Aesthetics as Knowledge: An Aspect of the Future of Knowledge Management?


  • Clemen Kerschbaum Vienna University of Economics and Business



organizational aesthetics, tacit knowledge, future of KM, perspectives on knowledge, knowledge creation, capacity to act


Knowledge Management (KM) is concerned with the process of capturing, organizing, sharing or utilizing knowledge within an organization. At least since the works of Nonaka and Takeuchi in the 90s, it is a commonplace that the term knowledge, as understood from the perspective of KM, includes both explicit and tacit elements. However, it seems that the focus of many KM initiatives and resulting KM systems still lies mostly on the more explicit facets of knowledge. This has two implications for the field: the first is the obvious danger of confusing knowledge management with information management. The second, which is actually a consequence of the first, is that the focus on technology and explicit knowledge can lead to a diffusion of the field of KM towards more technical domains such as Semantic Web, Knowledge Graphs or Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Those fields have arguably become way more capable of managing explicit knowledge and draw the attention of companies away from ‘traditional’ KM systems (Davenport, 2015). Thus, in this paper, I argue that KM research should somewhat reconsider its strengths which lie in the management of tacit knowledge that is closely tied to humans. Following this argument, I propose organizational aesthetics as one of many promising avenues for KM research in the future. The idea for this stems from a recent literature review on organizational aesthetics that identifies three perspectives on the topic – one being aesthetics as a knowledge tool (Baldessarelli, Stigliani and Elsbach, 2022). According to this perspective, aesthetics is seen as a form of knowledge that originates in sensory perceptions and is permanently deployed in the interaction with organizations, organizational artifacts, and social settings. The present paper hence aims to contextualize the notion of organizational aesthetics for the field of KM to give an overview of the idea and offer a basis for discussion on whether aesthetics could be a useful field for future inquiry.