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.


Wikis and Social Patterns

Wikis seem to be a somewhat  controversial form of knowledge management in terms of social context. Levy focuses on them as being a “level three” tool for Web 2.0, meaning essentially that they are dependent upon this particular platform (or are at least quite well integrated with it). Her discussion also gets into how they are a “collaborative tool”, which seems to link up well with the ideas of Grace (2009) and Yuan, Zhao, Liao, and Chi (2013), as they all discuss wikis as a form of communication between people within an organization or simply through internet context.

Within the articles of Grace (2009) and Levy (2009), eBay and Wikipedia are discussed as being a major examples of how popular wikis affect the general social consciousness, in terms of how they function. Grace (2009) discusses eBay in terms of arbitrary controls and social interactions, which Levy(2009) describes as being “improved over time”. This “improvement” could be seen as the “social capital” described by Yuan, Zhao, Liao, and Chi (2013), as a platform gains strength and usability as it grows in terms of usage. This also seems to apply to all of the discussions of Wikipedia, though all three discuss the idea of social controls being imposed upon e-environments and tools, which make it possible to have this controlled environment which also allows for information exchange. This may be why Grace (2009) and Yuan, Zhao, Liao, and Chi (2013) think of Wikis as a social tool as a part of the workplace environment, as it Wikis can be both informative and controlled within a specific context for specific information needs better than other social media platforms (Facebook, Tumblr, etc.).

All of these article study a similar thing- how do humans control technology, and in turn, how is our information access controlled by one another. What programs allow certain behaviors and why? Which gain popularity and usability, while others become quickly outdated? Knowledge management not only pertains to how people gain knowledge, but to how people control it as well. RHMAXSONLIS658 touched on through the idea of “knowledge transfer”, and KamyrnWeis discussed it as “societal interactions” in their blogs. All of the authors all dance around this idea in one way or another, but it’s inevitable that we think of KM as being integrated within a social setting, since the beginnings of human communication- knowledge exchange is typically through another person, whether verbally or electronically. I think that sometimes the intense focus is on how social media is changing communication, when really it seems more like communication is simply being channeled differently. The people that we interact with, whether online or in person, are the recipients of an action/piece of information, and while electronic communications may seem more complex or convoluted, so are verbal communications. An unreliable Wikipedia post is just as bad as a poorly given speech with outdated statistics. An eBay exchange that  goes well bears a similarity to the same patterns of receiving good customer service at the store. Perhaps this comes back to Polyani, but if we are relying on human interaction through either medium, aren’t the mental pathways that we take in that interaction similar to one another (there are differences, but there are also similar emotions and thought processes)? I’m not sure if there is an answer to these questions, but the more information I read for this course, the more it seems to point in this direction.


Grace, Tay Pei Lyn . (2009). Wikis as a knowledge management tool. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(4), 64-74.

Levy, Moria . (2009). WEB 2.0 implications on knowledge management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(1), 120-134.

Yuan, Y., Zhao, X., Liao, Q., & Chi, C. (2013). The use of different information and communication technologies to support knowledge sharing in organizations: From e‐mail to micro‐blogging.Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(8), 1659-1670.



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)