Knowledge Is Power

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A Critical Analysis of

“Knowledge is Power”

1. Introduction

The claim of “Knowledge is power”, made by Francis Bacon, has been universally well known. Originally, it was proposed to stress the importance of knowledge in science and an academic spirit because human were experiencing a major scientific revolution at that time and information technology is not as developed as now to spread knowledge. Now it has been recognised by a much wider range of fields. An interesting question is what the implication of this claim is in business, especially in an era quite different from Bacon’s time and a world featured with globalisation and knowledge revolution (Alvesson and Karreman, 2001). The advanced technology today not only changes the way of conducting business and facilitates the communication inside and outside the company, but also become a rising industry itself. Possession of physical property and capital is no longer the major source of sustainable competitive advantage but replaced by efficient information flow and intellectual (Mundra, Gulati & Vashisth, 2011).

Realizing the importance of knowledge in business, massive investment has been dedicated to knowledge management, aiming to fully utilize the power of knowledge. From both academic field and practical business world, there is a general belief that the time of knowledge has come and knowledge is at the centre of business strategy making and operations (Davenport et al., 1998). Many academic researchers and business practitioners have done a lot of work investigating how to utilize knowledge for business success. But few of them really considered to what extent Bacon’s claim hold true for individual and organisation respectively at first hand and whether there is any limitation. To fill up this gap, this paper is dedicated to critically evaluate Bacon’s claim, “knowledge is power”, in business context and the impacts of knowledge when it is employed as source of power.

In order to achieve that purpose, this paper is developed in to following parts. In the first section, definition and nature of knowledge and power in business context will be given based on relevant literatures, before critically discussing the interrelationship between knowledge and power at two levels, individual and organisation, by using examples to illustrate what power and limitation knowledge brings. The second section will explore the impacts of adopting knowledge as power source by individual and organisation. Finally, conclusion and suggestion for the future will be provided in the third part.

2. Evaluation of relationship between knowledge and power

1. Basic conception of knowledge

Before exploring the relationship between knowledge and power in business context, it is necessary to investigate the definitions of the two. At first, knowledge will be discussed in terms of definition, typology, generation process and dynamic nature based on relevant literatures.

The conception of knowledge is quite an extensive and general one. Many attempts have been made to define knowledge but none of them has gained universal acceptance and the only thing the literatures have reached agreement on so far is that knowledge is a vague and confusing conception. Alvesson and Karreman (2001) argued that knowledge is an intangible and subjective. While McGrath (2000) emphasized the vagueness as one of natures of knowledge because knowledge takes on many different forms and can be reflected in a variety of ways and when knowledge covers everything, then it is almost as meaningless as nothing. Also, knowledge is hard to be quantified. Most of time we are not aware of what we really know until we are faced with a problem to be solved or a question to be answered and that is when we bring our knowledge out of our sub-conscious level (McDermott, 1999).

Since the purpose of this paper is to critical evaluate the notion of “knowledge is power” and analyse the impacts...
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