Information/Knowledge Management: A Current Review
David X. Swenson Ph.D.
The College of St. Scholastica
"This isn't Kansas anymore," is as appropriate a phrase in business board rooms and shop
floors as it was for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The effect of large scale change
drivers--globalism, technology, information, and competition--have done as much to
change the nature of society and the marketplace as the cyclone did to Dorothy's farm.
Like Dorothy, there is no special magic that will make it all slow down or end, but only a
recognition of the human resources and collaboration that can help organizations ride the
waves of change.
This paper reviews the nature of change drivers and the emerging marketplace, the
impact on organizations and how they are responding to demands, and in particular, the
importance of knowledge/information and the emerging role of the
Knowledge/information manager (K/IM).
"Permanent white water" was first used by Vaille (1989) to describe the changing,
turbulent, and complex environment in which we now find ourselves. All facets of our
lives from education and health care to business and leisure are rapidly changing as a
result of responding to large scale forces or change drivers. These mega forces include
globalization, demographics, technology, information, and competition, and they are
intricately related to each other.
That we are in a global economy is no longer contested. Global trade has increased
rapidly in the last 25 years, up 225% compared to world production which has increased
by only 50% of trade. From 1975 to 1992 direct foreign investment increased nearly
tenfold from $282 billion to $2.25 trillion, at an increase of 13% a year. Over the next 25
years economic power is expected to shift to the developing nations where they will grow
from less than 40% to about 65% of the world's GDP. Within 10 years the GDP of Asia
will be larger than Europe's or North America's by $1 trillion (Steingraber, 1996). In
addition, the high unemployment rates of some countries, access to raw materials,
reduced regulations, and new markets will make global communication, education, and
business highly attractive.
Globalization has also increased demographic changes with easier and faster
transportation, intercultural communication and exchange, and mobility of populations.
In one large San Francisco company, for example, the new employee orientation was
conducted in 17 languages! By 2000, it is estimated that the white male workforce, the
dominent constituency in the American workplace, will become with minority, yielding
to women and people of color. In addition, the workforce is aging, single parent and dual