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.



Tacit Knowledge

Like Mary and Audrey, I needed to break down Polyani’s text into chunks of reading rather than as a whole. It can be a bit overwhelming as a body of work, for while it looks like a short and slender read, it reminds me of The Metamorphosis- underneath it’s modest and simple cover, with it’s slim bound pages, lies a book that requires a great deal of mental effort to understand, since it is multidimensional and encompasses a broad spectrum of information.

To me, this work seems divided into three larger sections, focusing first on social science and then moving in to hard science theory, and then more into philosophy and rhetoric (in style at least). There are a few quotations Polyani that I am still muddling over.

“The meticulous dismembering of a text, which can kill its appreciation,                                can also supply material for a much deeper understanding of it”. (19)

This made me think of Kumar (2012) discussion of tacit knowledge and codification. Does language, in the form of writing and reading become a form of tacit knowledge after these have become second nature? Can literature and symbolism within literature be considered a recognized system of codification? From different aspects, it makes me question whether something can be tacit knowledge. However, From Kimble’s (2013) perspective, it would not be, since it is “acquired” and not “implicit”. “Tacit Knowledge” seems to be a rather amorphous theory, since it can change depending on how it is being used.

“Yet however greatly we may love an animal, there is an emotion which                               no animal can evoke which is commonly directed toward our fellow man. I                           have said that at the highest level of person hood we meet man’s moral                               sense, guided by the firmament of his standards. Even when this appears                             absent, its mere possibility is sufficient to demand out respect.”

I think this is an interesting point, but there also seems to be an irony here. In another portion of the book, Polyani discusses how man is an animal- so isn’t loving/expecting morals from other men also in a way expecting it from fellow animals? Furthermore, there is a great deal that we do not actually know about animals. For example, should gorillas who are able to speak ASL be considered capable of having morals within their own society or since they are capable of a recognized form of human communication (though acquired, thus not tacit), should this be considered a valid statement? At the same time, there is a barrier of tacit knowledge between animals and humans. Humans, unlike dogs, do not understand the world in terms of smells or by barking. Nor do dogs have human speech capabilities. Both seem to be tacit or in animals, instinctual in their own way.

“For modern existentialism uses moral skepticism to blast the morality of                             the existing society as artificial, ideological, hypocritical.”

“In our society, ideas about morality are also cultivated by different                                     circles of mutual appreciation, which are deeply divided against each                                     other; and in politics these circles are deliberately organized as rivals.”

These seemed particularly apt for the current climate going on in news media (election season). Kimble’s (2013) concept of explicit knowledge seems to describe the formation of a political system- politics is not something that is ingrained in us by nature, but at the same time, people occasionally have a difficult time separating church from state and also understanding the actual goings on of politics. Party voting almost seems to be tacit knowledge for some- explaining why one votes for someone comes down to personal morals and social groups, which fits with the concept of “bounded awareness” (Kumar 2012). While we, as a society, are bombarded with political information and have actual videos of the goings on of politicians in Congress (CSPAN, the news), much of the actual details of the political process and everyday goings on which form the law in this country seem to be encased in boundaries (we know it’s there, but do we actually pay attention to it?).

Polyani’s “Tacit Knowledge” is interesting to think about and try to apply to the everyday situations, because that everyday mindset may be exactly what he is studying about- why humans behave along certain social patterns based on concepts that we cannot directly explain such as impulses/instincts/gut feelings/gumption etc.


Kimble, C. (2013). Knowledge management, codification and tacit knowledge. Information Research, 18(2).

Kumar J, A., & Chakrabarti, A. (2012). Bounded awareness and tacit knowledge: Revisiting Challenger disaster. Journal of Knowledge Management, 16(6), 934-949.

Polanyi, Michael. (2009). The tacit dimension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1966)