Knowledge Management in Sri Lankan Indigenous Organizations: A Case Study on Mask Carving Industry

A. B. D.C . Gunaratne, T.G. D.V. Thudugala, V.N.M. Ranasinghe



Knowledge management is recognized as a prerequisite for the survival and progression of a society. Mainstream research is too focused on studying knowledge management practices in private and public sector organizations. It signifies a significant gap in the literature, in relation to knowledge management research in indigenous organizations especially in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a country rich in diversified indigenous organizations which satisfy the economic and societal needs of local people since ancient times. Knowledge management practices of indigenous organizations were shaped and reshaped by the changes of Sri Lankan society. The purpose of this paper is to uncover knowledge management practices in the indigenous mask carving industry and examine the urgent need to build and preserve the indigenous intellectual capital of Sri Lanka to participate effectively in the knowledge economy. Consequently, the paper specifically examines knowledge creation, knowledge codification, knowledge sharing and knowledge forgetting of a well-known mask carving generation in Sri Lanka. Case study approach was employed to understand knowledge management practices where observation, semi-structured interviews, and visual methods were used to gather the required data. Folklore and traditional ceremonial chanting were interpreted. The case study reveals that, the tacit knowledge is the predominant form of knowledge in indigenous organizations therefore the effort taken to codify knowledge was limited. It further reveals knowledge sharing was restricted within the industry, leading to knowledge forgetting, which is the key barrier for the survival of indigenous organizations in the present volatile and turbulent environment. Finally, the paper suggests the urgent requirement to build, store and preserve indigenous knowledge for the survival and progression of Sri Lanka, before important elements in indigenous knowledge is irretrievably lost.

Keywords: Knowledge management, Indigenous organizations, Mask carving, Sri Lanka

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Faculty of Management Studies & Commerce