CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Timothy J Ellis

Committee Member

William Hafner

Committee Member

James L Parrish


Barista, Complex adaptive system, Ikujiro Nonaka, Knowledge management, Michael Polanyi, personal knowledge


The current research used grounded theory methodology (GTM) to construct a conceptualization of personal knowledge within a knowledge management (KM) perspective. The need for the current research was based on the use of just two categories of knowledge, explicit and tacit, within KM literature to explain diverse characteristics of personal knowledge. The construct of tacit knowledge has often been explicated and debated in KM literature. The debate over tacit knowledge arose from the complex epistemological roots of tacit knowing and the construct of tacit knowledge popularized by organizational knowledge creation theory. The ongoing debate over tacit knowledge in KM literature has shed little light on personal knowledge within a KM perspective. The current research set aside the debate over tacit knowledge and pursued the construct of personal knowledge from the perspective of the knower using GTM. Thirty-seven interviews were conducted with fourteen participants. Interviews were audio recorded and coding was accomplished with the qualitative data analysis software MAXQDA.

A total of eight categories were identified. These were organized into two groups. The core category being overwhelmed represented the absence of personal knowledge. The categories questioning self, seeking help, and microthinking fit under being overwhelmed. Together these categories were inverse indicators because they all decreased as knowledge acquisition progressed. The core category being confident represented the presence of personal knowledge. The categories remembering, multitasking, and speed fit under being overwhelmed. Together these categories were direct indicators because they all increased as knowledge acquisition progressed.

Three significant conclusions were drawn from the current research. These conclusions led to the conceptualization of personal knowledge from a KM perspective. The first significant conclusion was the conceptualization of a process of knowing as Integrated Complexity: From Overwhelmed to Confident (ICOC). The second significant conclusion was personal knowing as first-person epistemology is a universally lived experience that includes commitments to internal and external requirements as well as a bias toward integration. The third significant conclusion was personal knowledge can be viewed as a complex adaptive system. Finally, the current research concluded that personal knowledge within a KM perspective is a complex adaptive system maintained through acts of first-person epistemology.