Social Mores of Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management become further complicated, as perspectives represent different aspects of how people interact with one another and how organizations (which are essentially groups of people, but which function as if there is one voice on occasion) interact within their own members and with those outside of the organization.

Chua and Banerjee take the perspective from the viewpoint of Starbucks and customer interactions through social media. To do so, they essentially have to refer to Starbucks as a corporate individual- which may demonstrate how deeply the legal concept of corporations as individuals has become entrenched in our social psyche- “Starbucks” can be discussed as one thing, with one voice rather than a huge group of individual employees whose “voice” is truly a group of people- Starbuck’s social media team. How corporations function within our society is clearly discussed within this, as they discuss how different social media platforms affect our interactions as an almost separate social microcosm. Have a problem with something that happens in reality or an idea? In past, you would have spoken directly with the manager or with the business owner. Now, you can talk virtually with a large team of people through simple interactions, the same way that this blog does, but the person is interacting mentally with “Starbucks”, probably not thinking of the organization as many people but as a collective singular voice. How does a single person manage knowledge when they are exchanging information with a corporate body? According to Chua and Banerjee, it’s by discussing with the corporation as if it is one voice, one person. While this work is interesting, some of it’s references may need to be conducted again, as new social media platforms are emerging and others are dying (Myspace is pretty much null and void, but others have come about, such as Google Hangouts etc.).

Bissett discusses this from the opposite perspective- knowledge management from a managerial standpoint within the organization. This article takes it from the place of gendered interactions within the workplace, as well as new vs. old approaches, summing up with the idea that flexibility is key to working with groups of employees and coworkers. While Bisset lightly discusses how change will happen, there does not seem to be any concrete examples of his methods (RD, MD) nor does he give any specific ways to implement this practically. My question to Bisset is how does one take this approach in a practical manner? Where are the steps to do this? While the theory is excellent and is necessary, knowledge can’t just be a construct, it has to have a concrete way of working in reality if the study centers on the workplace. It’s interesting to see how people within corporations see knowledge differently than how they interact with corporations. The same person who picked up coffee for the office and tweeted about how Starbucks needs a cookie and cream flavored drink, is somehow also the same person who is implementing the “flexibility” Bissett describes.

Nahapiet and Ghoshal go even deeper into theory, but they do what Bisset does not- they discuss the practical of how people find and use information in social contexts. This article is the heaviest examination of social theory of the three, and contains a solid basis on past research as well as how people interact on a macro-scale. (“Structural embeddedness concerns the properties of the social system and of the network of relations as a whole”-p.244). Networking, which is a huge part of knowledge management (how do people move up/down in organizations, construct projects etc.), is less directly addressed. They also discuss how people with knowledge interact with knowledge management, by having “social capital”, which seems to translate down to, if people are in the know and have the data/have done their research, they may be more skilled at forging connections and succeeding within the workplace. This idea touches on what HereticalPoetical discusses in her blog on “knowledge continuity” when they discuss “codification” and “personalization”, which may interact with “social capital” and “intellectual capital” in that they are somewhat similar, but have slight differences in theoretical definition but may function within the same social space in a practical way.

It seems like the knowledge management scholars have a vested interest in examining the corporate identity and how it breaks down as much as how individuals interact and how they are a part of said corporations. In the end, this research seems like an infinity symbol (or an interstate in that shape) since it seems to come back on itself from different places.

Chua, A. Y. K., & Banerjee, S. (2013). Customer knowledge management via social media: The case of Starbucks. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(2), 237-249. doi:10.1108/13673271311315196

Bissett, N. (2004). Diversity writ large – Forging the link between diverse people and diverse organisational possibilities. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 17(3), 315–325

Nahapiet, J., & Ghoshal, S. (1998). Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage. The Academy of Management Review, 23(2), 242-266.



7 thoughts on “Social Mores of Knowledge Management

      1. There are whole fields related to how we can or might or whether it’s possible to ascribe moral responsibility to collectives. First, there’s the question about whether a collective is an agent (or a person). Second, it’s assumed that moral responsibility entails some kind of ability to intend to act in some way. Thus, can a group of people have a collective intention.


  1. I’ve thought about much the same thing that you mentioned in your concluding paragraph (and doubtless will think about it more between the writing and uploading of this post), and I’m curious. Much of the research in this field does seem to be heavily interconnected, almost unusually so, but you’ve implied that it feeds back into itself, achieving no real progress beyond what it continues to repeatedly retread.

    Is that what you intended, or am I parsing it incorrectly?


    1. No, I was meaning it more in the same sense of Joseph Campbell’s discussion of the “One story”- while there is the same base plot type, the characters have nuances and differences. There’s always a connection between things, but they are still difference enough to be noticeably separated.


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