Managing orphan knowledge: Current Australasian best practice

Ian Caddy, James Guthrie, Richard Petty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


To date, managing intellectual capital has focussed on maximising possibilities to create knowledge, while minimising chances of losing knowledge. However, effective intellectual capital management should consider another dimension: orphan knowledge. Orphan knowledge relates to questions such as: Do organisations “unlearn” things or forget things and repeat past mistakes? Do some organisations unnecessarily duplicate equivalent activities within different areas of the organisation? If orphan knowledge exists, then organisations need to understand their potential for creating orphan knowledge. This paper defines orphan knowledge, and provides evidence of its potential by developing various scenarios and relating case-study analysis from a sample of Australasian organisations. Indications are that even in organisations considered current “best practice” in managing intellectual capital, there is a medium to high potential for orphan knowledge to be created. Future research will determine whether different knowledge types, namely explicit versus tacit knowledge, have differing potentials for knowledge orphaning. Further research will consider the chief knowledge officer's role in preventing and recovering organisation orphan knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-397
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001


  • Information
  • Intangible assets
  • Intellectual capital
  • Liability
  • Management


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