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F. Galati, B. Bigliardi, A. Petroni

University of Parma (ITALY)
In today’s competitive environments, the effective use of knowledge assets and resources helps companies, regardless the industry they belong to and their size, in responding to fast changing customer expectations, thus supporting vital operational and innovative activities (Sandhawalia and Dalcher, 2011). Consequently, knowledge management (hereafter, KM) has become increasingly important and is acquiring more and more attention from both researchers and managers. In the extant literature, empirical research exists underlying the importance of knowledge protection in order to enhance companies’ performance (Daghfous et al., 2013; Manhart and Thalmann, 2015).

Notwithstanding, still scant attention is paid to security issues by knowledge managers. This is mainly due to the fact that companies believe that knowledge is “stored” within the brains of their employees, thus not requiring any protection. However, such a behavior may cause the replication of ideas by external organizations, thus jeopardizing the competitive advantage of a company (Cheung et al., 2012) and leading to reputational damage, loss of revenue and productivity (Ahmad et al., 2014). As a consequence, an in-depth investigation of knowledge loss and knowledge protection issue should help knowledge managers in understanding how they can share and protect knowledge at the same time.

Our main goal is the development of a KM framework for knowledge-intensive firms, aimed at identifying the main knowledge threats and the related defensive mechanisms that should be adopted. In order to develop the framework, we conducted a review of the extant literature, from which two main threats emerged, namely: employees’ turnover and collaboration with external actors. For each of them, we also found how knowledge-intensive firms can identify relevant knowledge and who possess it, and the related defensive mechanisms discussed to date.

The present research is, to our best knowledge, the first attempt to develop a comprehensive knowledge-loss/defensive-mechanism framework for knowledge-intensive firms.

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