Orphan knowledge potential: current Australiasian practice in the management of intellectual property

Ian Caddy, James Guthrie, Richard Petty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


The management of intellectual capital to date within organisations has focussed upon maximising possibilities to create knowledge, while minimising the chance of losing knowledge. This paper proposes that the management of intellectual capital should be considered from a different perspective that looks at the concept of orphan knowledge. Do organisations forget things and repeat past mistakes? Do some organisations unnecessarily duplicate equivalent activities within different areas of the organisation? If so, how does this happen? Do organisations really ‘unlearn’ or just merely forget? The answer to these questions is that organisations do indeed create orphan knowledge. This paper provides a definition of what constitutes orphan knowledge, and provides evidence through the development of various scenarios and their related analysis using case study data of a sample of Australasian organisations, of the potential for generating orphan knowledge. The analysis indicates that, even in those organisations that are considered to be current “best practice” with respect to the management of intellectual capital, there is a medium to high potential
for orphan knowledge to be created. If this is created, then what impact does this have on the management, measuring and reporting of these intangibles. Future research is considered necessary to determine whether different types of knowledge, viz. explicit versus tacit knowledge, have differing potential for knowledge orphaning. Also further research is required to determine the role the organisation’s Chief Knowledge Officer should play with respect to preventing and recovering organisation orphan knowledge. For example, management
of orphan knowledge must begin with a status audit assessment exercise, something that is considered well within the role and responsibilities of the Chief Knowledge Officer.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCollected papers of APIRA Adelaide 2001
Place of PublicationAdelaide
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2001
EventThird Asian Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference - Adelaide
Duration: 15 Jul 200117 Jul 2001


ConferenceThird Asian Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference


  • orphan knowledge
  • intellectual capital
  • managing orphan knowledge
  • managing intellectual capital
  • intangible assets
  • intangible liabilities


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