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The chief knowledge officer in South Africa

Abstract: The knowledge economy has become a reality for many enterprises. In the knowledge economy, it is not products and services that give enterprises a competitive advantage, but how well they manage their knowledge, in other words, what they know and whether they know how to do new things quickly. Bontis (2002:1) states that knowledge management – how an organization makes use of its intellectual capital – is one of the greatest challenges facing enterprises today. However, knowledge management requires an individual with specific knowledge and skills to champion the concept of knowledge management and spearhead the enormous challenges needed to overcome inherent obstacles to the free flow of knowledge within an enterprise. A new role with the title of chief knowledge officer (CKO) has emerged to manage this unique organizational asset – intellectual capital.

It is difficult to estimate how many positions exist for CKOs, as most of these positions are internal appointments and few advertisements for this position appear in the press. (Bontis 2002:3; TFPL 1999a:4; Tiwana 2000:405) Earl and Scott (2001) estimate that there are approximately 50 CKOs in the world. A few positions for CKOs have also emerged in South Africa. However, much confusion still exists about who and what the CKO is, what his or her responsibilities are and what skills he or she should possess. From an analysis of job advertisements for knowledge managers in South Africa, it became clear that, although an awareness of the need for a person to manage intellectual capital at a strategic level does exist in South African enterprises, a comprehensive understanding of the position and role of the CKO is lacking (Snyman 2001).

The aim of this research was to investigate the South African business world’s perspective of the role and responsibilities of the CKO and to analyse these findings against a theoretical background. To achieve this aim, the following aspects were investigated:

  • The concept of CKO
  • The role and responsibilities of the CKO
  • Qualifications, knowledge and skills required for the position of CKO
  • How persons in CKO positions in South Africa weigh up against requirements in the literature.

K.C. Chauke, M.M.M. Snyman: Position and role of the chief knowledge officer in South Africa – a discrepancy between theory and practice? South African Journal of Information Management; Vol 5, No 1 (2003)

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Tags: "OER", chief knowledge officer, South Africa, South African Journal of Information Management, South African National Research Foundation, University of Pretoria (UP)

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