integrative literature review of the various definitions of synergy found in KM theory. The extent of the theory-practice gap is ascertained by both an exploratory case study that identifies what synergy refers to in KM practice and a process of analytic generalisation that compares those findings to the connotations drawn from KM theory to determine the extent of the gap between them. Revising synergy involves a process of analogical reasoning which draws analogies between two domains (the field of Complexity known as Synergetics and the sociological notion of Social Synergy) deemed most promising for closing the theory-practice gap. There are four main contributions made by this research: (1) providing a potential conceptual core that can integrate the field ofKM without being vague; (2) presenting an intellectually robust alternative to synergy as it has hitherto been used in KM; (3) presenting a challenge to synergy as it has been used in KM; and (4) providing a conceptualisation of synergy that is less harmful to KM practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available