A Knowledge Management Approach to Complex Crises

Contantin BRĂTIANU


The purpose of this paper is to present a knowledge management approach to complex crises, having as a reference the multiple crises generated by COVID-19, crises we are living with, and for which we cannot anticipate a specific end due to the knowledge absence concerning this complexity. A complex crisis is a system crisis that induces new crises in connected systems. The knowledge management approach shows that understanding complex crises and managing them needs an excellent understanding of these crises' knowledge gaps and the knowledge dynamics phenomena able to describe their manifestation and evolution. There is no a priori knowledge or model to give us the key to coping with these crises and designing the best solutions for all the problems generated by them. The present research is based on qualitative research of the significant literature by using the Grounded Theory. The findings show that a knowledge management approach offers new insights into the complexity of these phenomena, which can be symbolized by the Black Swan metaphor defined by Nassim Taleb in his seminal book The Black Swan. The impact of the highly improbable.

Full Text:



Alvarez, F., Argente, D. & Lippi, F. (2020). A simple planning problem for COVID-19 lockdown. Covid Economics. Vetted and real-Time Papers, 14, 6 May 2020, 1-32.

Aum, S., Lee, S.Y. & Shin, Y. (2020). Inequality of fear and self-quarantine: is there a trade-off between GDP and public health?. Covid Economics. Vetted and Real-Time Papers, 14, 6 May 2020, 143-174.

Baker, R.J., & Chesser, R.K. (2000). The Chernobyl nuclear disaster and subsequent creation of a wildlife preserve. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 19(5), 1231-1232. https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.5620190501

Baldwin, R., & Weder di Mauro, B. (Eds.)(2020). Mitigating the COVID economic crisis: Act fast and do whatever it takes. London, UK: CEPR Press.

Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99-120.

Barney, J., & Hesterly, W.S. (2012). Strategic management and competitive advantage: concepts and cases. New York, NY: Pearson.

Bratianu, C. (2015). Developing strategic thinking in business education. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 3(3), 409-426.

Bratianu, C. (2019). Exploring knowledge entropy in organizations. Managing Dynamics

in the Knowledge Economy, 7(3), 353-366. https://doi.org/10.25019/MDKE/7.3.05

Bratianu, C. (2020). Designing knowledge strategies for universities in crazy times. Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 8(3), 209-223. https://doi.org/10.2478/mdke-2020-0014

Bratianu, C., Agapie, A., & Orzea, I. (2011). Knowledge dynamics modelling using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). In Turner, G. & Minnone, C. (Eds.). Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Intellectual Capital (pp.94-102), 18-19 April 2011, University of Nicosia, Cyprus. Reading: Academic Conferences and Publishing International.

Bratianu, C. Agapie, A., Orzea, I., & Agoston, S. (2011). Intergenerational learning dynamics in universities. Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, ((1), 10-

Bratianu, C. & Bejinaru, R. (2019). The theory of knowledge fields: a thermodynamics approach. Systems, 7(2), 20, 1-12.

Bratianu, C., & Bejinaru, R. (2020). Knowledge dynamics: a thermodynamics approach. Kybernetes, 49(1), 6-21. https://doi.org/10.1108/K-02-2019-0122

Bratianu, C., Hadad, S., & Bejinaru, R. (2020). Paradigm shift in business education: a

competence-based approach. Sustainability, 12(4), 1348-1365. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041348

Bratianu, C., & Pinzaru, F. (2015). University governance as a strategic driving force. In

Dias, J.C. (Ed.). Proceedings of the 11th European Conference on Management,

Leadership and Governance (pp. 28-35), Military Academy, Lisbon, Portugal.

Noiembrie 12-13, 2015, Reading, UK: Academic Conference and Publishing


Bratianu, C., & Vatamanescu, E.M. (2017). Students’ perception in developing generic skills for business: a knowledge approach. VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, 47(4), 490-505. https://doi.org/10.1108/VJIKMS-11-2016-0065

Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2007). Business research methods. 2nd Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford

University Press.

Burgher, P., & Stefan, H. (2008). A comparative analysis of accident risks in fossil, hydro,

and nuclear energy chains. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, 14(5), 947-973.

Chang, R. & Velasco, A. (2020). Economic policy incentives to preserve lives and livelihoods. Covid Economics. Vetted and Real-Time Papers, 14, 6 May 2020, 33-57.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory. A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing.

Corbin, J. & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of qualitative research. Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. 4th Edition. Thousands Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Dalkir, K. (2005). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Amsterdam, NL: Elsevier.

Garcia-Perez, A., Cegarra-Navarro, J.G., Bedford, D., Thomas, M., & Wakabayashi, S. (2020). Critical capabilities and competencies for knowledge organizations. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.

Glaser, B.G., & Strauss, A.L. (2017). The discovery of grounded theory. Strategies for qualitative research. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gleick, J. (2008). Chaos. Making a new science. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Gourinchas, P.O. (2020). Flattening the pandemic and recession curves. In Baldwin, R. & Di Mauro, B.W. (Eds.). Mitigating the COVID economic crisis: act fast and do whatever it takes (pp.31-40). London, UK: CEPR Press.

Grant, R.G. (1997). The knowledge-based view of the firm: implications for management practice. Long Range Planning, 30(3), 450-454.

Greenberg, N., Docherty, M., Gnanapragasam, S., & Wessely, S. (2020). Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic. The BMJ, 368, m1211. https://doi.org/10.1136/m1211

Handa, P., Pagani, J., & Bedford, D. (2019). Knowledge assets and knowledge audits. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.

Holland, J. (2010). Banks, knowledge and crisis: a case of knowledge and learning failure. Journal of Financial Regulation and Compliance, 18(2), 87-105.

Jackson, M.C. (2019). Critical systems thinking and the management of complexity. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Jennex, M.E., & Raman, M. (2009). Knowledge management in support of crisis response. International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management, 1(3), 69-83.

Laamanen, T., Lamberg, J.A., & Vaara, E. (2016). Explanations of success and failures in management learning: what can we learn from Nokia’s rise and fall? The Academy of Management. Learning & Education, 15(1), 2-25.

Lafayette, B., Curtis, W., Bedford, D., & Iyer, S. (2019). Knowledge economies and knowledge work. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.

Lamberg, J.A., Laukia, A., & Ojala, J. (2014). The anatomy and causal structure of a corporate myth: Nokia by the book. Management & Organizational History, 9(3), 235-255.

Maxwell, J.A. (2013). Qualitative research design. An interactive approach. 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Mitroff, I.I., Shrivasta, P., & Udwaa, F.E. (1987). Effective crisis management. The Academy of Management Executive, 1(3), 283-292.

Moynihan, D.P. (2008). Learning under uncertainty: networks in crisis management. Public Administration Review, 68(2), 350-361.

Murgatroyd, S. (2015). How to rethink the future. Making use of strategic foresight. Alberta, CA: Collaborative Media Group.

Nadim, S.S., Ghosh, I., & Chattopadhyay, J. (2020). Short-term predictions and prevention strategies for COVID-19: a model-based study. Preprint submitted to Elsevier, July 3, 2020, pp. 1-32. [https://Elsevier.com/authors/journal authors/submit-


Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company. How Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Pearson, M.C., & Clair, A.J. (2008). Refraiming crisis management. In Boin, A. (Ed.). Crisis management (Vol. 2, pp.1-25), London, UK: SAGE Publications.

Peeri, N.C., Shrestha, N., Rahman, S., Zaki, R., Tan, Z., Bibi, S., Baghbanzadeh, M., Aghamohammadi, N., Zhang, W., & Haque, U. (2020). The SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemics, the newest and biggest global health threats: what lessons have we learned? International Journal of Epidemiology (published ahead of print).

Remenyi, D. (2014). Grounded theory. 2nd Edition. Reading, UK: Academic Conferences and Publishing International.

Rhem, A.J. (2017). Knowledge management in practice. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2007). Research methods for business students. 4th Edition. London, UK: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline. The art & practice of the learning organization. London, UK: Random House.

Solnit, R. (2020). The impossible has already happened: What coronavirus can teach us about hope. The Guardian, 7 April, 2020.

Spender, J.C. (1996). Making knowledge the basis of a dynamic theory of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17(S2), 45-62.

Spender, J.C. (2014). Business strategy. Managing uncertainty, opportunity, & enterprise. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Spinelli, A., & Pellino, G. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: perspectives on an unfolding crisis. British Journal of Surgery, 107, 785-787, 23 March 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/bjs.11627

Stacey, R.D. (2001). Complex responsive processes in organizations. Learning and knowledge creation. London, UK: Routledge.

Sveiby, K.E. (2001). A knowledge-based theory of the firm to guide in strategy formulation. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 2(4), 344-358.

Syrett, M. & Devine, M. (2012). Managing uncertainty. Strategies for surviving and thriving in turbulent times. London, UK: The Economist in association with Profile Books.

Taleb, N.N. (2007). The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Wang, W.T., & Belardo, S. (2005). Strategic integration: a knowledge management approach to crisis management. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Wang, C., Cheng, Z., Yue, X.G., & McAleer, M. (2020). Risk management of COVID-19 by universities in China. Journal of Risk Financial Management, 13, Article 36, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm13020036

World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Situation Report No.177, 15 July 2020.

Zack, M.H. (1999). Developing a knowledge strategy. California Management Review, 41(3), 125-145.

Zhou, W. (2020). The coronavirus prevention handbook. 101 science-based tips that could save your life. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

© Faculty of Management (SNSPA)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under CC BY-NC

The opinions expressed in the papers published are the authors’ own and do not necessarily express the views of the editors of this journal. The authors assume all responsibility for the ideas expressed in the materials published.

ISSN 2392-8042 (online)