Reconceptualising knowledge seeking in knowledge management: towards a knowledge seeking process model

Han Lai

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Promoting knowledge sharing has long been regarded as a very important aspect of the management of knowledge. However, knowledge sharing has its challenges due to the special nature of knowledge. Based on this, the researcher argues that it is knowledge seeking rather than knowledge sharing that plays a crucial role in knowledge management. However, there is no clear definition for knowledge seeking in existing literature. In the few studies of knowledge seeking research, knowledge has been viewed as a noun and as such knowledge seeking has been seen as no different to information seeking. The aim of this research has been to explore the knowledge seeking process in the workplace in order to conceptualise knowledge seeking by developing a theoretical model. A review of the literature concerning knowledge seeking has been conducted in order to clarify the concept of knowledge seeking. From the interpretivist’s perspective, a qualitative research approach has been taken, in which sense-making theory is employed as a methodological guide. Time-line interviews were carried out with construction engineers in China to collect primary data, and Template analysis was utilized. Based on the literature, this thesis defined knowledge seeking as a learning process, which consists of three major themes: experiential learning, information seeking and problem solving, based on which a preliminary framework was developed. Twenty six engineers were successfully interviewed. The findings from the data confirmed the links between the themes. Further codes were also identified to develop a final template, which evolved to a theoretical model illustrating the knowledge seeking process in the workplace. By promoting knowledge seeking rather than knowledge sharing, this research contributed innovatory insight into existing KM research. The new concept of knowledge seeking and the theoretical model developed thereafter contribute to knowledge by providing a theoretical framework for further research in this area. The specific combination of time-line interviews and template analysis has demonstrated good results in this research. Collecting primary data from China, this research applied Western theories onto engineers within a Chinese context, which has contributed to KM research in China. These contributions will result in many practical implications for KM practices.
Original languageEnglish
  • Graham, Margaret, Supervisor, External person
  • Wainwright, David, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2012


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