ABSTRACT: In an era where knowledge is increasingly seen as an organization's most valuable asset, many firms have implemented knowledge‐management systems (KMS) in an effort to capture, store, and disseminate knowledge across the firm. Concerns have been raised, however, about the potential dependency of users on KMS and the related potential for decreases in knowledge acquisition and expertise development (Cole 1998; Alavi and Leidner 2001b; O'Leary 2002a). The purpose of this study, which is exploratory in nature, is to investigate whether using KMS embedded with explicit knowledge impacts novice decision makers' judgment performance and knowledge acquisition differently than using traditional reference materials (e.g., manuals, textbooks) to research and solve a problem. An experimental methodology is used to study the relative performance and explicit knowledge acquisition of 188 participants partitioned into two groups using either a KMS or traditional reference materials in problem solving. The study finds that KMS users outperform users of traditional reference materials when they have access to their respective systems/materials, but the users of traditional reference materials outperform KMS users when respective systems/materials are removed. While all users improve interpretive problem solving and encoding of definitions and rules, there are significant differences in knowledge acquisition between the two groups.

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