Theoretical Jumble

This week’s readings took some deciphering, as the articles involved lengthy messages and analysis in two cases. Nonaka discusses KM in the context of management theory and levels, while also discussing how tacit knowledge can be parsed into sub-theories, regarding knowledge transfer from one type of knowledge to another as well as from the same type of knowledge going from tacit to explicit. While this discussion had a level of depth, it was a bit mind-boggling in the sheer volume of theory which it examined. Spender, on the other hand, focused more exclusively on philosophy and theories which linked in to the author’s rather pessimistic version of KM, which was supposed to focus on how law firms function, but spent more time discussing how one theory relates to another philosophy. Colon-Aguiree made the most sense of the three, though the author’s jumping from one story to the next caused a rather jolting narration style.

Colon-Aguirre related KM through stories of employment and references to literatures. Spender used philosophy, and Nonaka used pure theory to discuss KM. While each proposes a unique theory, all three give a more critical analysis of Polyani than any of the previous authors have. Rather than the more typical tone of admiration, Polyani’s work is taken into new areas of usage. This transference seems to add something to Polyani, as it makes the applications of KM more complex and yet somehow more understandable in a typical academic way. Perhaps this is simply my familiarity with the social sciences and rudimentary philosophy.

Nonaka had the best quote of all the article authors thus far, “Mind is distinct from the brain in the same way that computer software is distinct from hardware”. I’ve thought about this for some time, and it seems to almost link into the metaphysics of Kant, which Spender discusses. Colon-Aguirre also discusses this through storytelling. It comes back to the idea which RHMaxsonlis658 discussed about humanity affecting KM, that our fundamental humanness is what brings KM into real life. It seems like this links to this quotation, as analysing the self and the world within the parameters of human consciousness is part of humanity’s history. It reminds me of Descarte, “I think therefore I am”. This signifies that the self (mind) is separate from the functions which we do without thinking (the part of the brain which makes us breathe) in a way that we actually think about. It’s all a bit dizzying to think about, isn’t it? How will we manage this knowledge?

Colon-Aguirre, M. (2015). Knowledge transferred through organizational stories: a typology. Library Management, 36(6/7), 421-433. doi:10.1108/LM-06-2014-0073

Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14-37.

Spender, J. C. (1996). Making knowledge the basis of a dynamic theory of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17, 45–62. doi:10.1002/smj.4250171106

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Knowledge and organizations

Organizations, technology, and communication form the backbone of most organizations and most interpersonal relationships, which are all tied to one another. Knowledge, in its bases, is information that we have gathered exchanged or instinctually know. Kang, Rhee and Kang (2010) studied how people transfer knowledge from one another. Boiled down to it’s basics, it seems to be common sense, as people (organizations) rely more on sources when they are unsure of knowledge, that they try to capture and explain knowledge which is difficult to explain and quantify, and that there are things that are beyond our explaining to others (though the explanation makes sense to us). These also apply to organizations and producing materials based on a person’s work for future archiving and transfers, as it often makes less sense to the person who comes into that position or uses the materials later. Argote and Ingram (2000) discuss how people in organizations interact with keeping “reservoirs” and the “transfer” of information from individuals within the organization. These scholars go looking for knowledge exchange through everyday tasks and practical learning, in a format that reminds me of Dervin’s “Sense Making”, in that they are trying to make sense of how people store and transfer knowledge from one another. It makes sense that people’s interactions with tools represent things such as lost information, struggle to understand new versions of technology, and how people gain knowledge within the organization exchanged through communication and through tools because interacting with technology that is designed by people who understand the form more than the ordinary person may be too close to the technology to realize how users see it. I was most interested in the portion which focused on tools, since it seems to focus on people exchanging information through tools less efficiently than they did in past, but it seems that people have always exchanged information through workplaces. Even though people do email and use electronic communication, people still have in person or phone conversations if knowledge is not transferring well.  In contrast, Wang and Lu (2010), study the interaction within organizations within times of crisis and handle it successfully, which follow patterns of both in-person and electronic communication though like Argote and Ingram, “documentation” is a part of this process to understand how crises and difficulties can be handled.  Powell and Snellman (2004) handle the last gap in the process of how people interact with information and others and technology to gain knowledge or to exchange it. It addresses the problems with ITC, from forms which work well early becoming the norm to problems that people have with adopting new technologies. Unlike the readings from my last post, this approach seems to incorporate a more positive view of the information society which we are coming to live in and will do so in the future.

While all of these discuss knowledge management, a few of these also discuss or hint to tacit knowledge. It seems like tacit knowledge is almost an itch we can’t scratch, it’s that bit on the tip of your tongue, the “I know this, I know this” and the confusion that comes from knowing something but not being able to figure out how or why one knows it. This can be complex to handle within an organizational setting, and while all of these authors address some of it, it seems as if this is a form of tacit knowledge as well.

Wang, Wei-Tsong, & Lu, Yu-Cheng. (2010). Knowledge transfer in response to organizational crises: An exploratory study. Expert Systems With Applications, 37(5), 3934-3942.

Argote, & Ingram. (2000). Knowledge Transfer: A Basis for Competitive Advantage in Firms. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 82(1), 150-169.

Powell, W., & Snellman, K. (2004). THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 199-220.

Kang, Jina, Rhee, Mooweon, & Kang, Ki H. (2010). Revisiting knowledge transfer: Effects of knowledge characteristics on organizational effort for knowledge transfer. Expert Systems With Applications, 37(12), 8155-8160.

When Literature Collides with Knowledge Management and Theory

Both Tremblay (1995) and Rule and Besen (2008) reference Porat’s vision in detail. While Rule and Besen (2008) presents Porat as being more neutral in perspective, Tremblay believes that Porat is far too optimistic. Too, both discuss Gates, though in Rule and Besen (2008) Gates is simply a reference amongst other luminaries and not the focus of making Gate’s business practices/empire/success as being an independent idea in and of itself. In general, the two both contain the same feeling: that this information society does not present a message of hope, but rather a darker perspective on the future. While some of this originates with theorists in Rule and Besen (2008), Tremblay’s is entirely his/her own, as he struggles to make sense of the world’s changing.

Tremblay (1995) is right in the idea that people follow their fields in terms of what they believe, as well as what we believe in terms of news and the media. The idea, however, that either he/she and Rule and Besen (2008) are free of bias is interesting, as both seem to have a rather gloomy slant on the future of information technology. It’s interesting that neither goes into the technology theory about early adopters and the patterns which they establish for behavior and making new technology popular. Both seem to believe that people do not use new technologies due to a lack of push for newer technology, rather than including ideas such as new technological malfunctions, cost, and problems such as the digital divide. While both articles are scholarly in nature, Tremblay (1995) relies on references to literature (though he does not directly discuss Fahrenheit 451, the future he/she describes seems to be like a cross between this and the film Brazil) and some theory to support his/her argument. Rule and Besen (2008) takes a much more scholarly approach, but it is one that is repeated by some historians over and over- the idea that the arts are simply supplementary rather than central, and that history and technology take too long to come into their own. Rather, it seems that history has been driven by art in it’s darkest hour, at least for the masses (Perhaps this sounds a bit like bread and circuses). Like Mary discusses, ideas take time to move from one part of the mind to another in terms of what type of knowledge we possess, likewise history and theory do the same within the social consciousness, going from tacit which we would simply act upon to being studied and possibly immortalized as a theory. This brings up Lucas (2005)’s point about trust being the key to people’s relationships within a corporation, and thus how people outside the corporate sphere view the company- it all seems to circle back to the point that people ignore the social patterns by which we live, and that this would turn up in an analysis of history and theory as well, thus driving the need for a negative to neutral image of the future.

Rule, J. B., & Besen, Yasemin. (2008). The once and future information society. Theory and Society, 37(4), 317-342.

Lucas, L. M. (2005). The impact of trust and reputation on the transfer of best practices. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(4), 87-101.

Tremblay, G. (1995). The information society: From Fordism to Gatesism. Canadian Journal of Communication, 20(4), 461-482.