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Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
 

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    Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project Document Transcript

    • Managing of Knowledge with theAid of Communication Technology Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency from Nadejda Ognianova LoumbevaProject report submitted in part fulfillment of the requirements for thedegree of Master of Science (Human-Computer Interaction withErgonomics) in the Faculty of Life Sciences, University College London,(2002). Note by the UniversityThis project report is submitted as an examination paper. No responsibilitycan be held by London University for the accuracy or completeness of thematerial therein.
    • I would like to thank Malcolm Ballantine, whose help has beeninvaluable for the accomplishment of this thesis.I would also like to thank Barney Smith at the Countryside Agency,whose initiative made the present work, and the process of it, possible.I would also like to wholeheartedly thank my sister, Mira Loumbeva,who, with great patience and care, typed the whole thesis for mebecause I had tendonitis. We sat together for days until all of it hadbeen typed up. Had it not been for her, this thesis would not have seenthe day. Not many people would willingly go through that kind of asacrifice, but Mira did. For this, and all else, I will always rememberher.Last, but not least, I would like to thank all the facilitators of the threePilot Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency: Kate Jopling andJames Hatcher, Carolyn Cadman and Simon Michaels. Their insightsand opinions have been of great help to my understanding of theCountryside Agency Learning Networks. In addition, I would like tothank Ian Bilsborough at the Countryside Agency for his help andenthusiasm for my project. II
    • ABSTRACTThe present work is concerned with the effectiveness of managing knowledgeusing Communication Technology to support this. The main purpose is toevaluate three initiatives of managing knowledge, using CommunicationTechnology in this process, at the Countryside Agency, a public sector body in theUK.Evaluation is conducted in the following way: After introducing the purpose ofthe present work in Part I, a literature review is outlined in Part II, in order toderive recommendations for successful managing of knowledge usingCommunication Technology. These recommendations specify the importance ofensuring a healthy community-of-practice using the technology, as well asrecognizing that knowledge is different from and superior to information.Knowledge exists only within interpersonal contexts.The recommendations also emphasize the importance of tacit, explicit, individualand organizational knowledge, in a process of dynamic development of this withinsocial practice. In this way, these recommendations are used as criteria againstwhich to evaluate the knowledge managing initiatives at the Countryside Agencyin Part III of this work.These initiatives (called Learning Networks) are in terms of optimizing acommunity, by making available a technological solution for use to communitymembers. This is so that members can optimize the interpersonal interactionsamong them, thus increasing the value of the community knowledge discourse.The evaluation of the three Learning Networks revealed the importance of a socialcontext necessary for knowledge creation, in order for technology supportingknowledge processes within a community to be effective, and not only efficient,in fulfilling its purpose as a knowledge managing tool.In addition, it was revealed that socially accepted ways of working within thepublic sector can inhibit the natural process needed for managing knowledgewithin a community. This can make technology used for managing knowledgewithin such community largely ineffective in its purpose, even though itstechnological usability may be adequate. III
    • TABLE OF CONTENTSPart I ...………………………………………………………. 1 - 71. Introduction to the present work ……………………………….. 21.1. Overview of the subject of the present work ……………………….. 21.2. Overview of the process behind the present work …………………. 21.3. The host organization: The Countryside Agency …………………. 31.4. Knowledge Management at the Countryside Agency …………….. 41.5. Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency:What are they? …………………………………………………………… 41.6. Learning Networks: the stakeholders ……………………………... 51.7. The problem: Are Learning Networks effective for themanaging of knowledge within a community of people? ……………….. 6Part II ……………………………………………………… 8 – 551. Introduction …………………………………………………….. 101.1. Summary of the this literature review …………………………….. 111.2. Purpose of the literature review …………………………………… 122. Situated learning in communities-of-practice ………………... . 132.1. Ordained practice and actual practice …………………………….. 152.2. Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) ……………………….. 192.3. A socio-technical architecture for Communication Technologyand communities-of-practice ……………………………………………. 202.4. Conclusions ……………………………………………………….…. 233. The ‘real world’ problem: Is CommunicationTechnology at present useful to human knowledge creation? …. 253.1. Information is not knowledge ………………………………………. 253.2. Information can not effectively yield knowledge,unless within the context of practice …………………………………… 273.2.1. How knowledge is enabled, but not optimized withInformation Technology ……………………………………………...…. 273.2.2. Optimizing knowledge by increasing the valueof social exchange with Communication Technology …………………. 29 IV
    • 3.3. Conclusions ………………………………………………………….. 304. Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge ……………………… 314.1. Polanyi’s view on the acquisition of knowledge ………………... … 314.2. Understanding information to learn new knowledge …………….. 334.3. Communication Technology designfor emerging cultures …………………………………………….….…... 364.4. Conclusions ………………………………………………………….. 375. Individual and organizational knowledge …………………….. 385.1. Why is organizational knowledge important? ……………………..395.2. Nature of organizational knowledge:explicit heuristics and tacit genres ……………………………………… 405.3. Organizational knowledge and individual action ………………… 425.4. Conclusions ………………………………………………………….. 436. Knowing in practice ……………………………………………. 456.1. Knowledge as possession and knowing as practice ……………….. 456.2. Productive enquiry ………………………………………………….. 476.3. Dynamic affordance ………………………………………………… 486.4. Conclusions ………………………………………………………….. 497. Recommendations for approaches toCommunication Technology use for managing knowledge …….. 518. Conclusions to Part II ………………………………………….. 54Part III …………………………………………………… 56 – 901. Introduction ………………………………………………….… 571.1. The problem behind managing knowledgein the UK public sector ………………………………………………..… 572. Methodology …………………………………………………….. 592.1. Level of response from each network ……………………………… 592.2. Interviews with facilitators of eachLearning Network ………………………………………………………... 602.3. Questionnaire emailed to members ……………………………….... 602.4. Personal style/preference measures ………………………………... 612.5. Rationale behind using the EPQ in the present evaluation ………. 62 V
    • 2.6. Rationale behind using the MBTIin Learning Network evaluation ………………………………………….632.7. Data obtained from the personal style/preference instruments ….. 643. Learning Network Evaluation …………………………………. 653.1. Market Towns Learning Network …………………………………. 653.1.1. Background to the Market Towns Learning Network …………. 653.1.2. Evaluation preview ……………………………………………….. 663.1.3. Conclusions …………………………………………………….….. 723.2. Equipping Rural Communities Learning Network ………………. 733.2.1. Background to the Equipping Rural CommunitiesLearning Network ……………………………………………………….. 733.2.2. Evaluation preview ……………………………………………….. 733.2.3. Conclusions ………………………………………………………... 783.3. Rural Affairs Forum for England Learning Network …………… 803.3.1. Background to the Rural Affairs Forum for EnglandLearning Network ……………………………………………………….. 803.3.2. Evaluation preview ……………………………………………….. 813.3.3. Conclusions ………………………………………………………... 864. Learning Network Evaluation: Limitations …………………... 875. Learning Network Evaluation: Conclusions ………………….. 89References …………………………………………………….. 91Appendices ………………………………………………….… 99 VI
    • LIST OF TABLESMarket Towns Learning Network Evaluation:Table 1 …………………………………… p. 111Table 2 …………………………………… p. 112Table 3 …………………………………… p. 113Table 4 …………………………………… p. 113-114Table 5 …………………………………… p. 115-116Table 6 …………………………………… p. 117-118Graph 1 ………………………………….. p. 120Graph 2 ………………………………….. p. 121Graph 3 ………………………………….. p. 121Equipping Rural Communities Learning Network Evaluation:Table 7 …………………………………… p. 122-123Rural Affairs Forum for England Learning Network Evaluation:Table 8 …………………………………… p. 124-125 VII
    • Part IIntroduction
    • 1. INTRODUCTION TO THE PRESENT WORK1.1. Overview of the subject of the present workThe present work was set out with the aim to evaluate three technologicalattempts at managing knowledge within an organization.These attempts are in terms of providing an electronic extranet for use to acommunity of people brought together by their interest in a domain of practice, atopic or a shared activity. The extranets, also called ‘dynamic extranets’ by theorganization, were designed and delivered with the assumption that the sharedelectronic space they offer will serve to bind the people participating in thecommunities together, in order for them to elaborate on their knowledge. Thiswould be by improving the quality of the interactions among them and thusmaking the knowledge possessed by individuals readily available to allcommunity members. Therefore, the extranets were endowed with functionality ofcommunication potential, in terms of: member log-in, subgroups, discussionforums, member expertise search facilities, chat rooms, documents loaded formember use, automatic notification of members concerning contributions postedon the network, member database, who’s logged on feature and brainstorming.This was aiming to provide opportunities for online communication amongindividuals and between them and the entire community.The present work is the result of the evaluation of these three technologicalattempts at managing knowledge, in terms of their effectiveness at delivering thevalues they were planned and designed to fulfill. Because these technologicalinitiatives were conceived as essentially knowledge managing initiatives, theywere evaluated against general criteria for managing knowledge withinorganizations. This is in terms of the benefits technology can bring into thisprocess and its limitations at making it effective, should it be regarded as the onlymeans for creating a cohesive community where knowledge is regarded as apublic good and is thus readily available to all community members for thefulfillment of desired aims and objectives.1.2. Overview of the process behind the present workThe evaluation consisted of conducting informal unstructured and semi-structuredinterviews with the managers of each extranet (facilitators), as well as distributing 2
    • a general questionnaire to members of the communities that the extranets weredeemed to support. These interviews and questionnaire were designed toinvestigate the assumptions behind managing and using the extranets, as well asthe perceived benefits of members from not only using the extranets, but alsobeing part of the communities that these extranets support. In this way, theeffectiveness of the extranets at supporting general knowledge managingstrategies, thus being appropriately used according to the nature of optimizationpotential they can offer, was verified.In parallel to this, a literature review, drawing upon literature exploring theopportunities that technology offers to make knowledge managing more effective,was carried out to inform the evaluation process. On the basis of this literaturereview, recommendations for managing knowledge within communities andorganizations, with the help of the potential offered by CommunicationTechnology, were derived. These recommendations were used as criteria againstwhich to evaluate the extranets (described below), following on the relevantmaterial obtained from the interviews and questionnaire responses.The results of the literature review are outlined in Part II of this work. The resultsof the evaluation of the three extranets are outlined in Part III. Both of these aimto establish an understanding of learning and the nature of knowledge that willinform the effective planning, design and carrying out of knowledge managingwithin organizations strategically supported by Communication Technology.1.3. The host organization: The Countryside AgencyThe organization hosting these technological attempts at managing knowledge isthe Countryside Agency in the UK. The Countryside Agency (from now onreferred as ‘the Agency’) is a non-departmental public sector organizationconcerned with the preservation of the English countryside and the developmentof rural areas within this country. Its responsibility within the public sector is toadvise central and local government on ways forward through practical projectsand take action on issues affecting the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of rural areas and communities. Within their role and function, the Agencyaim to influence other organizations with similar purposes by conceiving anddeveloping projects, thus creating a unified strategy to rural development. TheAgency resulted from the merger of the Countryside Commission and the RuralDevelopment Commission in April 1999. 3
    • 1.4. Knowledge Management at the Countryside AgencyAbout a year ago (June 2001), following on the Modernizing Government WhitePaper (1999), the Agency began to invest resources in knowledge management.The White Paper constructed a vision of electronic public services, moving theUK to a knowledge-based economy. The aim was to move towards a modern,joined up government, by sharing ‘best practice’, in order to learn from this forthe sake of future developments.In relation to this, a Knowledge Management Team was assembled at the Agency,which purpose is to design initiatives making knowledge within the Agency, aswell as among this and other big and small organizations concerned with ruraldevelopment and preservation within England (most frequently Agency partnersand contractors), readily accessible to those who need it. In this way, theKnowledge Management Team works alongside all other teams within theAgency, as well as organizations with purposes similar to this, towards a betterstate of the English countryside.In order to explore the potential of technology for making knowledge within acommunity of, frequently very busy, people more effective towards achievementof desired objectives, the Knowledge Management Team, following on the idea ofthe Countryside Agency Chief Executive, set out to develop three pilot knowledgemanagement initiatives. They called these initiatives Learning Networks, whichthe present work aims to evaluate in terms of their success at bringing peopletogether to collaborate and learn from each other, in order to make their individualand collective work practices more effective.1.5. Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency: What are they?A Learning Network, as is viewed by the Agency, is either a ‘community ofpurpose’, composed of people who share knowledge and information in workingtogether towards a ‘smart’ objective, or a ‘community of practice’, composed ofpeople performing similar tasks and having similar roles, helping each other bysharing knowledge of their practice. In both cases, the aim is to manageknowledge within the group in order to benefit a specific objective or a moregeneral work practice.This process is primarily enabled by web technology, also called a ‘dynamicextranet’, although it is not unusual for the community to pre-date the Learning 4
    • Network. Learning Networks provide a web-based space, specifically designed toproject Agency messages and views on creating policies.The people participating on the network are brought together to collaborate on aproject, theme or issue, in order to produce a successful, more or less defined,outcome. In this process, these people are always managed in their collaborativeactivity by a ‘facilitator’, who aims to bring their efforts at the successfulfulfillment of the desired objective.In this way, Learning Networks aim to engage various stakeholders in a projectfrom the very earliest stages of this project development, in order to implementtheir views within executive decisions. Learning Networks are not expected tocompletely replace face-to-face meetings in these processes, but merely saveprecious time often lost in travelling across distant geographical locations.1.6. Learning Networks: the stakeholdersWithin the process of planning, delivering and fulfilling a Learning Network,there are a number of stakeholders involved, each having different conception ofwhat makes a successful network.First of all, there is the view of the Knowledge Management Team within theAgency, which is essentially concerned with the effective branding of the Agencythroughout Learning Network participation. In particular, it is important that eachnetwork, by engaging participants in a purposeful community process, succeeds ininfluencing strategies and practical projects for countryside development.Then, there are the views and expectations of Learning Network participants.These are essentially concerned with their ability to effectively participate on thenetwork, so that they can derive practical benefits from their participation thatthey can use to improve their work. Effective participation, in their terms, is beingable to connect to others in the way they want to, using technology, or not, andrespecting public sector role assumptions, values and beliefs, or not. In order todo this, members need to be drawn to the network community out of genuineinterest in its shared activities and not be forced or obliged to participate, thus tofulfill their ordained role within this sector. In any case, they want to learn moreabout the issue being discussed and benefit from networking opportunities. Thusnetwork members are concerned with having free access to other members, inorder to elaborate on each other’s knowledge and build relationships. They alsowant to have sufficient time to do so from their general work commitments, i.e., 5
    • for them, their work practice must allow for the execution of a knowledge practicewithin it, so that it can be effective.Finally, there are the views of Learning Network facilitators, concerned withmanaging member participation and, when necessary, leveraging this towards theachievement of desired objectives. In order to do this, facilitators need to havesufficient knowledge of the area subject of member discussions and also becommitted themselves to enriching the knowledge and expertise contained withinthe community, regarding this area of interest. They will also want to be givensufficient freedom to facilitate the network as it seems best to them at any onetime, according to their commitment to its purpose and their interest in benefitingall members, not limited by contextual pressures to make network facilitation theexclusive arena for Agency branding.1.7. The problem: Are Learning Networks effective for the managing ofknowledge within a community of people?Despite the potential dynamic extranets offer to the managing of knowledgewithin a community of people, the three pilot Learning Networks at the Agencyhave presented some problems with their use. Precisely, there seems to be notenough participation and involvement from members as would be expected form avibrant community where knowledge is dynamically exchanged among peopleand thrives in continuous renewal.In particular, one of the pilot Learning Networks, the Rural Affairs Forum forEngland network, has been used very poorly. From an overall of 66 members, 13have never logged on the network since its launch in November 2001 until July2002 (20% of members). 33 members have logged on less than 10 times for theduration of this time and the majority of log-ins for this period have in factoriginated from network facilitators (48%). Only 6% (4 members) have madeactive contributions to the network by creating dialogues and 15% of membershave contributed to these dialogues (10 members). Countryside Agency membersinitiated the main part of these active contributions, although there are only 6Countryside Agency members on the Forum. The maximum total number oflogins per member was estimated at 42, which is less than once each week sincethe Network was made available for use to Forum members.The situation with another of the pilot networks, the Equipping RuralCommunities Learning Network, is similar, although not so extreme at first sight. 6
    • Interviews with the facilitator and material provided by some of the participantsindicated that contributions on the network are not genuinely driven by learninginterest and are proportional to facilitator input. In other words, members do notseem to engage enough with the community purpose and contribute to it for thesake of being part of an initiative introduced by an influential organization and notfor the sake of participating in a learning experience intimately valuable to theirinterests and concerns.Finally, the last of the pilot Learning Networks, the Market Towns LearningNetwork, has been used very little at the beginning of its initiation, seeminglybecause there were too many members on the whole, not knowing each othersufficiently to engage in discussion. Although the network has since gained a lotof speed and is much better used by its members at the moment, these beinggenerally interested in its purpose, there seems to be lack of focus of the issuesbeing discussed. In this way, using the network has little perceived benefits tomembers and the Agency, despite the fact that it has generated reasonable publicsector interest.This outline of Agency Learning Networks’ effectiveness problems is notexhaustive and is meant to merely introduce the issue of interest, which is socialand organizational aspects of using Communication Technology.In other words, the nature of the Countryside Agency pilot networks’effectiveness problems is, in the body of this work, shown to arise frominsufficient emphasis on the people using the networks, the latter as only onemeans for developing dynamic relations among them, in order to collaborate andrenew their knowledge.Precisely, even though the Learning Network websites appear to be mostly goodand adequate in their usability, they appear to be insufficient in enablingcommunication among people, aiming to bring desired benefits to a specificpurpose or general practice. Appropriate facilitation of the community using thenetwork, in terms of enabling social conditions for development of vibrantinterpersonal relationships, appears to be of much greater importance to whatmakes a Learning Network, in terms of the technology that it uses, effective. 7
    • Part IILiterature Review
    • LEARNING AND THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGEHow to Optimise Human Knowledge by Using Communication Technologies as Part of a General Knowledge Managing Strategy “If managing knowledge is the solution, then what is the problem?” Zack, 1999“If companies are going to compete on knowledge, and manage and designstructures and technology for it, they need to base their strategy on anunderstanding of what the knowledge challenge is.” Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002 “We can know more than we can tell.” Polanyi, 1966 9
    • 1. IntroductionWithin the recent five years, there has been a growing interest in the nature ofknowledge, in terms of its generation, transfer and application within firms andorganisations. Knowledge has been regarded as the most important asset forcompetitive advantage, unlike the nature or amount of financial or technologicalresources that organisations possess, especially for organisations competing inuncertain environments (Miller and Shamsie, 1996; Penrose, 1959; Winter, 1987).In effect, knowledge is what harnesses the financial and technological potential ofan organisation towards the realisation of its mission.Theorists have argued that knowledge is the firm’s most important resourcebecause it represents intangible assets, operational routines and creative processesthat are hard to imitate (e.g. Spender, 1996). Through understanding the nature ofknowledge, organisations have been looking to inform the process of managingthis knowledge within, and among, them, in order to assure themselvescompetitive advantages. These advantages are viewed as the successful adoptionof organisations within sectors, industries and markets, as well as their ability toinduce changes into these areas (Brown and Duguid, 1991).However, Birkinshaw (2001) notes that although managing knowledge ‘promisesvery much, often it delivers very little.’ (p. 11). He further notes that this isbecause managing knowledge has focused on managing information propagatedvia IT systems, rather than managing social relations that use this information asknowledge.Indeed, within the present work, it is shown that, in an effort to initiate and sustaincompetitive advantages, organizations have concentrated on ‘knowledgemanagement’, rather than ‘knowledge managing’ (these terms are arbitrary inmaking the desired distinction).‘Knowledge management’ regards knowledge as a commodity, i.e. an entity thatcan be removed from people and transferred among them like an object. This isequal to information, which is of little use in practice (i.e. Davenport and Prusak,1998) and is observed in organisations investing resources in developing ITrepositories for ‘codified knowledge’ (Birkinshaw), such as ‘best practice’databases. These databases in fact remove knowledge from its original context ofcreation that enables its effective meaning. In this way, ‘knowledge management’in such organisations is no more than information management, of little use toemployees in the context of their inherently social day-to-day practices. 10
    • ‘Knowledge managing’, in contrast, recognises the continuous social constructionof human knowledge via the dynamic nature of community discourse (e. g.Lanzara and Patriotta, 2001). In this way, there is recognition that knowledge ispart of society and not produced by technology. Organisations adopting such anapproach invest in facilitation of social communities-of-practice as vibrantcontexts for knowledge creation and aim to support, but not ordain, thesecommunities by Communication Technologies (CT).The above distinction makes clear that, to effectively engender ‘knowledgemanaging’, rather than ‘knowledge management’, organisations need above all toenable and support the social contexts that yield knowledge. They need tooptimise human processes within these contexts by Communication, rather thanmerely Information Technologies.1.1. Summary of this literature reviewIn the present literature review, the reasons why adopting a strategy aboutknowledge, rather than information, brings benefits to organizations are explored.It is argued that this is because social contexts nurture personal commitment andbeliefs in their members that endow information delivered by, amongst others,Information Technology, with significance generating knowledge (e. g. Nonakaand Takeuchi, 1995, p. 59). Knowledge processes are above all socially enabled,before they can be supported and effectively optimised by technology. Theseprocesses happen during communication among people, therefore development ofsocial relations is far more important than development of digital information(Tsoukas, 1998). Optimising social relations by Communication Technologies isfar more effective in managing knowledge than merely investing in information,because all knowledge, as a personal phenomenon, happens within collectivecontexts of interpersonal interaction (Tsoukas and Vladimirou, 2001). Thesecontexts allow for knowing what to do within particular circumstances, which isfar better than having the information without knowing what to do with it. Andknowing what to do happens within communities-of-practice.Optimising such collective contexts of interpersonal interaction is possible byusing Communication Technologies. Designing multi-user systems aiming to suitgroup and organisational requirements for effective knowledge creation, ratherthan aiming to solely suit individual users, is necessary. Within the literature, thishas been referred as a socio-technical system interaction between social practices 11
    • and technology tools (Kling, 1993), where organisational analysis embracescomputer science, and can be seen as a superior form of human-computerinteraction that should be enabled to continuously develop over time. In this way,organisations’ knowledge potential would be increased because knowledge, as themost valuable asset organisations have, would be optimised.1.2. Purpose of the literature reviewThe purpose of this review is to specify recommendations for enabling andsupporting social contexts within organisations, in terms of an approach toCommunication Technologies (as part of Socio-Technical systems) design anduse for managing, and not merely management, of knowledge. Theserecommendations are subsequently used to evaluate the effectiveness of threeknowledge-managing initiatives at the Countryside Agency, a non-governmentorganisation in the UK. In such a way, the validity of these recommendations isverified against the success of these initiatives at managing human knowledge andnot information.The derivation of recommendations is attempted after reviewing literaturediscussing the situated learning within communities-of-practice, shown toeffectively use and generate human knowledge (2). The reasons why situatedlearning within communities-of-practice is effective in sustaining knowledgeprocesses are explored in reviewing additional literature about technologyusefulness to human knowledge (3), the nature of learning and knowledge as bothan explicit and tacit process (4) and an individual and group/organisationalprocess (5), as well as the notion of practice (6). 12
    • 2. Situated learning in communities-of-practiceIn their work based on ethnographic observations, Lave and Wenger (1991) andWenger (1998) conclude that knowledge is a social phenomena dynamicallyconstructed as part of practice. This practice takes place within self-selectedcommunities (Rheingold, 1993), defined to embody the purpose of knowledgecreation. In this way, learning of knowledge and knowing how to use thisknowledge within these communities is an integral part of the communitypractice, i.e. learning within these community contexts is situated within theparticular circumstances that the practice presents, demanding the application andderivation of knowledge. These circumstances have also been described asessentially different from those in the classroom, where absorption of abstractedheuristics is encouraged without reconnecting these to their original sources inactual practices (Brown, 1998).Wenger and Snyder (2000) describe communities-of-practice as ‘groups of peopleinformally bound together to share expertise and passion for a joint enterprise’(italics added). This description is reminiscent of Polanyi’s view of spokencommunication as:‘the successful application … of the linguistic knowledge and skill acquired by … (an)apprenticeship, (when) one person (is) wishing to transmit, the other to receive, information.’(Polanyi, 1962, p.206, italics added).Polanyi regards spoken communication as enabled by the ‘intelligent effort’ ofindividuals within groups unified by a common practice, such as anapprenticeship (also referred by him as a ‘common complex culture’1). Theseindividuals are willing to share their expertise with the group and actively use in- 1 Polanyi (1962) argues that such communities are found within ‘common complex cultures’. Similarly to ‘infocultures’ (Newell et al., 2001, later described in this review), these cultures are communities where ‘a network of confidence’ and mutual trust makes possible the generation of ‘systems of facts and standards’ (i.e. systems of explicit heuristics and tacit knowledge for applying heuristics in practice) (Polanyi, 1962, p. 375). Such systems of facts and standards are created in the process of elaboration on the personal knowledge of members of these cultures, by them sharing in the ‘intelligent effort’ of other individuals, such that ‘one person wishes to transmit and the other to receive, information’ (p. 206). Polanyi further describes these ‘systems of facts and standards’ as ‘superior’ (i.e. beyond personal) knowledge, upheld by people mutually recognizing each other as a community and thus perceiving their knowledge to be of social value. Such superior knowledge is closely reminiscent of community knowledge found within communities-of-practice (as described by 13
    • coming information to elaborate on their knowledge. The presence of sharedintelligent efforts follows from the joint passion to learn about an enterprise as thesubject of common interest, and creates conditions for collective learning inaction. The application of existing knowledge in action is what allows not only thesharing of tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge within the community-of-practice, but also the development of new ways of knowing this knowledge andapplying skills in combinative ways, during the development of multipleinterpersonal relations. Communication Technologies should aim to optimizesocial processes within these communities, rather than exclusively focus on whatis seen as developing the knowledge these processes generate. This is becauseknowledge is socially constructed and cannot possibly exist outside of theinterpersonal context of its creation.Knowledge creation within these communities is distributed throughout multiple‘actors’ (Araujo, 1998) by the development of interpersonal relations, whichacquire a ‘routine’ status over time, as they become social platforms forknowledge creation (Nanda, 1996). Supporting these social platforms bytechnological infrastructure in order to optimize their development is bycollaborative technologies such as listservs, electronic discussion and chat (Waskoand Faraj, 2000), which can bring novel aspects to the debating processes withinthe community and keep track of the progression of the interpersonal interactions.Von Krogh (1998) further points out that the motivation behind the creation ofthese social platforms is not self-interest, but care for the community, whereknowledge creation is engaged in for the public good of all members. As a result,knowledge is viewed as a process that collectively benefits the community and isthus the moral obligation of all members. Similarly, Wasko and Faraj (2000) andRheingold (1993) observe that for long-standing electronic communities, the mainmotivation behind participation is generalized reciprocity, where help given to oneperson is reciprocated by someone else in the future, in a common expectationthat community interaction is on-going and self-fulfilling. Technological supportdesigned to optimize these social processes must consider their spontaneous andunconstrained nature, by using technological platforms flexible enough to co-evolve with the life within the community. Lave and Wenger, 1991) and organizational knowledge found within organizations (e.g. as described by Tsoukas and Vladimirou, 2001). 14
    • Thus communities-of-practice, through the cultivation of social bonds, offer theconditions enabling not only knowledge, as existing and newly acquired, but alsoknowing this knowledge in actual practice. Schultze (1999) points out thatknowledge within such communities is ‘the social practice of knowing’, wherelearning new knowledge, knowing this in practice and innovating by applyingexisting knowledge and knowing in novel ways are inexorably connected inpractice. This is because, by their informal, continuously evolving and enactingnature, these communities are vibrant fields for active experimentation andinnovation. In this way, within communities-of-practice, there is a purpose oflearning about being a practitioner and not merely learning about practice (Brown,1998). Knowledge and knowing are thus continuously intertwined in a ‘generativedance’ (Cook and Brown, 1998), which ensures the success of these communitiesas ‘knowledge communities’. Technological support for this generative danceshould be designing for optimization of the social context, in order to benefit thepurpose of action learning. When a community of people engage in actionlearning they, without realizing this, manage their knowledge and knowingthroughout their practice.2.1. Ordained practice and actual practiceImportantly, Brown and Duguid (1998) note that ‘conventional communities arenot necessarily communities-of-practice’ (italics added), thus observing thedifference between formal communities imposed ‘from above’ and informallyfluid communities-of practice. In this way, attempts at managing knowledge andknowing by bringing people together using formal obligations, expressed by theinstitutionalization of over-structuring ‘knowledge’ databases and other IT tools,will not be successful for the purpose of managing knowledge within thiscommunity.Wasko and Faraj (2001) note the prominent conservative approach to applying ITthrough the automation of existing processes in industry, based on the assumptionthat ‘design of the original process is satisfactory’ (p. 6). Such an approachfocuses on processes creating operational efficiency rather than peopleparticipating in them (in the terms of Business Process Reengineering) andreinforces existing management practices investing in efficiency, rather thaneffectiveness, this by bringing people together to fulfil ordained roles rather thancollaborate. Such an approach is also expressed by statements of ‘computers being 15
    • everywhere except in the productivity statistics’ (Solow, 1987), ignoring that theway to productivity is indirect and passes by ensuring healthy social relationsfirst, before (and no doubt importantly) ensuring efficient computer systems.Therefore, because of the already discussed social and inherently voluntary natureof human knowledge, cultivated by developing strong interpersonal relationsstimulated by shared interest, management practices should focus on knowledgerather than mechanistic notions of efficiency (Brown, 1998). Managingknowledge, in itself, is about informally facilitating emerging social relations andstimulating development of moral obligation behind participation in communities-of-practice. It is not about imposing a rigidity on the flexible reality of actualpractice.Orr (1996) further illustrates the gap between ordained practice and actualpractice. In his detailed ethnographic studies of service technicians, he observed amarked distinction between the practice imposed on the technicians by theorganization (in terms of impoverished instruction manuals for repairing copiersat customer sites that top management considered sufficient in doing the job), andactual practice that the technicians found most comfortable and fulfilling in theprocess of their jobs. Actual practice of the service technicians took place withininformal communities-of-practice, rather like social ‘organisms’ thriving withknowledge and knowing processes. Orr describes these communities as:“ Occupational communities…have little hierarchy; the only real status is that of a member…areoften non-canonical and not recognized by the organization. They are more fluid and interpretativethan bounded, often crossing the restrictive boundaries of the organization to incorporate peoplefrom the outside (and that can include both suppliers and customers).” (Orr, 1990a).In this way, within service technicians’ informally interpretative actual practice,there were conditions for the social derivation and construction of knowledge, thisby the production and dissemination of stories telling and interpreting workexperiences. Within these stories, the technicians organized seemingly unrelatedevents into coherent discourse artifacts, connecting cause and consequence toinform the understanding of their jobs, in terms of the insufficiency of formalinstruction. By accumulating socially distributed insights in the process of theirsocial discourse, they actively engaged in constructing a collectively explicitmemory as a summary of their practice, as well as a collective tacit understandingof what the spoken and material practice artifacts mean. This is reminiscent of 16
    • case studies described by Tsoukas and Vladimirou (2001) and Lanzarra andPatriotta (2001), where communities-of-actual-practice invented ways forapplying ordained practice artifacts (in terms of technology imposed ‘fromabove’) to suit their purposes, because these artifacts failed to account for thecontextual demands of actual practice2.Therefore, actual practice, in terms of engaging in and caring for a community-of-practice, provided a context where the ordained practice, in terms of impoverishedwork manuals, was actively reconnected to the situated demands of specific workcases. In other words, actual practice presented conditions for ‘situated learning’from events occurring and actions initiated in this practice (Lave and Wenger,1991), as opposed to the practical deficiencies of instruction manuals, formallytelling what to do in this practice. Actual practice, in terms of the community thatthe technicians had defined for themselves, in fact compensated for the rigiddeficiency of the ordained practice (despite the existence of the community havingbeen opposed by top management on multiple occasions, until its strategicimportance was recognized).In this way, Orr shows the importance of communities-of-practice as contextswhere knowledge applicable in practice is actively constructed; therefore thesecontexts should be encouraged to develop. Brown (1998) further notes theimportance of communities-of-practice as contexts where leveraging of ordainedpractices is made possible in order to assure organizational competitiveadvantages in accordance with the purpose behind the organization. It is cleartherefore that creating conditions for emergence of common practices is crucial tosuccessful managing of knowledge within and among organizations. Furthermore,optimizing processes of actual practice by Communication Technology (from nowon referred to as CT) must consider their autonomous self-fulfilling nature that 2 Lanzara and Patriotta (2001) illustrate the effect of this in a case study on organizational knowledge in the courtroom. These authors show the highly ‘interactive, provisional and controversial nature’ of knowledge found within courtroom communities struggling to find a meaning for novel technology introduced within the community process (i.e. videotape recording of Mafia trials as a more efficient means for trial documentation). In effect, the courtroom communities were faced with a novel artifact, the need for which was not naturally derived by them in the process of its practice (as it should be in effective cultures; Schein, 1985), but considered to be necessary by outside parties. The authors adopt a socio- constructivist perspective to knowledge formation, arguing that knowledge can only be understood in its practice, therefore optimizing this practice via technology must successfully ‘integrate’ the technology within the community. Within the courtroom described by them, “actors keep designing local solutions and arrangements in order to integrate the VCR into the activity system.” (p. 963). In this way, there was a struggle between actual and ordained practice that ended by integrating the technology in knowledge processes in only a few cases. 17
    • resents over-structuring designs in attempts at other than facilitating theirdevelopment.The above makes clear the opposition that may exist between ordained practiceand actual practice in organizations, when management ignores that adults tend tolearn in the multiple contexts of their work by attending to situated demands fromspecific circumstances, rather than by following institutionalized abstractions ofwork practice (e.g. Burgoyne and Hodgson, 1983).Such contradictions are often reinforced by the very design of informationtechnology implemented within organizations. This technology is designed with aview of over-structuring the learning-while-and-in-working of employees, in orderto control for accountability, rather than foster initiative; in order to defineresponsibility, rather than genuine interest; in order to enhance competition, ratherthan rivalry; and in order to maintain secrecy and privacy, rather than openness toexternal perspective (Brown, 1998).Ordained practice is thus an abstract ‘modus operatum’3 that removes practicefrom a situated context of taking place, ignoring the importance of action learningin managing knowledge. In contrast, actual practice is an ‘opus operandi’4, wherepractice exists only within concrete circumstances in reconnecting the abstractknowledge of group heuristics with the reason for their existence, i.e. to informindividual action (Bourdieu, 1977). This Brown (1988) described as ‘reconnectingthe map with the mapped’. In other words, ‘modus operatum’ sees action as afinished task, whereas ‘opus operandi’ within communities-of-practice sees actionas a process of doing a task that is constantly tuned and tuning to the context ofthe physical and social environment.In relation to opus operatum and opus operandi, Brown (1998) notes:“ Work on expert systems suggests that technologies whose representation of the complexities ofpractice are misleadingly partial may make that practice difficult or even impossible. Anydecomposition of the task must be done not with an eye to the task or the user in isolation, but tothe learner’s need to situate the decomposed task in the context of the overall social practice.” (p.233)This observation thus emphasizes the need for considering technology-supportedtasks in the contexts of their social and physical environments, without removing3 In Latin, ‘modus operatum’ means ‘mode of use’.4 In Latin, ‘opus operandi’ means ‘the part (entity), which is being used’. 18
    • them from contextual demands in order to facilitate the design process (i.e. in thetradition of classical Ergonomics; this also questions the validity of HierarchicalTask Analysis as a technique for mapping system structure). An approach totechnological design aiming for optimization of knowledge creation must agreewith the contextual characteristics of human actions, particularly social actions asthey happen in practice, and aim for minimally supporting these actions in theirdynamic development.2.2. Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP)To further illustrate this point, let us look at Legitimate Peripheral Participation(LPP) in Communities-of-Practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991).In Communities-of-practice, learning is not primarily about the subject of practiceas such, but about being a member and functioning within the community.Members of communities-of-practice acquire above all the ‘embodied ability tobehave as community members’ (Brown, 1998) within the shared complexcultures that characterize the development of interpersonal dynamics within thecommunity. These developments make knowledge possessed and knowingengaged in by the community accessible to all members.In their ethnographic studies, Lave and Wenger observed that when novicemembers join a community, they are implicitly given legitimate access to theperiphery of communication unfolding among expert members. That is, novicemembers are allowed to observe experts until they have learnt enough to feelcomfortable with active community participation. During their seemingly passiveresidence in the periphery of communication, novice members pick up valuabletacit knowledge of the community practice, by acquiring knowledge ofcommunity rituals and routines that enable circulation of stories and other formsof negotiation of meanings (Deal and Kennedy, 1982). In this way, novicemembers are gradually ‘enculturated’ (Brown and Duguid, 1991) within thecommunity, allowed to move from the periphery to the center of communication.Eventually, they actively join into the knowledge discourse.In relation to this, Brown (1998) describes ‘stealing knowledge’ as picking upknowledge from the informal periphery of on-going practice, this being a mosteffective way for novices to learn from actions that others undertake withinsituated contexts. Stealing knowledge of peripheral members from ‘central’ expert 19
    • members in fact assures the community a challenging, whilst an informallyproductive, vibrancy.Expert members of communities-of-practice find processes in the peripherythoroughly stimulating to the derivation of new knowledge. In relation to this,Brown and Duguid (1998) note, the importance of continuously incorporating‘new elements’ into existing structures in order to ensure adaptability tocontinuously changing markets. This is at strong play within communities-of-practice, who define themselves not only by their knowledge, but also by knowinghow to use this in new ways. Their openness to new experience assuresthemselves a vibrant interpretative potential and constant fitness to outsidechallenges, as expressed by continuously evolving collectively accepted ways fordoing the work.This LPP development generalizes across all particular knowledge communities;however, LPP is also unique to each separate community, according to the domainof theory and practice within which the community develops, deriving theirknowledge. The personal styles of members and the socially acceptedassumptions, values and beliefs (Schein, 1990) are also important to communitydevelopment. Therefore, the particular dynamics of LPP are hard to predict foreach separate community-of-practice and community development is created bycommunity members. Designing technology to optimize this creative processmust offer a minimal structure, as a flexible technological platform co-evolvingwith the community.Therefore, CT for managing of knowledge and knowing within communities mustallow for processes of LPP to develop, as these are necessary to communityhealthy existence. CT must be designed to allow for the different preferences ofmembers to use technology at any one time. Its use must also ensure that theknowledge discourse is well supported both by active and passive, but rather vocaland silent members (no member is a passive member within a community). CToffers the potential for doing this by, for example, copying peripheral members inemails that are part of central knowledge discourse and giving these membersaccess to discussion forums.2.3. A socio-technical architecture for CT and communities-of-practiceThe above sections conclude that, prominently, CT within organizations is notdesigned with a view of the informal networks that bind people together, driven 20
    • by ‘intelligent efforts’ to elaborate on their expertise. Rather, it is usually‘imposed’ on employees, following on an unrealistic notion inherent in its designof the organization as a mechanistic, rather than an organic body (Morgan, 1986).In this way, in terms of, for example, knowledge managing efforts at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, people still recur to ‘informal networks’ despite over-abundance of IT tools designed with the aim of managing knowledge(Birkinshaw, p. 12).Tsoukas and Vladimirou (2001) point out the need for recognizing the informalpractices for managing of knowledge, thus turning these practices fromorganizationally unreflective into organizationally reflective. Once these informalpractices are appropriately recognized as important sources of organizationalknowledge creation, there will be conditions for open integration of ‘minimalsupport’5 technology within them, to optimize the knowledge processes takingplace.A socio-technical architecture enabling the systematization of such an approach isdescribed by Brown (1998) and is displayed on the table below:5 Hansen et al. (1999), distinguish between codification and personalization IT strategies tomanaging knowledge. Whereas the codification ‘database’ approach confuses knowledge withinformation, the personalization approach recognizes that knowledge is shared, used and created inthe process of interpersonal communication. This approach seeks to support knowledge processesby providing minimal ‘structure’ for their development (Hahn and Subramani, 2002), thusencouraging the autonomous and informal existence of knowledge communities as a recognizedprerequisite for healthy knowledge formation (Wenger et al., 2002). These technologies thuspossess a potential flexibility to mimic, and systematize, the discursive nature of humanknowledge, exemplified by problems of uncertainty, equivocality, ambiguity and complexity facedby organizations (Zack, 1999).‘Minimal structure’ technologies can be electronic discussion boards, electronic chat and meetrooms and electronic brainstorming, provided that their use is part of a general knowledgemanaging strategy. These tools engender the existence of ‘virtual’ communities complementingthe existence of face-to-face communities by providing media where alternative perspectives onthe face-to-face knowledge discourse are created, thus enriching the dynamics of knowledgegeneration towards full realization of knowledge resources (Nanda, 1996). The use of ICT hasbeen widely and successfully explored in informal, self-selective on-line communities wheresocial exchange is the main incentive for participation (e.g. Rheingold, 1993). Therefore, theirpotential for increasing the value of the social discourse generating knowledge in organizations isto be inferred. 21
    • Table 1. : Shift in thinking and practice experienced by Xerox, which offers an organizationalmodel for managing communities-of-practice as complex adaptive systems within organizationsand communities-of-communities as organizations themselves. (in Brown, J. S., (1998): Internettechnology in support of the concept of communities-of-practice., Mgmt & Info. Tech, 8, 227-236) Old paradigms New paradigms Technology push/pull Co-evolution of technology and organization Products Product platforms Authorized work structures Emergent/authorized work structures Teams Communities-of-practice Strategy specified from the top Generative strategy specified from the top Managing for efficiency Managing for knowledgeBrown hypothesizes that, within an organization that is reflective about its actualand not merely ordained practices, there is a socio-technical architecture thatallows for community-of-practice formation supported by technology platforms.These platforms, if correctly designed, can probe the tacit knowledge within thecommunity and provide for its latent needs for knowledge creation, by productvariants rapidly evolving from them, or by evolving of the platforms themselves(Brown, p. 234). This architecture thus overtly recognizes the importance ofcommunities-of-practice, in terms of their potential for innovation and fosters a‘healthy autonomy’6 for their development. It also links among communitieswithin and among organizations to create an intra- and inter-organizationknowledge discourse, in order to establish an overall social platform ofcommunities-of-communities that facilitates managing of knowledge.Such a socio-technical architecture defines organizations in addition to formaldefinitions of organizational practice, and assures them an enactive quality of‘knowledge organizations’. Within such socio-technical architectures, there isrecognition of both ‘modus operatus’ and ‘opus operandi’. In other words, theformal organization recognizes the informal within it and there is appropriate 6 Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) list three elements to the knowledge process: a knowledge domain (i.e. physics), a community of people and a common practice to unify the domain with the community. In order for the knowledge process to be effective, the community of people needs to be autonomous in order to explore the knowledge domain according to their interest and thus create their own practice. 22
    • facilitation of knowledge communities. The stories disseminating the knowledgeacquired within communities-of-practice are allowed to circulate via email,bulletin boards and home pages, supporting narration and social construction ofknowledge. Therefore, both type of organization ‘work together and leverage eachother where possible’ (Brown, p. 245).In this way, at the organizational level, as well as community and individual level,there is re-connection of abstract heuristic knowledge with tacit codes for itsapplication and interpretation in practice7. This reconnection, wheninstitutionalized by facilitating and not ordaining technology for managingknowledge, ensures an appropriate synergy between organization and technologyand creates conditions for optimization of ordained via the existence of actualpractices. This reconnection also happens during the development of socio-technical systems that optimize human knowledge creation within and amongorganizations.In the language of Brown, such organizations are ‘complex adaptive systems’between forces driving technology and forces driving markets. In other words,they are socio-technical systems influenced and influencing technology andmarkets by adapting to conditions created by these, as well as enabling their ownconditions for development, naturally synchronized with the nature of technologyand market development. Within such systems, Internet and the Web can providea medium for innovation in terms of flexible technological designs to suit thedynamic evolution of communities-of-practice, thus enabling conditions for co-evolution between the social dynamics of communities and technology.2.4. ConclusionsTo conclude this section, managing knowledge aiming for its optimization bytechnology should approach knowledge as above all a socially constructeddiscourse by people. This discourse will serve people’s needs only in actual andnot ordained practices, ensuring competitive advantages. Therefore, organizationsneed to recognize the importance of actual practice within knowledge 7 Cook and Brown (1998) point out that organizational/community knowledge is both explicit (i.e. heuristic) and tacit (which is also referred to as ‘genre’ by Oravec (1996), in terms of a socially constructed communication medium where people learn to use a common set of interpretation codes for making sense of information). Polanyi (1962) argues that knowledge is not possible without combining explicit and tacit components in its creation. Tsoukas and Vladimirou (2001) further point out the importance of heuristic and tacit group knowledge to individual action within a group, where both types of group knowledge inform individual action. 23
    • communities. Designing technologies with facilitating and not ordainingassumptions will stimulate the development of actual practice and createconditions for successful synergy between social and technological systems inorder for competitive advantages to be cultivated, and for an optimized process ofhuman knowledge creation during socio-technical interactions. 24
    • 3. The ‘real world’ problem: Is Communication Technologyat present useful to human knowledge creation?Within the present section, it is shown that the assumption behind InformationTechnology disagrees with the nature of human knowledge and what canpotentially optimise its creation. It is argued that current attempts at managingknowledge should shift their focus from design of information databases for thispurpose, because information is removed from the social contexts nurturingknowledge. Instead, there should be a focus on developing social relations, asthese make knowledge readily available to people, and optimising these relationsby Communication Technology.3.1. Information is not knowledgeBrown and Duguid (in their book ‘The Social Life of Information’, 2000) arguethat knowledge is a social phenomenon existing in human contexts and notinformation systems. They note the importance of social interaction betweenpeople at the heart of managing knowledge. Thus, they draw a firm distinctionbetween information and knowledge, the latter being information acquiredpersonal significance for individuals, i.e. active ‘knowers’ (Brown and Duguid,2000) constructing their knowledge within a context of human practice. In thissense, every knower is attached and committed to what he knows.The fact that knowledge is not information makes the electronic transfer ofknowledge from people that have originated this, situated within a commonpractice, difficult across community and organisation boundaries, because of thepersonal character of knowledge that cannot be digitised (Ciborra and Patriotta,1998). Therefore, knowledge has been defined as ‘sticky’ to the context of itscreation (Szulanski, 1996). Information, in contrast, travels easily along electronicnetworks because it lacks contextual properties. The challenge for technology use,therefore, would be to ensure that information reaches potential ‘knowers’ and notmerely information ‘users’, so that information can fulfil an important role inhuman processes of knowledge creation.Regarding the personal significance of knowledge, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)note:“ First, knowledge, unlike information, is about beliefs and commitment. Knowledge is a functionof a particular stance, perspective, or intention. Second, knowledge, unlike information, is about 25
    • action. It is always knowledge to “some end”. And third, knowledge, unlike information, is aboutmeaning. It is context-specific and relational.” (p.58).These authors emphasise the importance of a relational context where, throughactions according to beliefs and commitment to defined purposes, informationacquires meanings that give rise to knowledge. In other words, human knowledgeis volitional by nature as a result of contextual reflection; it is enabled by the useand acquisition of information meanings within the context of purposeful humanactions. Therefore, to Nonaka and Takeuchi, human knowledge is not a staticcommodity that can be objectively quantified like information; it is instead adynamic contextual process where individuals and organisations alike activelypursue ‘the truth’ according to their beliefs and according to the types ofinformation provided to them (Bateson, 1973).In this way, within the process of knowledge, information provides a commoditycapable of, and necessary, in yielding knowledge, but insufficient within itself todo so. Knowledge is identified with the information-produced, or sustained, beliefthat happens within human heads (Dretske, 1981) and is cultivated withincommunities-of-practice (Brown and Duguid, 1991).In this way, the usefulness of mere information to organisations is minimal.However, knowledge processes that involve information are very useful. They cantransform a reactive organization into a pro-active, ‘enacting’ body with acompetitive stead (Brown, 1998), by enabling individuals within an organisationto take important decisions in relation to their work that fulfil the organisationpurpose (Orr, 1996). Managing human knowledge needs to enable thedevelopment of interpersonal contexts, within which information delivered by ITcan be hosted, and which can be optimized by CT8. 8 Within the present work, Information Technology (IT) is seen as substantially different from Communication Technology (CT). The former is concerned with delivering information when a request has been made to do so (i.e. databases, yellow pages of experts, expertise profiles, document repositories and other structured search approaches). In contrast, the latter is concerned with ‘serving’ social relations and interpersonal communication (i.e. collaborative filtering tools, intranets and extranets, electronic discussion forums and other unstructured approaches to human communication). Personal preferences for using technology may differ between these two types of technology, according to individual approaches to assimilating new information and learning knowledge. 26
    • 3.2. Information can not effectively yield knowledge, unless within the contextof practiceEfforts to manage the knowledge inside organizations have typically centred onthe creation of ‘knowledge’ databases, i.e. corporate intranets deemed to containthe ‘knowledge’ that organizational members will need, complemented by toolssuch as search engines and intelligent filters to assist ‘knowledge seekers’ locaterequisite knowledge (Wasko and Faraj, 2000).The very assumption behind these databases of knowledge as ‘need’, rather thanknowledge as ‘creation process’, contradicts the reality of knowledge as acontinuously evolving social construct, not possible to quantify as a staticcommodity within an IT database. Therefore, if well designed, such databasesmay contain information of strategic value, but not knowledge (Birkinshaw,2001). The usefulness of these databases for managing knowledge, in terms of theinformation that they deliver, will only exist provided that there is a humancontext, i.e. a ‘practice’, within which to embed the information, so that it can beused to yield knowledge through the beliefs and dedication of practitioners9.These beliefs and dedication are cultivated within the social dynamics foundamong practitioners.Using such databases, however, removes the technology used for managingknowledge from the very process of knowledge generation (in this way the term‘knowledge management’, rather than ‘knowledge managing’, is moreappropriate). Thus using information databases can enable knowledge, but can notnecessarily optimize the dynamic processes of its generation.3.2.1. How knowledge is enabled, but not optimized with ITThompson and Walsham (2001) illustrate merely enabling but not optimizingknowledge in case studies. They evaluated a range of ‘knowledge management’initiatives in terms of making forms of IT accessible for use in a company theycalled A1 software.One initiative was deemed to disseminate ‘knowledge’ to employees viainformation repositories, presentation slides and reports assembled within a largecorporate intranet. In all cases there were not appropriate community contexts to 9 In the context throughout this work, a ‘practitioner’ is a person engaged in a ‘practice’, which is any practical domain of applying knowledge (e.g. from medical practice, through software engineering, to philosophy). 27
    • initiate knowledge-enabling interpretation of information via collective memoryaction. The assumption behind this approach was that knowledge is a‘commodity’ readily captured and electronically delivered to employees.Knowledge was not recognized a process within which the use of an intranetdatabase is merely an information-supplying artifact and not a means-to-an-end.Therefore efforts were not made to contextualise information according to therelevance of its content to practitioners. In this way, the information delivered wasof too wide of a scope to be applicable to the specific circumstances ofcommunity practices found within the organization.In contrast, another initiative aimed to enable knowledge processes by providingspecific information support to community practices found within theorganization. The approach was in terms of codifying ‘raw data into more readilyusable forms of information’ (Walsham, 2001, italics added) in providing servicesto employees such as decision-making tools, templates intended for individualcustomization and ‘technology-push’ reports and news. This initiative was founduseful only partially because it did not always succeed in meeting demands fromparticular contexts for sense making of the provided information. In this way, thisapproach recognized that appropriate management of information delivered by ITcould have a role in knowledge creation, provided that the information isdelivered within the context of a community actively engaged in information-relevant collective sense-making. Therefore, only when individual needs wereappropriately anticipated and the information provided was good ‘material’ tostimulate knowledge processes within the community, was the ‘knowledge’database found useful. Information made sense only when it fulfilled someknowledge goal.In both above described technological initiatives, there is not a consideration forknowledge as a social phenomenon. Rather, it is regarded as removed from thevery social efforts that generate it and technology supporting it is usedaccordingly. A different application of technology for managing knowledge,however, is to consider the nature of knowledge social discourse10 and to increasethe value of social exchanges. This is illustrated in turn. 10 A ‘discourse’, in this sense, is a social exchange process, where people engage in multiple interactions by talking about issues of interest. 28
    • 3.2.2. Optimizing knowledge by increasing the value of social exchange with CTIn their work, Thompson and Walsham (2001) considered an additional initiativeof managing knowledge with respect to the ones reviewed above. Within thisinitiative, CT was embedded within the context of a ‘community-of-practice’,supporting knowledge processes as they developed within this community. Theseprocesses were enabled by a ‘continual inter-subjective communication betweenindividuals’, such as mentor relationships and multiple face-to-face interactions.Once enabled, these processes were supported, in the way of optimization, byappropriately managed CT, providing information within special interest groups,discussion boards, community indexes showing who is most knowledgeable abouta topic and email interaction. This initiative was deemed very successful in termsof making knowledge within the community readily available to all members.Within this initiative, there is a mix among complementary forms of humancommunication, such as face-to-face interactions and email, each contributingdifferent aspects to the knowledge process. In addition, the nature of the socialdiscourse within the community was considered paramount, with technologydeemed to support and not create it all together. CT was used in a general effort tooptimize what was already existing as socially constructed knowledge, thus notconstraining the existing communication process.Such member autonomy to choose the best communication medium (be it face-to-face or technological), as well as its content, in each case of interpersonalinteraction is necessary for healthy community development and participation(Wenger et al., 2002). A study by Maznevski and Chudoba (2000), where theauthors found that most successful ‘virtual teams’ tend to intersperse regular face-to-face meetings with less intensive electronic interaction incidents, furthersupports these conclusions. The nature of human knowledge necessitates aboveall an on-going informal discourse for its development, the potential of which canbe increased by CT bridging geographical spaces and time differences. This casestudy illustrates how managing knowledge is effective when there is a primaryfocus on knowledge as a socially evolving discourse, which process CT canoptimize. 29
    • 3.3. ConclusionsThe above section shows that technology is not useful to human knowledgecreation, unless technology supports a well-defined and overtly recognized socialprocess of participation in a community, this created with a knowledge purpose inmind. In this way, technology that optimizes communication among people andnot merely delivers information is most effective for managing knowledge.The next sections elaborate on the nature of knowledge as it unfolds in the processof community participation. This is in order to show the ways in which CT canand cannot support communication among people and how its use can optimizemanaging knowledge as a unified strategy for organization development. 30
    • 4. Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledgeThe purpose of this section is to provide a thorough account of the nature ofknowledge that plays a part in its acquisition. Within this work, it is consideredimportant to understand, both tacitly and explicitly, what human knowledge is, inorder to plan, deliver and carry out optimal ways for managing it withincommunities and organisations. These ways would be according to the benefitsthat CT can bring to knowledge processes and its limitations in optimising theseprocesses. The aim is to assure an effective co-evolution between knowledge andtechnology media, in terms of a socio-technical system.4.1. Polanyi’s view on the acquisition of knowledgeKnowledge is not only used, but also acquired in practice. Michael Polanyi (1962)makes one of the greatest contributions to our understanding of knowledge and itsacquisition.Polanyi states that all knowledge is above all ‘personal’, i.e. it is the result ofprocesses happening within ‘individual heads’ (quote from Cook and Brown,1999). Personal knowledge is both tacit and explicit, and is neither subjective norobjective, but lies between individual passions and acknowledged requirements(Polanyi, p. 300). Using one’s personal knowledge is exemplified by humanjudgement, which is similarly neither a subjective nor an objective act.In knowledge processes, there is a constant interaction between explicit and tacitcomponents of personal knowledge possessed by the individuals involved in theseprocesses. Such processes are not merely about knowledge exchange. When theyhappen within a defined community context, there is also generation of newknowledge that is the possession of the community, i.e. what Polanyi calls‘superior knowledge’.Regarding the acquisition of knowledge, Polanyi draws the important distinctionbetween tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge11. He states that it is the tacit 11 Tacit knowledge, associated with ‘tacit power’ and ‘tacit knowing’, when this knowledge is used in practice, is beyond human conscious awareness (Polanyi). Tacit knowing is what enables us to ‘make sense’ of novel experiences as we encounter them by integrating them within a framework created by previous experiences. In other words, tacit knowledge is the ‘outcome of an active shaping of experience performed in the pursuit of knowledge’ (p.6). It is the result of the application of ‘tacit power by which all knowledge is discovered and when discovered is held to be true’ (p. 6). In contrast, explicit knowledge is within human conscious awareness and can be spoken and found within books and databases. It is the knowledge that can be expressed through symbols, such as letters or formulas, as the result of intended explication. Explicit 31
    • knowledge shared by individuals that makes possible the perceivedmeaningfulness, exchange and acquisition of explicit knowledge12. Exchange ofexplicit knowledge, in turn, makes it possible for tacit powers within a domain ofpractice to be developed by the individuals involved in this practice, thusincreasing their potential for learning within this field of practice. In this way,situated learning within a context of practice is about a constant shifting betweenexplicit and tacit knowledge acquisition, in terms of a self-fulfilling cycle.Polanyi illustrates the process of knowledge acquisition with an example frommedical training (p. 101):“Think of a medical student attending a course in the X-ray diagnosis of pulmonary diseases. …At first the student is completely puzzled. … The experts seem to be romancing about fragmentsof their imagination; … Then as he goes on listening for a few weeks, looking carefully at everynew picture of different cases, a tentative understanding will dawn on him: he will gradually forgetabout the ribs and begin to see the lungs. And eventually, if he perseveres intelligently, a richpanorama of significant details will be revealed to him: … He still sees only a fraction of what theexperts can see, but the pictures are definitely making sense now and so do most of the commentsmade on them.”This example illustrates the mechanism of knowledge acquisition, where personalknowledge, both tacit and explicit, is exchanged and elaborated in the context ofpractice. This practice makes possible learning by generation of new knowledgein the process of interpersonal communication 13. knowledge, within itself, is always abstract as it uses a more or less commonly agreed code for expression. It is never independent of tacit knowledge, because all forms of explicit knowledge will ‘make sense’ and be understandable only when there is tacit power to deem them with personal significance (p. 203). In this way, there is no such thing as ‘objective explicit knowledge’ that will exist independently of individual tacit power to endow it with personal meaning though interpretation. 12 All knowledge is personal in that it simultaneously has explicit and tacit components being used for interpretation. Polanyi states: “An exact mathematical theory means nothing unless we recognize an inexact non-mathematical knowledge on which it bears and a person whose judgement upholds its bearing.“ (Polanyi, p. 195). Therefore, it is not possible to make sense of explicit knowledge unless we hold and apply tacit power through which we can incorporate this knowledge within a framework of personal experience. 13 In fact, Polanyi sees learning to be more complicated than this. In the process of interpersonal interaction, there can be primary development of ‘subsidiary awareness’ of the subject of this interaction, starting with an awareness of the whole and only then gradually discovering particular details about it. Alternatively, there can be primary development of ‘focal awareness’, where a person learning about a subject starts by developing an awareness of the details and only after beginning to appreciate the whole that these details constitute (e.g. students of anatomy usually develop focal awareness of the body organs, but initially experience great difficulty to spatially relate them in their natural positions within the body). Polanyi further argues that subsidiary awareness and focal awareness are two opposing 32
    • Cook and Brown (1999) also discuss the tacit-explicit knowledge dimension interms of knowledge acquisition:Precisely, tacit knowledge is what, for example, a bicycle rider knows how to dobut can’t say (e.g. say which way to turn in order to avoid a fall on the left or theright). In contrast, explicit knowledge is what, for example, a person trained toteach bicycle riding can say about which way to turn in order for a trainee toavoid a fall on the left or the right14.Cook and Brown further point out that each type of knowledge is distinct from theother, ‘doing work the other cannot’, and that one form of knowledge can not bemade or changed into the other’ (p. 73). In other words, tacit cannot be‘converted’ into explicit or vice versa, as some theorists argue (most prominentlyNonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). This is because, as far as explicit or tacit knowledgecomponents can be helpful in the acquisition of new knowledge, these remain inindividual possession while and after new knowledge is acquired. Learning aboutwhich way to turn in order to avoid a fall does not mean that tacit knowledgeabout riding a bike is lost. Thus new knowledge does not lie ‘hidden’ or dormantin old knowledge, but is generated during the activity of practice with the aid ofold knowledge.In this way, explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are both ‘tools’ for acquiringnew personal knowledge. They are both needed to make sense of and learninformation. Understanding how this happens is important for realising thepotentials and limitations of CT when used to optimise human knowledge.4.2. Understanding information to learn new knowledgeTo understand how information is used to form new knowledge, we need to thinkabout the nature of tacit and explicit dimensions of knowledge, used in knowledgeformation.As outlined above, if we do not possess tacit power to interpret an explicitconcept, we cannot effectively understand and learn the meaning of this concept. processes in the acquisition of knowledge. Effective learning requires both in a constant switching back and forth between them. 14 The tacit skill possessed by the individual in the first case can be helpful in him avoiding a fall while riding. In addition, it can be helpful in discovering which way to turn in order to avoid a fall while riding, thus drawing on his tacit knowledge in order to acquire a new explicit concept of personal knowledge. In the second case, the explicit concept possessed by the cyclist trainee case can be helpful in preventing him from falling off when riding, as well as helpful in him ‘getting the feel’ for staying upright on the bike. In this way, he would be using his explicit knowledge to acquire a tacit skill. 33
    • We can learn such meanings by getting involved in the context (e.g. a community-of-practice) from which the explicit concept has been originated, because thesecontexts hold the tacit powers and knowledge necessary to explicit conceptinterpretation and understanding.Therefore, the usefulness of CT for managing knowledge is limited. Precisely,explicit texts found within reference databases, on-line discussion boards andemail won’t make sense to individuals, unless these individuals hold relevant tacitpowers to enable their sense reading15 of these texts. Tacit powers are acquiredand used within communities-of-practice, endowing individuals with aninterpretative code for understanding these texts. For example, having a personalrelationship with the person posting a comment or sending an email produces acontext within which to embed the generated text (Walsham, 2001)16.Thus any process of knowledge creation is not a straightforward activity, butrather a negotiation of intended meanings within particular contexts. For thisprocess to be successful there needs to be sufficient overlap among the tacitknowledge and skills of the individuals communicating, in terms of them sharinga common cultural background, or a work practice. The value of technology inthis process is in enhancing the benefits from social communication to elaboratingon and generating socially produced knowledge. Technology cannot be used asmerely an information provider, but must be included within a community context 15 In his work, Polanyi further argues that it is not only the ‘making sense’ of explicit knowledge that is ‘personal’, according to the nature of the tacit powers used by the individuals in this process (i.e. ‘sense-reading’). So is the ‘endowing with sense’ of any explicit construction of knowledge that an individual produces (i.e. ‘sense-giving’) in an effort to communicate intended meanings dependent on his tacit understandings. In this way, in any knowledge discourse, there are at least three different sense-making processes: one where an individual sense-reads an event, second where he gives sense to this within a constructed explication and a third where another individual sense-reads this explication and interprets this according to his tacit knowledge (Walsham, 2001). 16 This is discussed by Antonelli (1997), who points out the limited potential of CT to the distribution of knowledge, in terms of it being a conductor for explicit (also called by him ‘codifiable’, this in reminiscence to descriptions of information in the literature), but not tacit knowledge. Johannessen et al. (2001) further argue that unilateral investment in CT may lead to a de-emphasising of tacit knowledge, hindering the development of sustainable competitive advantages; these authors additionally point out that, for tacit knowledge to be re-established for organisational sense-making, there is a need for continuous development of a sensitivity towards innovation, by “learning by doing, using, experimenting and interacting” (p. 13). This would be within apprenticeship groups and larger communities, in a way such that organisational knowledge is both explored for tacit meanings and exploited for practical applications. Neither Antonelli, nor Johannessen and his colleagues, however, seem to understand the complex mechanisms of human knowledge formation, in terms of its impossibility to be removed from ‘human heads’ and contexts. Such an understanding is nevertheless necessary in order to develop ways for managing knowledge in terms of general knowledge managing strategies. These strategies would optimise knowledge with the help of the communication potential that well designed CT offers. 34
    • of knowledge creation. This point is illustrated within the case studies byThompson and Walsham (2001) described earlier within the present review.In relation to this, Walsham concludes:“…the challenge is to design systems and approaches to their use which recognize the tacit basisof all sense-reading and sense-giving activities, and try to make these activities more meaningfuland valuable to all parties.” (Washam, p. 601, italics added)In other words, for the managing of knowledge, there must be primary concern forshared practice as ‘common ground’ among people. The concept of ‘commonground’ was introduced by Clark in relation to constant referral to shared artefactsin successful communication (Clark, 1992). In the present case, these sharedartefacts can be understood as explicit forms of communication enabled to existeffectively by tacit codes for their meaningful interpretation, created by thecommunity using the artifacts. An approach to CT use, where knowledge iseffectively managed within the context using the technology, would considerpeople, as knowers and not information users, to come first. In other words, thevalue of interpersonal communication would be seen as crucial to knowledgegeneration and, in this way only, to effective use of CT for managing knowledge.Hayes and Walsham (2000) additionally illustrate this point by describing a casestudy from a pharmaceutical company, where use of a shared database forrecording experiences, views and advice was introduced to salesmen to share‘best practice’ on the job. The purpose of the database was to optimize theknowledge of practitioners in distributed geographical locations of the companyand enable them to take better decisions in approaching specific projects.However, the company did not recognize the need for establishing a ‘commonground’ among the salesmen, so that they can effectively learn informationprovided by the database by bridging across each other’s knowledge. There wasnot a recognized approach to enable communities-of-practice before or in parallelto using the database, in order for the salesmen to develop tacit knowing as a wayfor sense making of database information17. The use of the electronic databasewas thus ineffective for managing knowledge because of the non-coordinatedsense-reading and sense-giving processes underlying the interpretations ofindividuals. The entering of information to communicate a meaning, and the 17 The role of context in tacit knowledge sharing is pointed out by Augier et al., (2001). 35
    • reading of information to understand and apply this understanding in practice,were not unified by a socially integrated purpose within a common practice. Thusexplicit knowledge entered into the database was not more than uselessinformation, as it could not acquire significance for individuals reading it and belearned by them to effectively apply on their jobs18.4.3. CT design for emerging culturesNewell, Scarbrough and Swan (2001) illustrate the points raised above in a casestudy, showing the importance of designing CT for managing knowledge with theassumption of it fitting a wider organizational context. They describe a globalbank with numerous decentralized branches in a structured attempt to manage ITknowledge among IT divisions and ultimately coordinate the IT infrastructuresthroughout the bank. The solution to this was seen in designing a corporateintranet and introducing this for shared use among all IT divisions. The intranetwas inefficient and ineffective, which the authors consider to be because of lackof recognition for the highly ‘context-dependent pattern of usage’ of thetechnology and ‘not enough effort put into coordination’ among the IT divisionswithin the bank. In this way, they point out the need for creation of a sufficientlycommon human context to guide and stimulate knowledge sharing and generationamong the IT divisions, with or without using the intranet.Therefore, designing technology for knowledge managing must operate insynergy with the context of the practice/practices that are to use the technology,for it to be effective. If this practice is not existent, then it should be allowed toemerge, so that the designed technology has a practical reason for its creation toassure its effectiveness19. 18 In the language of Polanyi, conditions were not created for the salesmen to ‘find the same set of symbols manageable for the purpose of skillfully reorganizing their knowledge’ (p. 205). 19 Newell et al. further point out that adequate technological ‘infrastructure’ and ‘infostructure’ (Bressand and Distler, 1995) of the intranet were altogether insufficient in making the intranet effective. Whereas the meaning of the term ‘infrastructure’ is clear, ‘infostructure’ for them means the rules that bind a common language, in terms of the explicit jargon and terminology connected by syntactic and semantic relationships, together (Vygotski, 1986). Infostructure is explicit group knowledge, also referred to as ‘heuristics’ (Tsoukas and Vladimirou, 2001). The authors hypothesize that the technology serving the IT divisions could have been effective if there was a common ‘infoculture’ (Bressand and Distler, 1995) as a human context to embed usage, additional to the above-described levels of technology existence. An ‘infoculture’ is the social relations’ context within which the ‘infostructure’ is embedded, this by the negotiation of meanings to agree a code for infostructure tacit interpretation. An infoculture thus allows interplay between tacit and explicit components of personal knowledge within a community and the related generation of superior, i.e. collective, knowledge (Polanyi, 1962). 36
    • 4.4. ConclusionsUsing CT for effectively managing knowledge aims to optimize the knowledgeactivities organized within communities-of-practice. As described above, theexistence of community interactions other than via CT, e.g. face-to-face, isimportant to the healthy existence of the community and for the effectiveness ofCT in supporting already existing interpersonal processes with view of knowledgecreation. This is because community processes provide a ‘common ground’, interms of an explicit language and a tacit code for its interpretation, to which CTcan be adapted, and flexibly adapting to, in order to optimize the knowledgeprocesses already defined within the community20. The dynamics betweenknowledge possessed by separate individuals and knowledge possessed by all ofthem together as being part of a community is discussed in the next section. 20 Once these processes are defined and social prerequisites exist for elaboration on knowledge, effective use of CT for managing knowledge could happen in terms of a socio- technical interaction (Kling, 1993). The CT infrastructure would be tailored to the community infoculture and infostructure, in order for co-evolution among the three to continuously take place; thus technology flexibility would allow the community to discover new ways of using the knowledge it has. In this way, knowledge within these cultures would not be merely enabled or effectively supported by technology, but optimized, in terms of allowing for synergistic co-evolution between social groups and technology. Such a socio- technical system can happen with adequate social and technological ‘platforms’ allowing for interplay between tacit and explicit knowledge among community members to take place and yield coherent ‘superior’ knowledge (Brown, 1998). 37
    • 5. Individual and organizational knowledge To illustrate the importance of organizational, i.e. collective, knowledge and its relationship to individual knowledge, we will go back to the case study by Orr (1996) of the Xerox Parc technical representatives. Rather than relying solely on information provided by training courses or instruction manuals to address machinery problems and repair failure, the technical representatives found relying on each other’s personal knowledge far more helpful. Knowledge exchange happened as they gathered together for breakfast, lunch or coffee and discussed their experiences on the job, in this way turning their personal knowledge into collective knowledge bound within their community-of-practice. This informal exchange helped them reach beyond the limitations of their individual expertise and mere information provided to them by training courses and instruction manuals, and create a collective practice. In this way, they could transfer the knowledge of their collective practice to their individual practices in order to provide effective client service. In this way, knowledge is not merely comprised of tacit and explicit components. Knowledge is a valid social, as well as individual, construct, each having tacit and explicit elements in its entirety. To illustrate the nature of knowledge in its entirety, knowledge taxonomy proposed by Cook and Brown (1999) is displayed on the table below. This taxonomy bears a close resemblance, while also being an extension, to Polanyi’s work. Table 1. Four forms of knowledge according to a taxonomy provided by Cook, S. & Brown, J., 1999. (In ‘Bridging Epistemologies: the Generative Dance Between Organizational Knowledge and Organizational Knowing’, Organization Science, 10, 381-400.). INDIVIDUAL GROUPEX EXPLICIT CONCEPTS STORIES TACIT SKILLS GENRES 38
    • Cook and Brown differentiate between knowledge possessed by individuals andknowledge possessed by groups. Furthermore, these authors argue that individualsand groups each do epistemic work that the other cannot, in terms of tacit andexplicit knowledge possessed and used by them to generate new knowledgewithin individual and group practices21.Therefore, according to these authors, organizational (i.e. group) knowledge, asinterplay between explicit and tacit knowledge components in its developmentand generation, is an entity in its own right that must be accounted for whenattempts at managing knowledge within groups and organizations are made. Thenature of collective cognitions and collective practices in the process oforganizational knowledge formation is thus important in attempts to optimizethese by using CT systems for managing knowledge.5.1. Why is organizational knowledge important?The above emphasizes the importance of taking organizational knowledge intoaccount when attempts at managing knowledge within organizations are made, toenable and sustain competitive advantages.This is because, whereas individual knowledge formation has a direct impact onactions undertaken within the organization, organizational knowledge informsthese actions indirectly, being the result of individual understandings that haveevolved collectively throughout connected individual experiences (Tsoukas andVladimirou, 2001). Within organizations, what is deemed important to individualsis the result of ways of thinking and practices evolved on an organizational andmuch less individual level.Understanding the nature of collective thought and practice is thus important inorder to be able to leverage these, as well as the individual thoughts and practicescomprising them, towards achievement of the organizational mission. Such 21 In this way, individual medical practitioners possess explicit knowledge of what exemplifies a type of pathology and ‘know-how’ to apply this knowledge when making diagnoses in specific cases in their practice. All medical practitioners’ explicit knowledge, however, as a collective (i.e. group) possession, constitutes the heuristic definitions and contents of the medical profession. This is a common language to use in communication, to bind all medical practitioners together in the context of their collective practice, as the ensemble of all individual practices. It has a collectively agreed tacit ‘know-how’, in terms of tacit ways for interpretation of particular heuristic examples found in practice (e.g. knowing what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable basis for a diagnosis) and tacit ways for approaching new medical cases (Cook and Brown, 1999). 39
    • understanding calls for an awareness of group processes and how the nature ofthese processes changes according to types of individuals partaking.Finally, understanding group and organizational knowledge calls for designingsystems to suit the dynamic evolution of organizations as collections of peoplewho use knowledge together, and not individually, to leverage resources.Designing systems to merely suit individuals, interacting with individualinterfaces, is in the very least insufficient to suit organizational needs andoptimize organizational processes. Here, issues of CT usability go beyondindividual interfaces towards design of multi-user systems that take organizationalactivity into account (Kling and Elliott, 1994).5.2. Nature of organizational knowledge: explicit heuristics and tacit genresCook and Brown (1999) further argue that the process of organizationalknowledge is the same as the process of individual knowledge described earlier,but on a scale where this is a collective, rather than just an individual phenomenonof cognition and practice22. It follows from here that design and use of CT tooptimize the managing of organizational knowledge must account fororganizational knowledge in its entirety, as having explicit and tacitcomponents23.Explicit group knowledge summarizes group culture within ‘stories’ about howwork is done, as well as famous successes and failures (Orr, 1996). It is alsocontained within metaphors and analogies that serve to convey special meanings.Explicit group knowledge is heuristic, in that it is a summary of group practices(Collins, 1990). Tsoukas and Vladimirou consider heuristics to reside both in theminds of separate individuals and within collectively produced stories sharedacross the community. These heuristics they describe as: 22 Explicit knowledge in groups does work that tacit knowledge in groups cannot. Both explicit and tacit knowledge within groups generate the learning of new group knowledge when at interplay, while still remaining within group possession after new knowledge has been learnt (Cook and Brown, 1998). 23 It was already discussed that CT is limited to transfer of information and not knowledge in its entirety, unless contextual processes, where tacit negotiations of meanings take place among individuals, happen additional to technology use by these individuals. This is because information does not make human sense unless embedded within a meaningful context of human practice. Therefore, for CT aiming to optimize organizational knowledge creation, there must be a consideration for the nature and needs of organizational practices, as well as the relationships between these practices that make the organization a coherent knowledge body. 40
    • “…a conceptual matrix woven by the organization. Such a conceptual matrix contains genericcategories (e.g. ‘service quality’, ‘happy customer’ …) and their interrelations (e.g. ‘high qualityservice makes customers happy’)”. (p. 989). 24Tacit group knowledge is contained within the implicit approach of groups andorganizations towards collective interpreting of information. It is also exemplifiedby their efforts at conveying meanings within heuristic cultural statements.Tacit group knowledge are group ‘genres’ (a little bit like literary genres):discursive frames enabling the collective creation and understanding of stories,metaphors and analogies, as well as mission statements.In this way, genres are group-negotiated approaches to sense making that can notbe articulated (Cook and Brown, 1999) and are an important part of organizationalculture in terms of its underlying assumptions (Schein, 1990). These genres arecreated in the process of common practice within and among communities andorganizations and provide a tacit code for successfully communicating knowledgemessages among practitioners from different organizational and organizationcontexts25.Genres in organizations can be frames for interpreting the continual meaning ofvarious physical and social artifacts, such as objects and tools in organizationalpractice (this can also extend to technology ‘tools’). Genres can also be unspokenways of approaching and carrying out meetings, in terms of widely agreed culturalexpectations (e.g. Gonzales and Antonia, 2002), or frames for composing andinterpreting texts, in terms of meanings implicit to different media carrying thetexts (e.g. a note, a memo, a letter, an email)26. 24 If formally captured, heuristics are turned into propositions (i.e. ‘if’ statements describing practice rules) to form organizational memory guiding individual action. In this way, heuristics are not more than an explicit abstraction of the rules governing the practice of an organization. They are incomplete in capturing the entirety of organizational knowledge and insufficient in enabling the practice that they effectively summarize (Tsoukas, 1996). Practice can only be done by improvisation re-arranging existing heuristics into knowledge of personal and group significance (Bell, 1999). Such improvisation involves tacit group knowledge used in actions of human judgement. 25 Such tacitly agreed collective codes for sense making happen over the course of ‘practice among practices’. This should be inherently informal (in terms of ‘healthy autonomy’ considered an important characteristic of successful communities-of-practice; Wenger and Snyder, 2000) and develops continuously over time. To facilitate a common organizational practice among communities found within an organization, efforts must be made to develop genres to continuously assure accurate sense making and unambiguity within the organization. In this way, managing organizational knowledge should stimulate the development of social practices fostering communication among communities and ensuring that knowledge within the organization is coherent. 26 For example, email communication of a text can be interpreted differently in different organizations according to the tacitly agreed status of this type of communication media, 41
    • Therefore, genres and heuristics are essential to coherent knowledge dynamicswithin an organization, where all knowledge is effectively harnessed to serve thepurpose of the organization. This happens by widespread heuristic rules that aremade practically possible within existing community genres.5.3. Organizational knowledge and individual actionAs outlined above, a number of explorations in the literature on ‘organizationalknowledge’ and ‘organizational epistemology’ (e.g. Krogh and Roos, 1995) havetreated knowledge possessed and generated by groups in its own right, as adistinct category from knowledge possessed and generated by individuals.Nevertheless, organizational knowledge is also described in constant interactionwith knowledge possessed by individuals. This is because it is discursivelyformed in the process of socially constructed heuristics, by drawing onexperiences in individual practices (Yakhlef, 2002; Tsoukas, 1998; Tsoukas andVladimirou, 2001). Some theories consider organizational knowledge as the resultof an ‘organizing process’, where collectively derived assumptions, values andbeliefs guide organizational sense-making and integration of meanings, all in theprocess of individual practices (McPhee and Zaug, 2001).Within the present section, it is shown that organizational knowledge, both interms of heuristics and multiple genres for their interpretation, informs individualactions in specific cases in practice. Therefore, managing knowledge necessarilyaffects the effectiveness of an organization by indirectly influencing individualactions of organizational members.Tsoukas and Vladimirou (2001) illustrate the importance of group knowledge toindividual actions undertaken within the organization within a case study. Theydescribe operators within a call centre of a mobile telecommunications companyin Greece, having to use an electronic database of information plus paperinstructions to assist them when answering customer calls. The most valuable helpthat operators had in the process of their work was not the information providedby these sources, but the knowledge existing within the call centre community-of-practice. This knowledge effectively bounded the information provided by thesesources within a strong framework of cultural assumptions, values, heuristic which is deemed appropriate, trustworthy and valuable for certain but not other types of text (e.g. Schwartz, 1999). Therefore the effectiveness of email, although this is an efficient type of CT technology, will be undermined if the technology is not appropriately used in accordance to organizational genres. 42
    • propositions and tacit skills to orient operator actions within the confusingcircumstances of their practice27.From their observations, Tsoukas and Vladimirou conclude that ‘human action inorganizations necessarily draws on organizational knowledge, namely on sets ofgeneralizations underlain by collective understandings (i.e. tacit ‘genres’) andactivated in particular contexts.’ (p. 984, brackets added).In this way, they fuse Polanyi’s notion that all knowledge is personal withWittgenstein’s notion that all knowledge is fundamentally collective, thusemphasizing that all personal knowledge is made possible by knowledgepossessed and developed within a larger group or organization. Group knowledgeis created by people discoursing about the particularities of their practice. Thisgroup knowledge, in turn, serves communities-of-practice to ‘make sense’ ofinformation provided by electronic and paper sources in the context of practicalcases. It also guides individual actions in an effort to successfully transforminformation into propositional heuristics. As McCarthy (1994) points out:“What gives organizational knowledge its dynamism is the dialectic between the general and theparticular. Without the general no action is possible. And without the particular no action will beeffective.” (McCarthy, 1994, p. 68).5.4. ConclusionsIn this way, organizational knowledge, as a common culture unifying ways ofthinking and practices serving a particular mission, makes all individual actionpossible and effective. Managing knowledge aims above all to optimize the socialrelations by which organizational knowledge is made possible, by developingexplicit and tacit aspects of this knowledge that impact individual ways ofthinking and acting within organizations. Optimization of organizationalknowledge naturally leads to organization effectiveness by enhancing the strategicvalue of individual member actions within a community or an organization. AsTsoukas (1998) points out: 27 It is also important to note that this knowledge happened ‘in operator heads’, where the provided technology was adapted to the particular demands of cases constituting their practice. Knowledge was exemplified in operator continuous judgements of the meaning of different case circumstances, a skill that they had developed by discursively elaborating on their individual experiences in the context of their common practice, similarly to the technicians described by Orr (1996). 43
    • “… the management of the heuristic aspect of organizational knowledge implies more the sensitivemanagement of social relations and less the management of corporate digital information”.(Tsoukas, 1998, italics added).In this way, Communication Technology used for managing knowledge should bedesigned with a view of these informal and dynamic social relations, to effectivelysupport them by a flexible technological infrastructure designed to suit theautonomy that they need in order to flourish. In other words, using CT formanaging knowledge must consider the nature of organizational knowledge interms of its heuristics and genres. It must successfully implement the technologywithin a wider context of knowledge creation, at a place where the technology caneffectively co- exist with and support tacit and explicit processes generatingpurposeful interpersonal interactions.The next section discusses the nature of practice and how, through the dynamicsof social relations, it nurtures and generates human knowledge, on the one hand,and new ways of acting this knowledge out in practice, on the other. 44
    • 6. Knowing in practiceAs already pointed out, human knowledge is, by its nature, a process, not acommodity that is codifiable within an IT repository of information (Wenger etal., 2002). The reason for this is that human knowledge is useful only when foundand applied in ‘practice’.The term ‘practice’ was originally coined by MacIntyre (1985) and has receivedmultiple other definitions: a ‘form of life’ (Wittgenstein, 1958), a ‘consensualdomain’ (Maturana and Varela, 1988, a medium for the engenderment of‘meaning’ (Gadamer, 1989) and a ‘sustained domain of action’ (Tsoukas andVladimirou, 2002). A ‘practice’ is essentially a context where human knowledgecan be applied and new knowledge can be generated. This is following theprinciple of ‘dynamic affordance’28 as an on-going interaction between ‘knowers’and environmental and/or social properties (Cook and Brown, 1998). Withoutsuch a practice, knowledge possessed by individuals and organizations is deemeduseless, i.e. without any value in the generation of new knowledge.The dynamic nature of human knowledge is pointed out by Tsoukas andVladimirou (2001), who define knowledge as the acquired ability to drawdistinctions and exercise judgment within a domain of action as a concrete contextof practice. Lanzara and Patriotta (2002) also point the ‘interactive, provisionaland controversial’ nature of knowledge within organizations, where this emergesas the outcome of inquiry, local disputes, experiments and reassembling ofopposing views within the context of particular practice. Thus knowledge is adiscursive social phenomenon useful only when found and applied in practice,where it can be used as its nature demands.6.1. Knowledge as possession and knowing as practiceThe above sections make clear the importance of entering existing knowledge ininteraction with environment and other knowledge, in order to derive newknowledge. In this way, knowledge in action makes possible not only exchange ofknowledge among the people involved in the interaction, but also generation ofnew knowledge over the course of this interaction, within the context of acommon practice. In addition, there is exchange and generation of ways ofknowing this knowledge over the course of this practice. 28 The notion of ‘dynamic affordance’ is further explained later in this section. 45
    • Cook and Brown (1998) illustrate the dynamics of knowledge by distinguishingbetween ‘epistemology of possession’ and ‘epistemology of practice’.Epistemology of possession is ‘what is known’, i.e. ‘possessed in the head’, interms of individual, organizational, tacit and explicit knowledge. This has anessentially static character and does not capture the nature of knowledge in itsentirety. It is knowledge used in action.Epistemology of practice is action carried out to apply, use and elaborate onknowledge (as what is possessed in ‘human heads’) by practicing old andacquiring new ways of ‘knowing’ knowledge (as what is part of human practices).Knowing is knowledge as part of action, i.e. things we are doing and can onlyknow as part of practice. It is hard to understand what knowing is, unless one hasever been a practitioner.Furthermore, knowing is not, for example, tacit knowledge, because knowingrequires present activity, whereas tacit knowledge does not. Knowing is aboutrelation and interaction between the knower and the world using knowledge as atool, whereas knowledge is about possession of this tool.To give an example, to say that ‘the government are writing a policy for ruraldevelopment’ calls for an understanding of the entirety of the epistemic workbeing done by this group. This is both in terms of the knowledge that they possessof rural development and how policies are created, and the particular groupactions they engage in to be able to pull their knowledge together (i.e. duringinteractions with the context of their work and each other). In the process of theseactions they not only use and elaborate on existing knowledge, but also participatein old and new ways of ‘knowing’ this knowledge, in order to fulfill a practicalgoal. In this way, ‘knowing’ is distinct from knowledge, in that knowing is whatenables us to put our knowledge to work, in order to use it. By engaging incollective knowing, we acquire new knowledge and new ways of knowing as partof our practice.Cook and Brown consider knowledge and knowing, although distinct from eachother, to be complementary and mutually enabling in a potentially generativephenomenon, i.e. ‘a generative dance’. This is illustrated in the quote below:“ … for human groups, the source of new knowledge and knowing lies in the use of knowledge asa tool of knowing within situated interaction with the social and physical world.” 46
    • Using knowledge that we possess in known and new ways of knowing makespossible the situated learning, within the context of practice, of new knowledgeand new ways of knowing our knowledge. The epistemology of knowing unifiesalready possessed and to-be-generated knowledge, as well as knowing how to useknowledge as part of actions in known and unknown practices. In other words,knowing is this part of action that does ‘epistemic work’, in terms of puttingknowledge at work and practicing old and new ways of knowing knowledge, inorder to derive new knowledge and ways of knowing this knowledge.In this way, for CT to optimize the managing of knowledge, it must support theepistemic work that people within communities and organizations do in itsentirety. This is in order for knowledge to be effectively used and renewed.Alternatively, if CT is not of right technological potential, it must (in all cases) bepart of a general knowledge managing strategy aiming to fully develop theknowledge potential of communities/organizations and use CT in this processaccording to the potential that it offers.For knowledge managing, it is in fact ‘knowing’ that is of interest, rather thanmerely knowledge as the tool and product of knowing. Knowing allows forgenerative dynamics among individual and organizational knowledge, both interms of tacit and explicit components, by continuously informing individualactions within the organization. In this way knowing makes knowledge useful tocommunities/organizations. The dynamics of knowing must therefore beconsidered when designing systems for knowledge optimization and planningknowledge-managing strategies as a whole. Cook and Brown break downknowing in terms of ‘productive inquiries’ with the world that happen during‘dynamic affordances’ between knowers and world properties. The nature of theseis considered in turn and thorough understanding of knowing is attempted.6.2. Productive enquiryEngaging in productive enquiry is motivated by the existence of a problem, aquestion, a troublesome situation or a provocative insight that is actively beingsought an answer, a solution or a resolution. Productive enquiry is systematic andnot a ‘random search’, because it is informed, or ‘disciplined’, by the nature ofknowledge that we already possess. In this way, productive enquiry is not merelyabout asking questions, but also engaging in a process of investigation with otherpeople participating (directly or indirectly). Thus the idea behind productive 47
    • enquiry is similar to Polanyi’s notion of ‘intelligent efforts’ that individualsengender among themselves when they share an ambition to learn about a topic.Existing knowledge is rather like a tool in the process of enquiry. Knowing inenquiry respects the demands and constraints of the knowledge that we possess, inorder to be successful in achieving a practical goal.To return to the above example of the government group creating a policy,knowledge that government members possess of rural development won’t helpthem create a policy, unless they engage in a shared activity to use theirknowledge as tool. Over the course of this activity, they will be interacting witheach other’s personal styles and preferences, which will shape the process of theirmultiple interactions, as will also the practice context within which they interact.These interactions will be effective in producing the desired policy, provided thatexisting knowledge of government members is intelligently used in the process oftheir collaborative activity, according to assumptions, values and beliefs sharedwithin the public and civil sector. Therefore, for any knowledge to be used andnew knowledge to be generated, thus optimized, there must be knowing to makethis possible.In this way, CT designed to support and optimize knowledge managing mustaccount for the importance of members of a group to engage in a process ofknowing, in order to use and generate knowledge as they work together. Thisprocess of knowing could be technologically enabled within a CT infrastructurethat allows for continual interpersonal interactions among members. However,provided that such an infrastructure exists for use, it must be part of a generalknowledge managing strategy that above all enables knowing in a social andorganizational plan, by creating conditions for interpersonal communication(Walsham, 2001).6.3. Dynamic affordanceCook and Brown further define the conceptual way in which productive enquiry,once enabled, unfolds in practice. This they call ‘dynamic affordance’.Following on Gibson’s (1979) work on perception, they point out that affordanceis not primarily about perception, but about relationships between perceivedcharacteristics of the world and issues of inherent concern to people emerging inhuman practices (Gaver, 1991). These relationships are on going and dynamic, inthe sense that the world’s perceived characteristics evolve as properties of 48
    • ‘facility’ or ‘frustration’ over the course of our interactions with them. Facilitiesand frustrations emerge according to what we already know that constrains thenature of our interactions, as well as what we want to achieve and what we learnin the situated context of these interactions (Ortega, 1961).Cook and Brown point out that there is no such thing as affordances that can bereliably predicted in order to, for example, define technological designrequirements. Rather, accounting for affordances needs to consider the particularsof the interaction over which these affordances emerge, as the situated context ofhuman action.To give a simple example, we don’t know how our interaction with clay in orderto manipulate it will develop, until we engage in this interaction within aparticular context. Without the dynamic affordances of our interaction with thetensile strength of this material, within the particular context, we cannot learn tomanipulate it in the way we want or enact what we already know about suchmanipulations. The only way for us to use our knowledge to achieve what wewant is by engaging in a knowing interaction, which process allows us toelaborate our knowledge.In this way, for CT to support knowing processes in their entirety as collections ofpeople’s productive enquiries and dynamic affordances between them and theenvironment, it needs to be sufficiently flexible in its design to suit the dynamicand particularly dialectic interactions happening among people over the course oftheir practice. Optimization of knowing, be it via technology and/or other aspectsof a general knowledge managing strategy, will naturally enhance the knowledgeused in the process of this knowing, throughout collective practice.6.4. ConclusionsUsing Communication Technologies to support the managing of knowledge has toaccount not only for knowledge and how people organize this over the course ofinteraction and practice, but also for ways of knowing this knowledge as part ofpractice. During practice, inter-personal relationships unfold, in order to makecollective knowing possible. This collective knowing is of vital importance to thegeneration of new knowledge in the context of practice. Therefore, if CT is usedas part of a general knowledge managing strategy, it must be implemented withinthe context of practice, as much as its technological potential allows. If CT provesinadequate to support the dynamics of practice, then compensatory efforts must be 49
    • made to continuously develop and sustain this practice in its entirety, so that newknowledge can be derived from knowing knowledge in practice. The aim is toplan, deliver and carry out an effective knowledge managing strategy, accordingto the exact range of available CT potential for optimizing knowledge as part ofpractice. 50
    • 7. Recommendations for approaches to Communication Technologyuse for managing knowledgeThe above literature review serves to derive recommendations for approachingthe use (according to Walsham, 2001) of Communication Technology formanaging knowledge, in order to ensure that technology is not only efficient butmost importantly effective in this process. These recommendations can also beused as criteria for evaluating knowledge-managing initiatives usingCommunication Technology in their process. The recommendations are:Allow for situated learning within communities-of-practiceAim to optimize social processes within these communities, rather than overtlyfocus on developing existing and newly generated knowledge as a commodity thatexists outside of peopleConsider the informal, spontaneous and autonomous nature of social relationswithin these communities and aim to optimize these by ‘minimal support’technological platformsEnsure there is learning about being practitioners and not about practice, i.e.facilitate shared activityFocus on informal facilitation of emergent social relationsAim for development of such a sense for the community where knowledge isregarded a ‘public good’Avoid imposition of roles or tasks on members but allow them to naturally findand purchase their interests within the communityDo not impose restrictions on types of issues that would be of concernAllow for constant ‘fresh blood’ into the community by giving novices legitimateperipheral access to communication and creating conditions for them ‘stealing’knowledge 51
    • Understand the distinction between information and knowledgeUnderstand that information is not of use to people, unless serving a purpose ofenabling human knowledge within shared contexts of practical activityDesign technology with personalization, rather than knowledge codificationassumptions behind itUnderstand that information can enable human knowledge if delivered into acontext where it is relevant to contextual activitiesUnderstand that information in itself can not optimize human knowledge, butprocesses of social construction of knowledge, where there is continuousdevelopment of interpersonal relationships, canRecognize the distinction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge interms of equally important components of personal knowledgeRecognize that explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are both needed forunderstanding information, therefore assure that information carried bytechnology reaches knowledge contexts and not decontextualized environments interms of the content of the informationRecognize that tacit knowledge, needed for understanding explicit knowledge, isnot manageable by Information Technology but within commonly groundedgroupsAssure development of social groups where tacit knowledge is used and generatedto make sense of explicit knowledge by regular face-to-face incidents interspersedwith electronic communicationDesign systems for emergent cultures where tacit and explicit knowledge arenaturally created as common cultural grounds defining the structure and type oftechnology to suit themAvoid designing systems without considering the importance of having definedsocial contexts first, in terms of tacit interpretative powers and explicit knowledgeemerging in the process of informal discourse construction 52
    • Recognize the distinction between group/organizational knowledge andindividual knowledge and their equal importance for knowledge creationEnable use of multi-user systems that take organizational activity and not merelyindividual behaviors into accountAssure that any technology has an agreed status as part of group development andhas not been imposed on useApproach organizations as communities-of-communities, by enabling social andtechnological channels linking among communities to co-evolve in a knowledge-creating synergyApproach communities and groups as collections of individuals where social andtechnological channels linking among individuals co-evolve in a knowledgecreating synergyRecognize that electronic systems are limited to provision of explicit text removedfrom context for interpretation, therefore encourage parallel development of suchcontexts as communities-of-practice, by facilitating intelligent efforts atcollaborative learning among peopleEncourage the development of community knowledge in order to assure sensitivemanagement of social relations that will inform individual actions, whether or notinvolving use of the technologyConsider knowledge as part of action and not merely as a possessionEnsure that there is a social group or community engaged in a shared activity, inorder for them to use their knowledge in practice and generate new knowledge aspart of the development of this practiceAllow for continuous self-fulfilling interaction and building of social relations tostimulate knowledge creationAdmit the impossibility of predicting what the course of the interpersonalinteractions among group and community members will be, or what the outcomesof their productive enquiries with the social and physical environment will be:knowledge is a self-fulfilling process, not a project that team members work on 53
    • 8. Conclusions to Part IIWithin this review, it was attempted to outline factors in the nature of humanknowledge use, formation and application in practice that are to be considered inCommunication Technology (CT) design and use for managing of knowledge.These factors pertain to knowledge acquisition in terms of tacit and explicit typesof knowledge possessed by individuals and organizations and applying knowledgein practice, as the most important resource people and organizations have.It was shown that knowledge is an informally dynamic process of socialconstruction within communities-of-practice, that CT can optimize if itsinfrastructure is sufficiently flexible in order to provide adequate ‘minimalsupport’ to host but not constrain the dynamic interpersonal relationshipsunfolding within these communities. Consideration for the self-fulfilling andresistant to ordaining from the outside nature of human knowledge will ensurethat knowledge is understood as a phenomenon involving managing of people andnot information. In this way, design and approaches to the use of CT for managingknowledge in practice will accommodate knowers and not users. Furthermore, thetechnological potential that an organization has will be appropriately harnessed tomake most of its knowledge resources, where use of effective knowledge, and notefficient technology, is a primary concern.It was concluded that knowledge is above all distinct from information, becauseknowledge resides ‘in the heads’ of human knowers and is not a commodity thatcan be transferred by electronic means. In addition, knowledge does not onlyexclusively reside within people, but is also part of the actions they undertake.This is because human knowledge is a discursive social phenomenon that isconstructed as part of human practice and is found useful only when applied inpractice or contexts derived from practice. Therefore, CT designed to optimizehuman knowledge processes should aim to support human practices in terms ofthe continuous development of interpersonal relations found in practice, ratherthan focus on knowledge as a definable entity. In addition, CT used for optimizinghuman knowledge should in fact ensure that such knowledge processes areexistent in the first place, in terms of conditions, found within communities-of-practice, that facilitate knowledge formation.Within this review, the nature of practice, as a medium where human knowledgethrives within cultivated interpersonal relationships, was examined. Practice is 54
    • distinct from knowledge as such, because practice involves ways of knowingknowledge possessed by individuals and organizations. In this way, practice isthis part of human activity that ‘does epistemic work’, in terms of using existingknowledge in known and new ways of knowing, to generate new knowledge andways of knowing, so that members of the community undertaking the practicebecome more and more competent on what is the nature of their interest. Practiceis thus a dynamic inherently social process where knowledge is found to be ofpractical use. It is concluded that, for optimization of knowledge, it is thephenomenon of human practice that is of interest, which is essentially differentfrom activities existing within over-structured environments found withintypically mechanistic organizations.Finally, it has been argued throughout this literature review that use of CT formanaging knowledge should adopt a socio-technical perspective rather than a‘technology as a tool’ perspective. This is because, according to some researchers(e.g. Kling, 1993), the potential that technology offers can be maximally used inefforts at optimization, only when there is a synergy between technology andsociety.Ways for achieving socio-technical systems is by thoroughly considering thenature of human processes that these systems are meant to optimize. Withknowledge, it was shown that these processes are socially constructed andinherently ambiguous, unless found within the context of human practices.Therefore, the achieving of appropriate meanings in order to discard ambiguity isthe result of processes of human search for knowledge within communities-of-practice that can not be ordained by inflexible and impersonalized technology, butrather facilitated by flexible technological platforms.In such a way, for socio-technical systems, the nature of human processes withingroups and organizations must be considered. This is towards developing of anotion of organizational usability, rather than mere desktop interface usability, inorder to optimize human processes in their dialectic entirety, without constrainingthem in models inapplicable in actual organizational practice. Human-ComputerInteraction, or Socio-Technical Interaction, must strive to achieve a vision of amore effective and self-fulfilling society. 55
    • Part IIILearning Networks at the Countryside AgencyMarket Towns Learning Network Equipping Rural Communities Learning NetworkRural Affairs Forum for England Learning Network
    • 1. IntroductionWithin the present part, three Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency areevaluated against the criteria for effective managing of knowledge usingCommunication Technology derived from the literature review outlined in theprevious part II of this work.In this way, the aim of this final part is to illustrate managing of knowledge withinan organization, according to derived criteria. These criteria will be practicallyvalidated, by being used to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the knowledgemanaging process observed in the real life examples at the Countryside Agency.Using these criteria will also importantly help to understand the barriers toeffective knowledge managing existing in the public sector within the UK.1.1. The problem behind managing knowledge in the UK public sectorBy describing knowledge managing practices within a real life public sectororganization, the difficulties that work structures and practices in the public sectorimpose on effective managing of knowledge within this sector are illustrated. Thisis in terms of the need for knowledge to thrive in autonomous flexible cultures,where interpersonal communication is driven by interest and not by statusaccorded to person-fulfilled roles, these roles imposed culturally, technologically,or both. Public sector communication, in terms of the culture prevalent in thissector, may sometimes be over-dependent on role-delivered messages and notpeople themselves.It is considered that, because of this, the potential of technology to optimizeknowledge managing can be greatly misperceived in public sector executivecircles (as well as some private sector practices, but this is not the purpose of thepresent work).Typically, knowledge managing technology is designed, and approached,according to what managers see as the right way for knowledge managing toproceed. This is in terms of generally accepted structures and roles ordained onthe way things actually happen within organizations29, which is in terms ofinformal networks of people. Technology is not always designed and approached29 According to Brown (1998), there is a marked difference between ordained practice in anorganization (in terms of ways top management sees that work should proceed) and actual practicein an organization (in terms of how employees actually proceed with their work, by formingessentially informal communities-of-practice). The research by Brown is described in Part II ofthis work. 57
    • with the assumption that it cannot be a substitute for this spontaneous face-to-facecommunication, aiming to build human relationships and expand network ofcontacts.What needs to be recognized is that technology cannot create this process, but canmake it more efficient, once this has been made effective by facilitatorymanagement. This can happen by bridging geographical distances and offeringnovel ways for communicating with people that are already known, in order tospontaneously elaborate on knowledge.In this way, because of the frequently possible emphasis on ordained and notactual practice within the UK public sector, the various views of principalstakeholders, other than central and chief executives, may not always be takeninto account in knowledge managing practice and designing technology for it.This would result in low effectiveness of knowledge managing initiatives and thesystems that they use within organizations.The evaluation of the three knowledge-managing initiatives (Learning Networks)at the Countryside Agency indeed shows that the lack of consideration for actualpractice within the organization and the public sector at large can be the greatestproblem behind ineffective Communication Technology used for managingknowledge. 58
    • 2. MethodologyThe Learning Network evaluation consisted of conducting informal unstructuredand semi-structured interviews with the managers of each Learning Network(facilitators), as well as distributing a general questionnaire to members of thecommunities that the networks were deemed to support. This questionnaire wasdistributed to Learning Network (from now on referred as LN) members viaemail.The interviews and questionnaire were designed to investigate the assumptionsbehind managing and using the networks, as well as the perceived benefits ofmembers from not only using the networks, but also being part of thecommunities that these networks support. In this way, the effectiveness of thenetworks at supporting general knowledge managing strategies, thus beingappropriately used according to the nature of optimization potential they can offer,was verified.Once data from interviews and questionnaire were obtained, these were subjectedto qualitative analyses according to the criteria derived from the literature review(Part II of this work).2.1. Level of response from each networkThe questionnaire generated a varied response from the networks, with MarketTowns LN generating 33 responses from approximately 200 members, EquippingRural Communities LN generating 7 responses from approximately 200 membersand Rural Affairs Forum for England LN generating 4 responses from 64members.The varied response from the LNs is attributed to the fact that responses wereseeked at a time when most network members would be on holiday. In addition,different degrees of commitment to network purpose within each communitycould also have influenced the number of responses.In other words, the comparative amount of response from each network wouldspeak of how active this network is, in terms of genuine interest of its membersinto the benefit of the community they represent. According to this, the MarketTowns LN is the most active of all three LNs. However, it could also be that thenature of membership of the Market Towns LN presupposes more free time ofthese members to respond to the questionnaire. 59
    • 2.2. Interviews with facilitators of each LNFor each network, one informal semi-structured interview was conducted with thefacilitator of this network, which was followed by additional questions byphone/email where necessary. Opportunity for an informal unstructured interviewto probe the issues of interest, in order to target critical areas of concern during themain semi-structured interviews, was available and used accordingly only for theRural Affairs Forum for England LN.During each interview, facilitators were asked questions concerning theirassociation with/position within the Agency, as well as how they came tofacilitate their networks. Their views on their roles as facilitators were solicitedand how well circumstances allow them to pursue and fulfill these roles. Inaddition, facilitators were asked about their knowledge of the issue subject ofnetwork discussions. Their opinions on commitment and contributions to thisissue from the part of network members were outlined, in terms of how well thenetwork is being used, according to them, and why there are problems with itsuse. Finally, the motivation behind facilitating was investigated and propositionsfor change were put forward. The question format used for each semi-structuredinterview is given in the Appendices. Facilitator responses were recorded inwriting over the process of the interviews.2.3. Questionnaire emailed to membersThe questionnaire emailed to members consisted of questions about memberinvolvement with the LN, in terms of their professional practice and concerns,relationship to the Countryside Agency, ways of beginning membership andinterest in the network purpose of existence. In addition, questions were askedabout member use of the LN, in terms of features that they find most/leasteffective and factors stopping them on their way to actively using the network, inorder to derive relevant benefits. Members were asked about the technologicalaspects of their use of the network, in terms of nature of the functionality andinfrastructure supporting this. Finally, member opinions of the community behindthe network, as well as of network facilitation and future potential, were solicited.The questionnaire format, as it was used to email to LN members, is given in theAppendices.As it was designed, the questionnaire was described as too long by some membersin their responses. This must be taken into account when considering the amount 60
    • of overall response the questionnaire generated from LN members, these generallybeing very busy people with a range of work commitments.The questionnaire was emailed to members from my personal email account atUCL. Each member emailed his response directly to me at this email account,therefore there were no intermediary parties involved in me receiving memberresponses. In addition, all members were assured of the complete anonymity andconfidentiality of their responses. After deriving data from each response, theproforma for this was destroyed. No names or other information that could servefor member identification was used in data analyses.2.4. Personal style/preference measuresWithin the LN evaluation, two measures of personal style/preference were used.The rationale behind this is given in the section following this, whereas here themeasures are briefly introduced to the reader.One measure was the EPQ questionnaire (Eysenck et al., 1985). The EPQ consistsof 48 yes-no questions concerning typical ways of feeling and behaving. There arefour scales to this questionnaire. Extraversion, Neuroticism, Social Desirability,Psychoticism. The Psychoticism scale was not used in the present study of theLNs, because of its lack of relevance to the subject of LN evaluation. The 12-itemextraversion scale assesses sociability and the tendency to seek out stimulation.The 12-item neuroticism scale assesses tendencies to experience anxiety, distressand emotional sensitivity. The higher the score on each scale, the moreextraverted/emotionally sensitive the person is. Finally, the 12-item socialdesirability scale assesses individual propensities to consider other people whenacting in social and interpersonal contexts. The higher the score on this scale, thehigher the personal tendency to perform actions that are socially desirable.The other measure was the Myres-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). The MBTI is aself-report questionnaire designed according to Jung’s theory of humanpersonality types, applying this to human interaction. According to Jung’s theory,predictable differences in individuals are caused by the way people prefer to usetheir minds. Precisely, when the mind is active, individuals are taking ininformation, i.e. perceiving, and organizing this in order to come to conclusions,i.e. judging (the J-P dimension). Jung further observed that there are two oppositeways of perceiving, which he called sensing and intuition (the S-I dimension), andtwo opposite ways of judging, which he called thinking and feeling (the T-F 61
    • dimension). These four processes are used in daily life in both the internal andexternal world, according to individual preference for experience. People whoprefer to experience things externally to themselves are extroverts, and peoplewho prefer to experience things by focusing on processes within themselves areintroverts (the E-I dimension). According to these dimensions, the MBTI providesa description of 16 personality types, each a combination of personal preferencesfor either end of each dimension. For example, a person with the ESTJ type(extraverted thinking/introverted sensing) has a preference for focusing hisattention on the outer world (the E end of the E-I dimension) and looking at thelogical consequences of a choice or action when making decisions (the T end ofthe T-F dimension). He also has a preference for focusing on the practicalimmediate details of a situation when taking in new information (the S end of theS-N dimension) and orient towards the outer world in a planned, orderly way (theJ end of the J-P dimension).2.5. Rationale behind using the EPQ in the present evaluationWithin the present work, the role of personal style in/preference forcommunicating with people was investigated. This role is within the style of LNfacilitation, as well as nature of use and engagement within the community behindthe network by members.This is according to views expressed in the literature of the insufficientconsideration for the personality of technology users by Internet designers,deciding the future development of the Internet and the type of extranettechnology here considered.For example, Hamburger (2002) suggests the main reason for this to be the heavyemphasis placed by designers on technological advancement to the detriment of‘user needs’. In addition, Hamburger and Ben-Artzi (2000) demonstrated the linkbetween personal style and the nature and pattern of use of the Internet. Precisely,they showed that Extraversion and Neuroticism, as these variables were definedby Eysenck et al. (1985), are related to the pattern of use of Internet services. Formen, extraversion was positively linked to the use of leisure services andneuroticism was negatively related to the use of information services. On the otherhand, for women, extraversion was negatively related and neuroticism positivelyrelated to the use of social sites. 62
    • In this way, it is obvious that personal style variables exert an influence onapproaches to using technology and behaviors displayed online. Since the impactof Eysenckian Extraversion and Neuroticism has been widely investigated inrelation to interpersonal dynamics and development (e.g. Organ, 1975; Kirton &Mulligan, 1973), it can be expected that these variables will play a role ininterpersonal communication via an electronic tool, provided by CommunicationTechnology. In other words, it can be expected that extraversion and neuroticismwill influence the nature of participation within the community of practice orpurpose that the LNs at the Countryside Agency support.Therefore, network members were asked to fill in, if they wish, the EysenckianEPQ questionnaire (Eysenck et al., 1985), which was emailed to them togetherwith the evaluation questionnaire.2.6. Rationale behind using the MBTI in LN evaluationIn addition, a similar line of research into the impact of personality types onorganizational behavior, using the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), wastaken to inform the design of the here reported evaluation of LNs.Precisely, the MBTI has been used in research on the relationship betweenpersonal preference and leadership strengths and weaknesses, as well as personalmanagement and decision making (Cunnyngham, 2002). In this study, it wasshown that personal management was a strength for sensing, thinking and judgingtypes (ISTJs and ESTJs), whereas decision making was a strength for peoplehaving a preference for extraverted thinking with introverted sensing (ESTJs; thenature of the described types is outlined above). Also, extravertedthinking/introverted sensing types (ESTJs) had a strength for exerting power andinfluence over others and introverted sensing/extraverted thinking types (ISTJs)had the skill to continuously pursue results oriented projects.The MBTI has also been used as part of research showing the relationshipbetween personality perception and innovation approach preferences in computerprofessionals (Pope et al., 1997). Finally, the MBTI function of Intuition (I) hasbeen shown to positively relate to higher level of Emotional Intelligence formanagers (Higgs, 2001), which is in turn related to their success on the job.On the basis of these findings, it can be expected that the nature of MBTI personalpreference type, derived for an individual, will bear a relationship to his willing toinfluence others and leverage them towards achievement of desired objectives or 63
    • more general fulfillment of purpose. In addition, the nature of MBTI type couldalso relate to individual willingness to take creative and unstructured approachesto managing people when the situation necessitates this, in order to enableconditions for a knowledge community freely discoursing topics of interest.Therefore, the MBTI was used to evaluate LN facilitation, in view of the impactof facilitator personal preference for communicating with people on theeffectiveness of the community behind each network. Facilitators were asked togo through a personal preference assessment with an Occupational Psychologist,administering the MBTI.2.7. Data obtained from the personal style/preference instrumentsEPQ Extraversion and Neuroticism scores were obtained for 25 out of 33respondents to the Market Towns LN evaluation questionnaire, 5 out of 7respondents to the Equipping Rural Communities LN evaluation questionnaireand 3 out of 4 respondents to the Rural Affairs Forum for England LN evaluationquestionnaire.MBTI personal preference types were obtained only for facilitators of the RuralAffairs Forum for England LN. This was because of practical limitations to meetwith facilitators of the other LNs, in order for them to go through a session withan Occupational Psychologist for MBTI administration purposes. 64
    • 3. Learning Network Evaluation3.1. Market Towns Learning NetworkThe purpose of this section is to outline results from the evaluation of the MarketTowns Learning Network (MTLN).3.1.1. Background to the Market Towns Learning NetworkThis network is concerned with supporting the Market Towns Program, theoverall goal of which is to offer a range of retail and professional services, leisureand cultural opportunities, training and jobs to market towns serving ruralcommunities within England. In this way, the purpose of the Market TownsProgram is to help communities examine the economic, social and environmentalhealth of market towns. The Program is being run primarily by the CountrysideAgency in partnership with regional development agencies.According to the Agency proforma, the purpose of the Learning Networksupporting the Market Towns Program is to achieve a higher profile for theprogram and the Agency who is providing and, for the most part, running thenetwork. It is important that the network conducts the effective exchange ofknowledge and good practice between the Agency and its partners, as well asestablish Agency brand values in high levels of Government. This exchange ofknowledge between the parties involved in the program is aimed to lead to thedevelopment of Regional Development Agencies to support market towns, allowfor the circulation of important information, speed up project management,influence external policy and provide a forum for exchanging ideas, action plansand experience.In terms of managing of knowledge within the community involved in the MarketTowns Program, the LN is concerned with providing technological support to thecommunity for the effective exchange of ideas, action plans and experience. Inother words, the LN is aimed to help members bridge geographical distances andovercome time pressures. This is in order to be able to effectively accessimportant others within the community, when necessary to their practice, thusmake the process of knowledge generation within the community maximallyeffective towards achieving desired social, economic and environmentaldevelopments in market towns. 65
    • 3.1.2. Evaluation previewThe evaluation was conducted according to the effectiveness of the network as aknowledge managing support to the Market Towns Community. Thiseffectiveness was investigated through the scope of the recommendations foreffective managing of knowledge using Communication Technology, aframework derived as a result of the literature review in Part II of this work andused as a set of criteria for LN evaluation purposes.The data obtained from the facilitator interview and the email questionnaire,which generated 33 responses from network members, were qualitativelyanalyzed for MTLN fulfilling of these criteria. Results are reported separately foreach criterion whilst no allusion is being made at any one time as to their specificsource (i.e. whether results emerged from facilitator interview or memberresponses to the email questionnaire). The results follow below.CRITERION 1: Allow for situated learning within communities-of-practiceEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN efforts to bring itspeople together to collaborate, by developing healthy social relations within thecommunity, not by exclusive technological development of the LN web site.Data obtained from the facilitator interview and member responses to the MTLNevaluation questionnaire revealed that network facilitation is generally equallydivided between providing technical help and encouragingly engaging indiscussions. Thus it is unobtrusive to community development and rightly fulfillsthe notion of facilitation, where help is given when needed, but no directintervention into community development is ever initiated. There is informalfacilitation of emergent social relations, where the incentive behind communityparticipation is that knowledge within it belongs to everyone within thecommunity.In other words, the facilitator is taking an approach where he is activelyencouraging people to use the network as an information source, withoutstructuring the interactions among members any further. The result of this is thatmost members indeed find the network a very useful information tool, promptlydelivering documents and case studies, which have the important potential ofmaking their practice more effective. Having the right information appears to be 66
    • stimulating knowledge exchange among them, by giving them a solid base onwhich to build interpersonal relations.An implication of the facilitation approach is that, in avoiding direct interventioninto member communication, by, for example, specifying topics for discussion ormaking the communication style terribly formal, members have found themselvessearching for ways to effectively communicate with each other. In other words,members have been autonomous in initiating community development. Groupprocesses within the community have stormed according to the way membershave been learning to tap on each other’s knowledge. Their enthusiasm formaking the network an effective means for communication stems from their deepinterest in the nature of the Market Towns Program. There is a solid commonground to unify them in their searching for an effective language.In this way, members are actively creating the communication process amongthem and continuously structuring the best pattern, according to whichinterpersonal relations develop. They can decide when and how to contribute tothe purpose of the community and reveal what they know to others, in order to beunderstood. Because of the very large size of the community (200 members), thisprocess is lengthy and cumbersome. Nevertheless, it can be seen as effective,especially in the long term.The above makes clear that the evaluation of the MTLN established very goodprerequisites for the continuous development of a community-of-practice, unifiedby an interest in benefiting English market towns. However, there are a fewobstacles to this: There appears not to be enough face-to-face interaction among members,so that they can base their attempts at knowledge generation when using thenetwork on, above all, personally knowing each other.Most respondents indicated that the only way for them to get to know someone inwhose expertise they take an interest, thus enlarge their network of contacts, is bysending them a ‘cold email’ to introduce themselves and outline their concerns.This is unlikely to be sufficient in interpersonal relation development, because ofthe very busy work schedule of MTLN members and the impossibility to conveytacit knowledge (critical to interpersonal relations development) via email. The very busy workload of most members is another obstacle to the LNbecoming an effective tool for knowledge creation, because it is not sufficiently 67
    • part of member individual practices, in order to evolve into an effective collectivepractice unifying the Market Towns community. Finally, there is an imposition on each member to actively contribute tonetwork discussion threads at least once every two months, in order not to beremoved from the membership list. This did not appear to greatly threaten thespontaneous development of interpersonal dynamics, by introducing a notion ofobligation to the community and not allowing it to develop naturally out ofcommunity participation. However, it can prove inhibiting to some members inthe long term, especially to those who have recently joined and are learning formthe periphery of community processes.Indeed, most members indicated a preference for primarily reading discussionthreads and contributing when they think they should and when they want to. Just,or primarily, reading discussions and documents is being found of great use and isbeneficial to action learning within the context of legitimate peripheralparticipation, this by picking up ‘stolen knowledge’ from those members who arecompetent in an issue of interest.The EPQ scores available for MTLN respondents in terms of other findings fromtheir responses are displayed on Tables 3, 4, 5 & 6 (displayed in Appendix 3). It isseen from the table that these scores appear to have no relationship to the personalstyles of member participation. It is suggested that this is because the network isnot sufficiently integrated into the practices of individual members and becauseother social and organizational factors of working in the public sector are morestructuring to participation than individual preferences.CRITERION 2: Understand the distinction between information and knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN emphasis on deliveringopportunities for knowledge creation and not mere information exchange.The evaluation revealed that most members find the network an efficient andeffective means of keeping informed. Precisely, the network web site is seen as agood tool for accessing important documents and examples from other areasrelevant to the Market Towns Program. Some members use the network primarilyas a source of information and reference to their practices, which can often becentral to their work. A few members indicate that sometimes documents are of 68
    • no interest to them and do not apply to rural areas they work in. This is displayedon Graph 2 in Appendix 3.Regarding the potential of the LN for knowledge creation within the community,there seems to be no realization of the difference between delivering informationand enabling knowledge. Moreover, there is a confusion between the two, withsome members evaluating the network as very effective because it ‘delivers theright information’, not realizing its potential as a knowledge communicating tool.In other words, although the technological aspects of the network have beendesigned with ‘personalization’ assumptions behind them (e.g. in terms ofimmediate notification of network events happened since last member log-in,opportunities to form special interest groups etc.), there is insufficientunderstanding of the importance of a coherent community context, within whichto embed relevant information, in order for it to be used for knowledgegeneration. In this way, the potential of the network for optimizing communityknowledge processes is not used in its entirety, by ensuring a vibrant knowledgediscourse, which the network can effectively supplement.This lack of understanding for the social foundations of knowledge resides both inmembers and facilitator. Precisely, most of them seem to assume that commitmentto the purpose of the MTLN community is a property that members possess onjoining the community. Members are not seen as having to acquire this, in theprocess of community participation, by getting to know their peers with theirconcerns and beliefs. Acquiring knowledge of co-members is, however, the firstand most important step towards sharing knowledge of one’s personal practicewith them, therefore using the network as a knowledge tool and not merely aninformation resource. The general lack of recognition for this step means that thenetwork is not currently helping in transforming the geographically dispersedMTLN community into a coherent knowledge discourse.In this way, although the technological aspects of the network are well developed,in terms of providing adequate support for web-based interaction, these won’t beeffectively used unless the network is endowed with a vibrant social communitybehind it. 69
    • CRITERION 3: Recognize the distinction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge in terms of equally important components of personal knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the recognition behindmanaging and using the LN, for a social context, in terms of communities-of-practice, needed to give meaning to all material found on the network web site.This is by developing tacit knowledge, making possible the understanding ofexplicit knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge.For MTLN, the evaluation process revealed insufficient understanding of thenature of knowledge, as outlined above, in terms of insufficient development ofthe social aspects of the network. In this way, there is not a well-defined socialframework, within which material found on the LN can be implemented and madesense of, thus used for knowledge creation and fulfilling a dynamic process ofcommunity discourse. The interpersonal aspect of the network is underdevelopedbecause of the large number of members, which make it difficult for postingpersonalized comments, in order for them to initiate empathic responses andgenerate tacit knowledge. This is despite the fact that the community behind thenetwork is strongly bound by a shared purpose to benefit the welfare of markettowns.Therefore, there is prerequisite for effective on-line communication via the LNthat is not supported by well-developed interpersonal relationships. These arenecessary in order to put both explicit and tacit knowledge components at worktowards knowledge creation.CRITERION 4: Recognize the distinction between group/organizational knowledge and individual knowledge and their equal importance for knowledge creationEffective fulfilling of this criterion ensures the agreed and not imposed status ofthe LN within the Market Towns community. This is so that the LN is willinglyimplemented in the communication process among members, in order for them touse its potential for knowledge optimization. By using the technology in theprocess of combining individual knowledge to produce collective understandings,members would find the network helpful in their individual practices.Results relevant to this criteria are displayed on Table 1 in Appendix 3. It is clearthat there are a number of members who have been asked to join the network 70
    • membership, because of the organization they work for (notably the CountrysideAgency) or because of the nature of their work. Since this membership isaccorded and not elected, it creates prerequisites for insufficient commitment tothe network purpose.Indeed, it was revealed that the majority of Countryside Agency employeemembers have been asked to join, in order to represent the Agency on themembership list. Not surprisingly, these members were found to contribute byposting discussions on the network much less than it would be expected of themas representatives of the leveraging organization, having a strong interest ininitiating discussion and leading by good example.In this way, the MTLN is not sufficiently integrated into the work practice of theAgency, who created the network and made this available to the Market Townscommunity. There are no conditions for creating a coherent collective practicewithin the community by leading with good example. This collective practicecannot inform individual practices of all LN members, thus practically influencingthe nature of the activity of the Market Towns community.As none of these processes are existent, the MTLN is not very effective infulfilling its purpose of influencing individual practices of network members, allto the benefit of market towns. To support this conclusion, members did notindicate that material posted on the network is particularly useful to them in theirpractice, as indicated on Tables 1 &2 in Appendix 3.CRITERION 5: Consider knowledge as part of action and not merely as a possessionEffectively fulfilling this criterion is about recognizing that knowledge is a self-fulfilling process and not a project to complete. Knowledge is continuouslygenerated within a community-of-practice and can be optimized in its ways byLN.Data from the evaluation process indicate that the MTLN has been conceived toterminate after desired objectives have been achieved. In this way, thetechnological solution supporting the Market Towns community will cease to beseen as valuable once there is no practical reason for community existence.The assumption behind this state of affairs is that the Market Towns community isunified by a common project, rather than by a continuous practice. Thisundermines the success of the community at generating new knowledge about 71
    • preservation of market towns, because there is pressure to achieve objectivesordained from ‘above’ and not self-initiated. This lowers the effectiveness of thenetwork, because using it may not be seen as valuable to a long-term knowledgediscourse.3.1.3. ConclusionsThe evaluation of the MTLN reveals that the network has great potential to besuccessful. This is because of member commitment to its purpose, which ispreservation and development of market towns. However, what is also needed ismember commitment to the community, with the help of which the purpose is tobe fulfilled.At present, there are great efforts from the part of MTLN members to form acohesive community within which they can share and generate new knowledge, sothat they can find the LN more effective to their work. Appropriate facilitationfrom the part of their work practices and the public sector, within which theywork, is needed. This is to allow them to meet more often, in order to develop theinterpersonal aspect of the network, as well as dedicate more time to using it whenthey want to. In this way, the LN technological solution, supporting the MarketTowns community, would be very effective in optimizing knowledge processeswithin this community. 72
    • 3.2. Equipping Rural Communities Learning NetworkThe purpose of this section is to outline results from the evaluation of theEquipping Rural Communities Learning Network (ERCLN).3.2.1. Background to the Equipping Rural Communities Learning NetworkThe ERCLN has been conceived to unite the program objectives of threeCountryside Agency branches: Local Governance and Housing, Vital Villages andRural Services. In this way, the LN aims to bridge among these branches in orderto create a collective forum for them to function more efficiently and effectively.Precisely, ERCLN is to provide a common electronic space enabling ParishCouncils to network more effectively among each other and with various nationalbodies, Community Councils, residents and stakeholders.According to Agency proforma, this would be by communicating knowledge andcirculating important information, in order to support project conception andimplementation. This would be by facilitating open debate with invited memberson seven topic areas, by linking members through the Internet and organizingworkshops across the country to discuss problem solutions. These discussions aredefined by Countryside Agency pre-set topics (by the facilitator), the results ofwhich are to be summarized and published. The network aims to eventuallydisseminate recommendations on the most effective ways of equipping ruralcommunities.The ERCLN project is also meant to promote the Countryside Agency branding,so that the Agency is seen at the forefront of providing practical solutions foreffective networking to the welfare of the English countryside. In this way, theAgency is also seen as successfully developing the White Paper notion of amodernized, electronically joined up public sector.In terms of managing knowledge, the purpose of the ERCLN is to organize aforum for individuals interested in the future of rural communities, for them toshare, learn and develop ideas and recommendations for action. This would be sothat they can enrich their individual work practices by sharing in the experience ofothers.3.2.2. Evaluation previewThe evaluation was conducted according to the effectiveness of the network as aknowledge managing support to the Equipping Rural Communities initiative. This 73
    • effectiveness was investigated through the scope of the recommendations foreffective managing of knowledge using Communication Technology, aframework derived as a result of the literature review in Part II of this work andused as a set of criteria for LN evaluation purposes.The data obtained from the facilitator interview and the email questionnaire,which generated 7 responses from network members, were qualitatively analyzedfor ERCLN fulfilling of these criteria. Results are reported separately for eachcriterion whilst no allusion is being made at any one time as to their specificsource (i.e. whether results emerged from facilitator interview or memberresponses to the email questionnaire). The results follow below.CRITERION 1: Allow for situated learning within communities-of-practiceEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN efforts to bring itspeople together to collaborate, by developing healthy social relations within thecommunity, not by exclusive technological development of the LN web site.For ERCLN, it was revealed that facilitation focuses on developing the ERCcommunity to a great extent, by directly soliciting contributions from members onrelevant topics via email and phone. In addition, the facilitator appeared todedicate at least as much time on maintaining the LN web site and dealing withtechnological issues and hassles of member use.However, the nature of facilitation did not appear to focus on developing socialrelations within the community, but exclusively on fulfilling LN objectives. Inthis way, although facilitation of the network has been very thorough andpersistent, it has perhaps succeeded in making the community overly structuredfor healthy knowledge processes to develop.The evaluation revealed that the community behind the ERCLN had been broughttogether artificially, in order for the LN to formally support project fulfillmentpurposes. The project initiative behind the network is in terms of assembling andpublishing recommendations for developing rural communities, following on alearning process structured within seven topics, chosen and presided by thefacilitator. In this way, managing the community is more about projectmanagement rather than knowledge managing.Because members do not have the freedom to choose the issues to be discussed,according to their interest, there is no attempt from them to interpersonally 74
    • interact with each other, in order to elaborate on knowledge. Indeed, thosemembers who responded to the evaluation questionnaire did not appear to havemuch knowledge of other members and how much of them there are in total.In this way, since the network process is too dependent on the facilitator, thecommunity is not coherent, autonomous, inherently informal and spontaneous.Also, the amount of generated activity on the network is proportional to howmuch effort the facilitator puts in directly prompting members to contribute on thenetwork. This indicates lack of member commitment to a unified knowledgecreation purpose. It would have been different if the community had been givenautonomy for development, after assuring that members have a genuine passionfor the topic of equipping rural communities and are willing to ‘storm’ together inorder to establish a common ground for communication. For a successfulcommunity-of-practice, the facilitator should be almost ‘invisible’, byencouraging but not leading.In this way, the ERC community is not self-sustained. On the other hand, a self-sustained community naturally manages the knowledge within it via minimalfacilitation.Therefore, although the ERCLN is efficient, it is not effective for the managing ofknowledge within the community behind the network. This is because there is notsufficient focus on facilitating shared activity and enabling social relations withinthe community, but on delivery of recommendation objectives each two months.In this way, the community behind the network is a community of purpose(according to Agency definition), but not of common practice, which is not aneffective medium for the managing of knowledge among people, because of itslack of focus on interpersonal dynamics.During the evaluation process, it appeared that the reason for the facilitationapproach is not because of facilitator lack of interest in the purpose of the ERCcommunity; to the contrary, the facilitator appeared remarkably dedicated toequipping rural communities and to making the LN successful. The reason behindthe facilitation approach, in contrast, was the insufficient training and awarenessof the facilitator in managing knowledge and its processes. Therefore, making theLN effective has not considered the importance of social and individual factors inits management, where facilitator awareness of healthy social processes isnecessary. 75
    • CRITERION 2: Understand the distinction between information and knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN emphasis on deliveringopportunities for knowledge creation and not mere information exchange.As outlined above, there is insufficient emphasis on developing the social andinterpersonal aspect of the ERCLN. In this way, the knowledge potential of thenetwork is limited, because of the non-existent common ground for sharingknowledge using relevant information.Most members who responded to the evaluation questionnaire appraised thenetwork as a useful information source. Nevertheless, they also expressed theneed for more interaction on the network, to make it more dynamic and increaseits potential for knowledge generation. In this way, there is sufficientunderstanding among members of the limited use of the network as a knowledgetool and not merely an information resource at present. As one member put it, thecontributions posted on the network are generally pretty useless, without anyrelevance to his particular practice. This is because social cohesion does not existwithin the community, in order to bind individual practices into one vibrantcollective practice.CRITERION 3: Recognize the distinction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge in terms of equally important components of personal knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the recognition behindmanaging and using the LN, for a social context, in terms of communities-of-practice, needed to give meaning to all material found on the network web site.This is by developing tacit knowledge, making possible the understanding ofexplicit knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge.Evaluation of the ERCLN revealed that the network is currently not fulfilling arole in knowledge generation within the community. This creates a situation,where material produced from member contributions assembled together by thefacilitator is not directly relevant to individual member practices, because theyhave not engaged themselves in the process of producing this document, otherthan by contributing when they have been asked to do so (the proportion ofrespondents who have been asked to join the network is given on Table 7 in 76
    • Appendix 4). This lack of interpersonal interaction in the context of issues raisedby the network makes it impossible for members to establish common ground forcommunicating, with relevant tacit knowledge to enable collective understandingsof core problems.In this way, as already explained above, the network has been created with anemphasis on purpose and not practice, where the importance of collective socialcontexts enabling the exchange of meaningful messages, comprised of bothexplicit and tacit knowledge components, to generate new knowledge, is notrecognized.CRITERION 4: Recognize the distinction between group/organizational knowledge and individual knowledge and their equal importance for knowledge creationEffective fulfilling of this criterion ensures the agreed and not imposed status ofthe LN within the ERC community. This is so that the LN is willinglyimplemented in the communication process among members, in order for them touse its potential for knowledge optimization. By using the technology in theprocess of combining individual knowledge to produce collective understandings,members would find the network helpful in their individual practices.The evaluation revealed that, similarly to the MTLN, there is not enough andpurposeful involvement of Countryside Agency members on the network, in orderfor dynamic discourse between them and other members to form, thus creating acollective knowledge practice useful to individual practices of members.Respondents to the evaluation questionnaire indicated their wish for morecontributions from the part of Agency employees, so that there is practicalopportunity for influencing opinions within this organization. In this way, the LNcould be implemented within a communication process among members, drivenby genuine interest to contribute.Other members, however, raised issues of disproportionately high number ofAgency employees on the network, which created an unbalance within thenetwork membership, thus raising issues of anonymity of contributions. From thispoint of view, the disproportionately high number of Agency employees inhibitsthe development of a healthy community atmosphere, where individualexperience is generously offered to the benefit of collective understandings of 77
    • topical issues. In this way, having less Agency members on the network wouldcreate better opportunities for the development of a knowledge discourse.The above points make it clear that, there is not enough recognition of theimportance of enabling coherent group knowledge within the community usingthe network, so that they can have a common culture to unify them.CRITERION 5: Consider knowledge as part of action and not merely as a possessionEffectively fulfilling this criterion is about recognizing that knowledge is a self-fulfilling process and not a project to complete. Knowledge is continuouslygenerated within a community-of-practice and can be optimized in its ways by LNuse.As already outlined in relation to the above criteria, there is not sufficientrealization of the importance of knowledge as part of action and not merely apossession within the ERCLN community. The evaluation revealed that organizedattempts at initiating shared activity among network members during workshops,or by using relevant facilities on the LN, have been unsuccessful. This is due toinsufficient commitment from members because of workload, on the one hand,and insufficient emphasis on developing social practice within the community, onthe other.In addition, the functionality of the network was also appraised as cumbersomeand problematic on several occasions, thus making contributing on the network atedious process that discourages members from using it as a knowledge tool toinitiate shared activity.3.2.3. ConclusionsThe above points make it clear that the assumption behind creating the communityto use the ERCLN is defeating to what makes managing of knowledge successfulwithin a community of practice and not purpose.Precisely, ‘making’ a community is in itself an artificial approach that creates anemphasis on ordained and not actual practice within this community, which inturn discourages members from collaborating, in order to generate knowledgeamong themselves. In this way, the ERCLN has potential for project management,to which it is excellently suited. Its potential for knowledge management,however, is here considered to be limited. 78
    • Furthermore, if organizations wish to invest in knowledge managing initiativessupported by technology, such as the LNs here described, they should take greatcare in gently facilitating healthy communities developing and not merelyproviding good technological solutions to support them. 79
    • 3.3. Rural Affairs Forum for England Learning NetworkThe purpose of this section is to outline results from the evaluation of the RuralAffairs Forum for England Learning Network (RAFELN).3.3.1. Background to the Rural Affairs Forum for England Learning NetworkThe RAFELN has been conceived to support the activity of the Rural AffairsForum for England community, comprised of the Rural Taskforce (originally setup to tackle the effects of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease for the ruraleconomy) and civil servants and chief executive officers. The Taskforce itself iscomprised of members of the Cabinet, Chairs of major Non-Departmental PublicBodies and Non-Governmental Organizations. Originally, the Taskforce wasoffered a Learning Network by the Countryside Agency. This was to support andexpand their activity, by increasing opportunities for discussion, debate and jointworking among members of the Taskforce and including civil servants and otherpublic sector officers in this activity, to increase the potential for knowledgeexchange and generation.In this way, the aim behind the network is to make the Taskforce activityaccessible to senior civil servants and officers who have an interest, in terms ofthe organizations that they represent, in the issues discussed by the Taskforce.Widening the expertise of the Taskforce, through including further stakeholders inits process and thus optimizing their shared activity, is a major concern of thenetwork. These stakeholders are given the opportunity to monitor discussions heldby Taskforce members, in order to provide expert answers to questions asked bythem and be involved in government executive decisions.The RAFELN project is also meant to promote the Countryside Agency branding,so that the Agency is seen at the forefront of providing practical solutions foreffective networking to the welfare of the English countryside. In this way, theAgency is also seen as successfully developing the White Paper notion of amodernized, electronically joined up public sector.In terms of managing of knowledge, the purpose of the network is to support thewillingness of its members to optimize their shared activity, by having a privateelectronic space to use between Forum meetings. 80
    • 3.3.2. Evaluation previewThe evaluation was conducted according to the effectiveness of the network as aknowledge managing support to the Rural Affairs Forum for England community.This effectiveness was investigated through the scope of the recommendations foreffective managing of knowledge using Communication Technology, aframework derived as a result of the literature review in Part II of this work andused as a set of criteria for LN evaluation purposes.The data obtained from the facilitator interviews and the email questionnaire,which generated 4 responses from network members, were qualitatively analyzedfor RAFELN fulfilling of these criteria. Results are reported separately for eachcriterion whilst no allusion is being made at any one time as to their specificsource (i.e. whether results emerged from facilitator interviews or memberresponses to the email questionnaire). The results follow below.CRITERION 1: Allow for situated learning within communities-of-practiceEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN efforts to bring itspeople together to collaborate, by developing healthy social relations within thecommunity, not by exclusive technological development of the LN web site.It should be noted that the perspective here outlined is primarily influenced byevaluation carried out with help from the Countryside Agency. Therefore, viewsand opinions of Forum members have not been solicited other than by the emailquestionnaire, which nevertheless generated very few responses.The evaluation revealed that the community using the RAFELN is split betweenthe organization, providing the network facilitation (the Countryside Agency) andthe Forum.It was made clear that social relations within the community revolve aroundregular meetings of the Forum, where facilitators are not present. The socialcommunication during these meetings is very formal and structured, which maymake it hard for genuine communication to develop, in order to spontaneously usethe LN between meeting to elaborate on shared knowledge.Using the network is even harder in terms of not allowing facilitators to beintegrated within the community, thus provide informal encouragement todiscussions. This, in addition to the very busy work schedule of Forum members,makes the network largely unused. As one member put it, although the potential 81
    • of the network is very powerful, there is a need to have a strong community ofinterest, as a physical community supporting a virtual community. Therefore, thecommunity behind the network is largely symbolical and not practical (i.e. acommunity-of-practice), concerned with fulfilling an important role within thepublic sector and not development of a community practice, in order to enrich anumber of member organization practices.Since there is no informal, autonomous and spontaneous development of socialrelations, the potential of the Forum, and the LN deemed to support its activity, isvery limited for the managing of knowledge. Knowledge is a social discourse andnot an ordained procedure for development of interpersonal dynamics. It must beallowed to emerge and not constrained within rigid procedures. Therefore, theknowledge discourse within the Forum is currently not using the potential of theLN supporting it.CRITERION 2: Understand the distinction between information and knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the LN emphasis on deliveringopportunities for knowledge creation and not mere information exchange.As outlined above, it is clear that there is not an emphasis on knowledgegeneration within the Forum community. Rather, there is an emphasis on fulfillingan important role within the public sector, which has symbolical and not practicalsignificance.In this way, there is not awareness of the distinction between information andknowledge, because knowledge is not a primary concern to this community. Itcannot be concluded for sure whether documents on the network are useful tomembers in their practice. It is, however, known for sure that discussion threadson the network are very rare. One member indicated that he passes importantdocuments on to departments, which deal with issues that the documents discuss,whereas all members indicated that the network is useful to their work by givingimportant information.Therefore, the network appears to be relatively useful, as long it is at all used byits members, as an information resource. It is not useful as a knowledge tool,using the information provided by it. This would be if the culture within theForum was sufficiently vibrant and informal to stimulate knowledge generation. 82
    • In addition, there seems to be insufficient thrust within the Forum in theorganization providing the network technological solution (the Agency), in orderfor members to confidently start using the network for creative knowledgeexchange.CRITERION 3: Recognize the distinction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge in terms of equally important components of personal knowledgeEffective fulfilling of this criterion is according to the recognition behindmanaging and using the LN, for a social context, in terms of communities-of-practice, needed to give meaning to all material found on the network web site.This is by developing tacit knowledge, making possible the understanding ofexplicit knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge.As already outlined above, the community using the LN is not socially enabled,but rather enabled out of a necessity to fulfill an important role within the publicsector. Therefore, social processes within the community are constrained bypublic sector formalities. The development of tacit knowledge in the process ofthese formalities is not impossible, but greatly limited by the ordained nature ofthe interaction. Furthermore, members do not seem to accord great potential forcommunication to the LN, which could at least in part be due to the cumbersomefunctionality of the network web site. The potential of the network as a knowledgetool, supporting vibrant knowledge discourse between meetings, seems to beunder appreciated by members.CRITERION 4: Recognize the distinction between group/organizational knowledge and individual knowledge and their equal importance for knowledge creationEffective fulfilling of this criterion ensures the agreed and not imposed status ofthe LN within the RAFE community. This is so that the LN is willinglyimplemented in the communication process among members, in order for them touse its potential for knowledge optimization. By using the technology in theprocess of combining individual knowledge to produce collective understandings,members would find the network helpful in their individual practices. 83
    • The evaluation revealed that the LN has been ‘delivered’ for use by theCountryside Agency to the Forum, together with the suggestion for using it in away that imposes a novel practice on the Forum community. This novel practice isin terms of including stakeholders other than central government representatives,in the proceedings of the Forum in order to enlarge its potential for knowledgecreation.However, the result of this is that the Forum does not appear to have integratedthe use of the network within their practice. The network has an imposed, and notagreed status on them, which discourages use. Additional to this is the very busywork schedule of government members, which makes it difficult for them toimplement the network successfully in the Forum activity, in order to make thismore effective between meetings and as a whole.These barriers to effective use of the network are not the only ones on the way ofeffectively managing knowledge using it.Additional to these is that facilitators of the network (who are CountrysideAgency employees) do not have an established role within the Forum, so that theycan successfully encourage participation from members. As one member put it,facilitation is more linked to an organizational agenda of the host organization,rather than being independent for the network as a whole.MBTI scores for both facilitators of RAFELN were also obtained. According tothese scores (ENTP and INFP), the personal styles of facilitators, in terms of theirpreferences for using their minds and approaching others in communication, areoriented towards others and willing to consider other people’s welfare. Inaddition, one facilitator has the T element in the personality type, indicatingpotential for leadership and exertion of power, whereas the other has the Felement, indicating person-centered decision-making. Therefore, the potential ofthese facilitators for effective facilitation of the LN is certainly present. If it is notwell used as is currently obvious, is not because of their lack of a spontaneousapproach to facilitation, but for other public sector social and organizationalreasons.Therefore, there are critical organizational and social limitations, resulting frompublic sector characteristic assumptions, values and beliefs that are in the way ofeffective facilitation. Importantly, there seems to be no trust from Forum memberswithin Countryside Agency facilitators. This can result in potential discomfort 84
    • between them, creating a community where knowledge is frozen, rather thandynamically generated.In this way, there is not a coherent collective practice to make possible theeffective communication among government members, civil servants and chiefexecutive officers, within the context of the community, supported by the hereevaluated LN. This is what makes the LN introduced for collaborative managingof knowledge ineffective.CRITERION 5: Consider knowledge as part of action and not merely as a possessionEffectively fulfilling this criterion is about recognizing that knowledge is a self-fulfilling process and not a project to complete. Knowledge is continuouslygenerated within a community-of-practice and can be optimized in its ways byLN.The evaluation revealed that there is insufficient knowledge discourse happeningwithin the Forum community, in terms of vibrant communication betweengovernment members and other Forum members.This lack of recognition for the importance of a socially enabled discourse, togenerate new knowledge and make the Forum practice effective, means thatForum members do not collectively engage in joint action, concerned with thedomain of practice within which the Forum is situated.In other words, Forum members meet formally at meetings, not exploring thepotential for engaging together in informal enterprises. They may have knowledgeabout their practices, but not know how to use this in their collective practice,because may not have acquired common understanding of this practice in thecourse of joint action.The value of the LN as a knowledge-communicating tool is thus limited for theForum community, because there may be nothing to communicate among them.This is since there are no common actions, from which to draw collective tacitknowledge to be used as a code for effective message delivering on-line. 85
    • 3.3.3. ConclusionsThe RAFELN evaluation revealed that although the learning network has greatpotential for optimizing the activity of the Forum in theory, this is currently ofvery limited use in practice. The reason for this is that the LN is not sufficientlyimplemented into the practice of the Forum members. In addition, there is a splitbetween community and facilitators, which makes using the network even morediscouraging for members.The effective realization of the LN for the RAFE community can happen by,above all, realizing the potential of the network as a knowledge tool, provided thata knowledge discourse is already existent within the community. Also, it canhappen by involving facilitators in Forum meetings, in order to overcome the lackof mutual thrust currently existing between these two parties. 86
    • 4. Learning Network Evaluation: LimitationsWhen considering results from the here reported LN evaluation, the followinglimitations of this evaluation, in terms of design and process, should be borne inmind.Above all, the interviews and questionnaire were not designed with special viewof evaluating the LNs according to the criteria derived from the literature reviewoutlined in Part II of this work. Instead, the interviews and questionnaire aimed toprovide an overall idea of LN use and effectiveness, in this they being veryexhaustive. In this way, using the interviews and questionnaire gathered a lot ofdata that was subsequently not used for qualitative analyses purposes.This is because the conduction of the literature review and the composition of theresults for it took place in parallel to conducting the practical evaluation of theLNs, in terms of gathering data using interviews and questionnaire. This is whythe evaluation approach to the LNs was clear only after obtaining the data for it, atthe same time as completing the literature review.The implications of this are that data were hard to analyze and there was lack ofan overall systematic approach to the evaluation process. Nevertheless, once thecriteria for effective managing of knowledge using CT were obtained as a result ofthe literature review, the drawing of according conclusions relevant to eachnetwork was not too difficult, because of the very wide applicability of the criteriato knowledge-managing circumstances.Another limitation to the here reported evaluation is that it did not use a structuredmethod for qualitative analysis of the data obtained from interviews andquestionnaire, such as content analysis. This is because of the short time atdisposition to carry out and write up the work involving the LN evaluation.It is recognized that, would a more structured approach to data analysis have beenpossible, it would have made the reported results of much greater significance andvalue to improving Learning Networks. Still, the evaluation of the LNs has beencomprehensive and it is hoped that it represents good guidance on how toapproach and manage Communication Technology as part of general knowledgemanaging strategies.Finally, the fact that very few members responded to the evaluation questionnairefor the ERCLN and the RAFELN greatly reduces the value of conclusions drawnfrom member responses for these networks. That is why evaluation of these 87
    • networks considers data obtained from interviews more important when drawingconclusions about network effectiveness relevant to evaluation criteria. Also, thisis why data obtained for EPQ extraversion and neuroticism variables for theERCLN and RAFELN is not considered for evaluation conclusions, because it isunreasonable to generalize it to the whole communities, in view of the smallsamples size. These data are, however, outlined in the Appendices, as part ofsummary tables for these two networks. 88
    • 5. Learning Network Evaluation: ConclusionsWithin this final Part III of the present work, three Learning Networks at theCountryside Agency (a public sector organization in the UK) were evaluated fortheir effectiveness at managing knowledge using Communication Technology.The evaluation was conducted following on interviews and an email questionnaireand data obtained from the evaluation process were analyzed according to criteriafor managing knowledge using Communication Technology, derived in Part II ofthe present work.The evaluation revealed that attempts at knowledge managing in the public sectortend to be relatively impeded by widely accepted public sector practices and ways,in terms of which social interaction and collaboration is structured within thissector.Precisely, the assumption behind all networks was that by providing adequatetechnological support, without sufficiently considering the importance of sharedsocial contexts, to make the technological solution not only usable, but also usefulto a practice shared within a community, is sufficient to make knowledgemanaging effective.However, as it was made clear in the present work, knowledge is a sociallyconstructed phenomenon that thrives in the process of interpersonalcommunication. Technology used to support the managing of knowledge won’t beseen as effective from the people using it, unless they are also part of a vibrantknowledge discourse, making the knowledge possessed by a community-of-practice readily available to all community members.The evaluation of the Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency wasexemplary of how widely accepted social ways of working and communicatingwhile working can inhibit the natural process of human knowledge. Overlystructuring the process of knowledge (as was seen in the ERCLN) can bedetrimental to knowledge being generated as a result of this. Precisely, in suchcases, there is no managing of knowledge within a community, but rathermanaging of a project that has already been conceived, or managing ofinformation. Therefore, the Learning Networks designed to support suchcommunities, essentially deprived of autonomy and informal relationship building(as it was conceived to be in the RAFELN), are perceived as ineffective and oflittle or no use to individual work practice. 89
    • The widely accepted social ways of working in the public sector that constrainattempts at managing knowledge within public sector organizations, are in termsof the widely shared assumptions, values and beliefs within this sector. In otherwords, the evaluation revealed that all members are struggling for time in order toeffectively participate in the Learning Network initiative. This is indicative of thepublic sector culture, where individual initiative does not go a long way towardsgenuinely collective practice.Nevertheless, the here evaluated Learning Networks are only pilots. In this sense,they are meant to be informative learning experiences for the Agency, so thatnetworks following them are better conceived, designed and facilitated.In the present evaluation, the MTLN (Market Towns Learning Network) wasconsidered the most successful initiative, because it went the longest way towardsbuilding a successful community-of-practice behind the learning network. In thisinitiative, however, there was lack of recognition for the social foundations ofknowledge. In other words, there was a need for more frequent and regulated face-to-face meetings among members, apart from them communicating on-line, sothat these members can get to know each other, in order to be able to use thenetwork as a knowledge tool and not mere information resource.The potential for Communication Technology to optimize the knowledgediscourse within a community-of-practice is enormous. For it to work, however, itis important to recognize the superiority of knowledge over information and theimpossibility of this to be used and generated, unless found within and amongpeople and not within any technological tools. 90
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    • APPENDICES1. Appendix one: Interview format used for the interviews with LearningNetwork facilitators1. What is your position within the Countryside Agency?2. In this position, please tell us about your:a) main activities (e.g. practices):b) main concerns (e.g. assumptions, values and beliefs):3. How did you become facilitator of this LN?4. How would you define the purpose of the Learning Network (LN) you are facilitating?5. How many members does this network have?6. How would you define your role as facilitator?7. How much time each week do you dedicate to the facilitation of the Learning Network (LN)? (please tick)a. less than 5 hoursb. 5-10 hoursc. more than 10 hours8. Would you like to have more time to facilitate the LN? Please explain why:9. Please list the TEN most characteristic activities that you perform as part of LN facilitation: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 99
    • 10. Next to each of the above listed activities, please place a letter according to the following key:a. less than once per monthb. between 1-5 times per monthc. between 1- 5 times per weekd. between 5-10 times per weeke. more than 10 times per week11. Please explain what the aims and objectives of the LN you are facilitating are:12. Please explain how these objectives are being achieved:13. How would you characterize the participation of members into the LN? (e.g. active, moderate, intensive, structured, friendly, strictly professional or semi- personal, what is the level of involvement etc)14. What proportion of this participation happens on-line, e.g. via the electronic medium?15. What are the processes and practices that members most often engage within? (please list five or more, e.g. face-to-face meetings, discussion groups, synchronous chat, asynchronous forums)16. What proportion of these processes and practices happens electronically via the extranet?17. Please tell us about the functionality of the software that supports the LN you facilitate:18. Please explain how this functionality is being used by members:19. What is your opinion of the software?20. Within the electronic medium, how do members engage in processes and practices and what do they engage in most often? (i.e. how do they connect, synchronously or asynchronously, please supply a statistics summary, if these is one)21. What are the goals of these processes and how well are they met?22. How do you know the LN members? Please explain the nature of interaction among members: (e.g. dynamic or structured etc, by phone, face-to-face, electronically, pub, what would be the preferred mode).23. What proportion of members are active contributors and what ‘lurkers’? (please provide statistics if possible)24. Tell us what you think about the pattern of participation and communication of members within the electronic medium that you have just described: 100
    • 25. How would you describe the motivation behind members’ participation?26. Please explain what you enjoy most about LN facilitation:27. Please explain what you enjoy least about the LN facilitation:28. Is there anything that you would like to change about the way facilitation is performed? What is it and why?29. Regarding the above, is it within your power to change it, and if not, please explain what stops you?30. How comfortable are you with the facilitation of this LN?a. extremely comfortableb. very comfortablec. comfortabled. not very comfortablee. not at all comfortable31. Please explain the reasons for your response:32. Tell us about the future of this LN:32. Please explain anything else you would like to add:2. Appendix two: Questionnaire format used to email to Learning Networkmembers. The format contains the EPQ questionnaire at the end. Evaluation of Learning Networks INTRODUCTIONDear Member of (Market Towns/Equipping Rural Communities/Rural AffairsForum for England/) Learning Network,My name is Nadia Loumbeva and I am a MSc student in Human-ComputerInteraction at University College London (UCL). I am conducting a qualitativeevaluation of your Learning Network. You may remember that this was recentlynotified to you via email by …… (the Network Facilitator) and Barney Smith(Knowledge Manager at the Countryside Agency). In addition, they solicited yourresponses to the evaluation questions I am about to ask you within this email. 101
    • This is because your responses are central and invaluable to the evaluation of theLearning Network, as this is your Learning Network. Only by you responding willwe know what we are doing well and what we need to improve in the LearningNetwork process, therefore what needs to be retained and what needs to bechanged in this process. Your responses will also help me complete my MScthesis.Please take some time to respond to the questionnaire included within the body ofthis email. It consists of 8 short sections and has been designed to be easy andstraightforward to complete. It should not take more than 45 minutes of your time.PLEASE ALSO SEND YOUR REPLY BY EMAIL AT n.loumbeva@ucl.ac.ukBY THE 5th OF AUGUST 2002. Your responses are greatly appreciated.The following questions concern the efficiency and effectiveness of the LearningNetwork and your benefit from it. Please note that all responses will remainabsolutely ANONYMOUS, with all member email addresses destroyed and notused for analysis purposes.To assure you of the confidentiality of your responses, please email these back atmy university email account: n.loumbeva@ucl.ac.uk. I will be the only personwho has access to and analyses your responses and no one will be able topersonally identify you in documents that I will produce for my MSc thesis.In addition, I will produce a summary report of the results that I will obtain fromthe evaluation of your Learning Network. I WILL SEND THIS SUMMARY TOEVERY MEMBER WHO PARTICIPATES IN THIS EVALUATION BY THE15TH SEPTEMBER 2002, provided that they indicate an interest in receiving it byreplying to the final question in the attached questionnaire.Thank you ever so much for your participation.Yours faithfully:Nadia Loumbeva****************************************************************** 102
    • LEARNING NETWORK EVALUATION QUESTIONNAIREFor all questions, please send your responses via email to my email address(mailto: n.loumbeva@ucl.ac.uk) BY THE 5th OF AUGUST 2002.To do this, please send your responses by including them within this questionnaire(i.e. ‘Learning Network Evaluation Questionnaire’). You can do this by ‘replying’to this email to me and typing your responses below each question as thesequestions appear within this questionnaire.Please type the name of your Learning Network:Please type your sex:Please type your age:For the following questions, please record your responses by typing into thespaces left blank after each question.Section 1: ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THELEARNING NETWORK1. What is your professional practice?2. Please describe your current aims and concerns as part of your professional practice:3. What is your relationship to the Countryside Agency? Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is/are most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) I am employed by the Agencyb) I am or have been working on a project/projects in partnership with theAgencyc) I am or have been contracted by the Agencyd) I have no relationship to the Agency apart from that we work in the samesectore) Other (please indicate the exact nature of your relationship):4. How did you become a member of the Learning Network? Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is/are most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) I was asked to become a member because of the organisation that I work for 103
    • b) I was asked to become a member because of the nature of my workc) I asked to become a member because of the nature of my workd) I was elected to be a member as a result of an application procedure that I initiatede) Other (please explain how otherwise you became a member of the Learning Network):5. What is the purpose of the Learning Network you are a member of?6. What is the value of this purpose to your work?7. How can you contribute to this purpose?Section 2: HOW OFTEN YOU USE THE LEARNING NETWORK8. How often do you log onto the network? Please select one of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) less that once per month;b) 1-5 times per month;c) 1-5 times per week;d) 5-10 times per week;e) more than 10 times per week9. Would you like to log onto the network more often than indicated? a) If YES, please indicate what stops you: b) If NO, please explain why you think your time of using the network is sufficient:Section 3: YOUR INTEREST IN USING THE LEARNING NETWORK10a. Which feature of the Learning Network is of most interest to you? Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is/are most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) Discussion threads posted on the networkb) Newsc) Eventsd) Announcements from the Agencye) Documents loaded for member use 104
    • f) Linksg) Chath) Electronic meetingi) Teleconferencesj) Contactsk) Brainstormingl) Searchm) Other (please indicate what other feature is most use to you):10b. Please explain why this/these particular feature(s) is/are of most interest to you (i.e. regarding your response to the above question):11. Are discussion threads on the network of interest to you at all?a) If YES, please explain why:b) If NO, please explain why:12. Are documents loaded for use on the network of interest to you at all?a) If YES, please explain why:b) If NO, please explain why:13a. How often do you make an active contribution to the network (e.g. participate in discussion threads by putting up points for discussion or comments to other members’ points)? Please select one of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) every time I log onb) every time (or almost) when the discussion is directly relevant to my workc) from time to time because I think I should without this being of directrelevance to my work and/or experienced) from time to time because I have been askede) I never actively contributef) Other (please indicate an alternative that is not listed here):13b. Please give reasons for the answer that you have indicated to the previous question:Section 4: HOW USEFUL YOU FIND THE LEARNING NETWORK14. How is the learning network generally useful to you and your work? 105
    • 15. If your use of the network is primarily to ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE to discussion threads and documents, please explain whether active contribution from your part is useful and helpful to you in your work:16. If your use of the network is primarily to READ discussion threads and loaded documents on the network, but not necessarily actively contribute to the network, please explain whether this in itself is useful and helpful to you and your work:17. How can the network become more useful and valuable to you?Section 5: TECHNOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF YOUR USE OF THE NETWORK18a. How would you describe the functionality of the network (i.e. does it let you do what you want it to do for you)? Please select one of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) Insufficientb) Adequatec) Goodd) Excellent18b. Please give reasons for your answer to the previous question:19a. How much does the technology infrastructure (e.g. the quality of the internet connection) that you have access to impede your use of the network? Please select one of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) not at allb) a littlec) not very muchd) to a great extente) to an extreme extent19b. Please explain your answer to the previous question:Section 6: YOU AND OTHER NETWORK MEMBERS AS A COMMUNITY20a. Are you comfortable with the membership rules of the network?20b. Please give reasons for your response to the question above: 106
    • 21. How many other members do you know on the network? Please select one of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) 1-10 membersb) 10-20 membersc) 20-30 membersd) 30-50 memberse) 50-100 membersf) more than 100 members22. What is the nature of your relationship with those members?23a. Would you like to know more people on the network? Please type ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.23b. Please give reasons for your response to the question above:24. How would you describe the interaction between members?25a. Would you describe yourself as a committed member?25b. Please give reasons for your response to the question above:26a. Please comment on the size of the member community:26b. Is the size of the member community TOO BIG for you to (Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative):a) draw value from your participation (please specify how):b) communicate with as many members as you would like:c) initiate novelty and creativeness within the community:d) other (please specify):26c. Is the size of the community TOO SMALL for you to (Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative):a) draw value from your participation (please specify how):b) communicate with as many members as you would like:c) initiate novelty and creativeness within the community:d) other (please specify):Section 7: YOUR OPINION OF NETWORK FACILITATION25. Please describe your thoughts about the facilitation of the network: 107
    • 26. How would you define the importance of the facilitator to the network?27. Are you happy with the network facilitation?a) If YES, please explain why:b) If NO, please explain why:28a. Is there anything that you would like to change about network facilitation?28b. Please explain your response to the previous question:29. Please explain how the facilitator has been helpful to you:Section 8: YOUR OPINION OF THE LEARNING NETWORK POTENTIAL:30. What would you like to change about this network?31a. How much of the information received via the network do you apply/draw upon in your practice? Please select one or more of the following alternatives that is most right for you by typing in ‘YES’ in the blank space after the alternative.a) I draw upon/apply everything that can be found on the network in my practiceb) I draw upon/apply most of what can be found on the network in my practicec) I draw upon/apply a moderate amount of what can be found on the network in my practiced) I draw upon/apply a little of what can be found on the network in my practicee) I do not draw upon or apply anything that can be found on the network in my practice31b. Regarding the above, please explain what it is that can be found on the network that you draw upon/apply in your practice:32. In your opinion, what additional information currently not provided by the network should be available for use by members?33. What is the most useful aspect of the network?34. Do you enjoy participating?a) If YES, please explain why:b) If NO, please explain why:35. What is your motivation behind using the network?FINAL POINT36. Please add any further comments that you may think are useful to this evaluation: 108
    • Thank you very much for your responses so far. Here follows a group of shortquestions that describe your personal style and temperament. They should not takemore than 10 minutes. By completing these questions, you will make a greatcontribution towards the evaluation of your Learning Network. Your responses tothese questions will also greatly help my research towards completion of my MScthesis.Please answer each question by typing in ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ in the blank space thatfollows it. When answering the questions, please choose the alternative that ismost right for you without thinking too much about your answers.1. Are you a talkative person?2. If you say you will do something, do you always keep your promise no matter how inconvenient it may be?3. Do you ever feel ‘just miserable’ for no reason?4. Are you rather lively?5. Were you ever greedy by helping yourself to more than your share of anything?6. Does your mood often go up and down?7. Are you an irritable person?8. Do you enjoy meeting new people?9. Have you ever blamed someone for doing something you knew was really your fault?10. Are your feelings easily hurt?11. Can you usually let yourself go and enjoy yourself at a lively party?12. Are all your habits good and desirable ones?13. Do you often feel ‘fed-up’?14. Do you usually take the initiative in making new friends?15. Have you ever taken anything (even a pin or button) that belonged to someone else?16. Would you call yourself a nervous person?17. Can you easily get some life into a rather dull party?18. Have you ever broken or lost something belonging to someone else?19. Are you a worrier?20. Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions?21. Have you ever said anything bad or nasty about anyone? 109
    • 22. Would you call yourself tense or highly strung?23. Do you like mixing with people?24. As a child were you ever cheeky to your parents?25. Do you worry too long after an embarrassing experience?26. Do you like plenty of bustle and excitement around you?27. Have you ever cheated at a game?28. Do you suffer from ‘nerves’?29. Have you ever taken advantage of someone?30. Are you mostly quiet when you are with other people?31. Do you often feel lonely?32. Do other people think of you as being very lively?33. Do you always practice what you preach?34. Are you often troubled about feelings of guilt?35. Do you sometimes put off until tomorrow what you ought to do today?36. Can you get a party going?Please indicate whether you are interested in receiving by email a summary reportof the results that will be obtained from this evaluation (please indicate by typing‘YES’ or ‘NO’):There are no more questions. Thank you very much for participating! 110
    • 3. Appendix three: Tables and Graphs summarizing member responses to theemail questionnaire for the Market Towns Learning Network Table 1Nature of membership of the Market Towns Learning Network (Countryside Agency staff,partners, contractors and members having no relationship to the Agency other than working in thesame sector) according to the way in which membership was acquired for use and the amount ofinformation found useful that is received via the network. Thirty-two of all the thirty-threemembers who responded to the evaluation questionnaire answered these questions. CA CA CA No TOTAL staff partners contractors relationshipI was asked to become a memberbecause of the organization that I 6 2 1 1 10work forI was asked to become a memberbecause of the nature of my work 3 8 3 2 16I asked to become a memberbecause of the nature of my work 1 1 0 0 2I was elected to be a member afteran application procedure that I 0 0 0 0 0initiatedI was automatically assignedmembership 1 0 1 2 4 TOTAL 11 11 5 5 32I draw upon/apply everything thatcan be found on the network in my 0 0 0 0 0practiceI draw upon/apply most of whatcan be found on the network in my 2 3 0 0 5practiceI draw upon/apply a moderateamount of what can be found on the 2 4 3 2 11network in my practiceI draw upon/apply a little of whatcan be found on the network in my 4 1 1 3 9practiceI do not draw upon or applyanything that can be found on the 0 2 1 0 3network in my practice TOTAL 8 10 5 5 28 111
    • Table 2Usefulness appraisals according to the way in which membership was acquired. All usefulnessappraisals were qualitatively obtained as answers to the question: “ How is the Learning Networkgenerally useful to you and your work?”. They were classified in four categories: 1. Very useful(e.g. “Extremely!”, “…find the network an efficient & effective means of keeping informed &motivated”), 2. Reasonably useful/more active members needed (e.g. “It is, but it would be muchmore useful if more people contributed.”, “Reasonably useful but has potentially more use if usedactively by all.”, “…but it could be better – it’s simply not used enough by the bulk of themembers”), 3. Somewhat useful/not central to my work (e.g. “Generally helpful”, “Of limitedusefulness, because much of my work is in large towns rather than market towns”, “…of someimportance but not crucial” ), 4. Not useful (e.g. “Not really”, “Not at present. Information is hardto find, and responses to items posted are erratic and irregular.”). Thirty-one of all thirty-threemembers who responded answered this question. Very Reasonably Somewhat Not useful TOTAL useful useful/more useful active /not central members to workI was asked to become a memberbecause of the organization that I 0 2 5 2 9work forI was asked to become a memberbecause of the nature of my work 3 3 8 1 15I asked to become a memberbecause of the nature of my work 2 0 0 0 2I was elected to be a memberafter an application procedure 0 0 0 0 0that I initiatedI was automatically assignedmembership 1 1 1 0 3Members not providing aresponse about their way of 1 0 0 1 2getting involved with the network TOTAL 7 6 14 4 31 112
    • Table 3Extraversion, Neuroticism and Social desirability scores available for 25 of the 33 respondents tothe Market Towns Learning Network evaluation questionnaire. Average scores are given for all 25respondents, as well as for 11 males and 14 females. Standard deviations from the average aregiven in brackets. Average age for each group is displayed. Females appear to be much moreextraverted than males and much more stable in their scores as a group. In contrast, males appearto be less neurotic than females and more stable in their scores on this variable as a group. Finally,males score higher on Social Desirability than females, both groups being equally stable in theirscores on this variable. Number Age Extraversion Neuroticism Social desirability Allrespondents 25 30,08 7,92 (2,83) 3,64 (2,43) 4,48 (2,58) Males 11 34 6,9 (3,08) 3,7 (1,9) 5 (2,7) Females 14 41,3 9,2 (1,9) 4,4 (2,9) 3,8 (2,4) Table 4 (on the next page)Frequency of logging onto the Market Towns Learning Network and reasons forconsidering the time allowed sufficient/insufficient according to EPQExtraversion score (max 12). The majority of respondents (17 members asopposed to 7) are extraverted rather that introverted. This, however, has noapparent effect on their frequency of logging onto the network and using thematerial provided because of other more powerful factors related to their workingpractice: time pressures and work structuring in terms of generally acceptedroutines and practices, as well as their need for face-to-face communication. 113
    • Extraversion Sex Age Frequency of logging onto the network Reasons for wishing to log/not log more website often(EPQ score) range 10 – 12 1M 32 – 41 less than once per month (2 members) Work pressures and time constraints (1 member); I (3 members) 2F get all I need in the time I devote (2 members) 1-5 times per month (1 member) 8 – 10 3M 22 – 62 less than once per month (2 members) Have to type e-mail every time/discussions difficult (9 members) 6F 1-5 times per month (2 members) to follow (2 members); Lack of time/forget about it 1-5 times per week (4 members) (4 members); A couple of times per week/every other more than 10 times per week (1 member) day is more than enough to contribute effectively to the network (2 members); 1 member not given reasons 6–8 3M 24 – 49 less than once per month (2 members) Human contact/face-to-face personal networks can (5 members) 2F help me get the support I need (2 members); 1-5 times per month (2 members) Currently not great deal on of value (1 member); I 1 member not responded get all I need into time (1 member); Time constraints (1 member) 4–6 3M 27 – 36 less than once per month (1 member) Time constraints (3 members); Information does not (4 members) 1F 1-5 times per month (2 members) suit individual needs/sterile environment in which to 1-5 times per week (1 member) gather ideas/ technology cumbersome (1 member) 2–4 2M 45 – 57 1-5 times per month (both members) Time constraints (2 members) (2 members) 0–2 1M 40 1-5 times per week Lack of time/need for a fundamental change in (1 member) working practice (1 member) 114
    • Table 5 (on the next page)Frequency of adding to discussion threads, approximate number of other members known as partof participating in the Market Towns community and appraisals of self-commitment to the MarketTowns community purpose, all according to EPQ Extraversion scores. Number of membersindicating pre-specified responses are indicated in brackets after each type of response. Age andsex of respondents is also given. There is no apparent relationship between these variables andExtraversion. This is because, according to members’ responses, time and direct relevance ofdiscussions posted on the network to present work commitments, as well as particular interest inthe topic, are most powerful factors in posting comments on the network. As one member put it:“This can be a sporadic process and I can go several weeks without commenting on anything andthen be caught up in a flurry of activity the week after.” (E=10).In this way, for personal style differences to influence the rate of active contribution of individualson the network, there need to be conditions for on-going communication and discursive communitydevelopment, so that personality can be found at work in a dynamic process of community buildingand knowledge creation, by probably influencing the number of people indicated as known on thenetwork and the nature of relationship to them. Such conditions exist in the direct relevance ofdiscussion matter to the on-going work (provided that there is genuine interest in this work), aswell as social structure facilitations in terms of time sufficiently allowed to participate and meansfor direct, face-to-face communication.Although a fair amount of respondents indicated commitment to the Market Towns communitypurpose, they also explained in answers to an additional question that the network is a goodinformation source, but has limited value as a communication tool, and that there is very littleinteraction, mainly because people don’t really know how to approach each other. Some membersindicated that they are enthusiastic for the principle of having a community supported by thenetwork, rather than committed to it as it is currently, expecting that it will get better. One memberalso said in her responses: “I will commit to going to meetings and have offered time to helporganise future meetings.” 115
    • Extraversion Sex Age Frequency of active contribution Other members Commitment (adding to discussions) known on the(EPQ score) range network (“Are you a committed member?”) 10 – 12 1M 32 – 41 Rarely (2 members); Never (1) 1-10 members known (2 Yes – 1 member (3 members) 2F respondents); 10-20 No – 2 members members (1); 8 – 10 3M 22 – 62 Every time I log on (1 member); Every time 1-10 members (3 Yes – 2 members (9 members) 6F when the discussion is directly relevant to my respondents); 10-20 Getting there! – 2 members work (2); From time to time because I think I members (4); 20-30 (1); No – 4 members should without this being of direct relevance 30-50 members (1); 50- 1 member not responded to my work (1); From time to time because I 100 members (1) have been asked (1); Occasionally (2); Not active ye but plan to become so (1); I never actively contribute (1) 6–8 3M 24 – 49 Every time when the discussion is directly 1-10 members (3 Yes – 1 member (5 members) 2F relevant (1 member); Rarely (1); Not active respondents); 10-20 To team yes. To Learning Network but plant to become so (1); Never (2) members (2) as much as time allows – 1 member No – 2 members 1 member not responded 4–6 3M 27 – 36 Every time the discussion is relevant (1 1-10 members (2 Yes, willing to be more so – 1 (4 members) 1F member); From time-to-time because I think I respondents); 10-20 member should (1); Rarely (1); Never (1) members (1); more than Fair – 1 member 100 members (1) I would, because of considerable merits – 1 member No – 1 member 2–4 2M 45 – 57 Every time when the discussion is directly 1-10 members (both Yes – both members (2 members) relevant (2 members); respondents) 0–2 1M 40 Every time when the discussion is directly 10-20 members Yes in so far as workload permits (1 member) relevant (1 member) 116
    • Table 6 (on the next page)Appraisals of the functionality of the Market Towns Learning Network website and the extent towhich the technology infrastructure available to members for access to the website impedes theiruse of the network, according to EPQ scores for Neuroticism (max 12). The majority ofrespondents are situated in the lower end of the Neuroticism dimension (22 as opposed to 3).Appraisals of website functionality are according to respondent choices for pre-specified answers(insufficient, adequate, good, excellent) to the question: “How would you describe thefunctionality of the network?”.Appraisals of technology infrastructure are according to respondent choices to pre-specifiedanswers (not at all, a little, not very much, to a great extent, to an extreme extent) to the question:“How much does the technology infrastructure impede your use of the network?”. Websitefunctionality was described as easy to use and accessible by some members; others note that thesearch function is little use, that the site is generally slow, difficult to navigate and read, that youoften get timed out and loose what you have entered, that “we have had no training in its use”, that“having passwords to access is extremely frustrating and gets in the way” and that “it needs to bemore sophisticated, e.g. show you which items you’ve not read in the sub-sections”. Technologyinfrastructure has on the overall been described as “decent” and facilitatory (high speed,broadband connection etc.); however, some members describe the system as slow at some timesand one member notes that “folks in rural areas do not have access to broadband technology sonavigation can be extremely slow”. Some members also noted problems with composingdiscussion comments and answers, where “you are supposed to compose a word document andthen attach this”. Neuroticism appears to be generally unrelated to the extent to which technologyis experienced as a problem to online communication. This is probably because, as already noted,the network is not central to the majority of respondents’ work. 117
    • Neuroticism Sex Age range Functionality appraisal Technology infrastructure(EPQ score) (“How would you describe the appraisal in terms of impeding use functionality of the network?”) of the network 10-12 (0 members) - - - - 8-10 Adequate Not very much (1 member) 1F 26 6-8 Insufficient (1 respondent) A little (1 respondent) (2 members) 2F 24-36 Good (1) Not very much (1) 4-6 2F Insufficient (1 respondent) Not at all (4 respondents) (5 members) 3M 32-51 Adequate (2) A little (1) Good (1) Excellent (1) 2-4 3F Insufficient (2 respondents) Not at all (6 respondents) (9 members) 6M 28-57 Adequate (3) A little (2) Good (4) To a great extent (1) 0-2 3F Insufficient (1 respondent) Not at all (3 respondents) (8 members) 5M 22-42 Adequate (2) A little (3) Good (3) Not very much (1) 2 not responded 1 not responded 118
    • Graph 1Graph depicting the popularity of functionality features provided by the Market Towns LearningNetwork web site with those members who responded to the evaluation questionnaire. Eachfunctionality feature is related to the number of members expressing an interest in using thisfeature and finding it useful. LN functionality features plotted against most interest expresed by members of MTLN within their responses Use (No of members expressing an interest) 25 20 15 10 5 0 s s s ch s ts g ts s ts gs Ne hat s s ce ad m ct ew nk ea em in en en en ar tin ta ite rm en C re Li N Ev m um Se it on ee th to er Te rch w ce C m oc ns nf on un co c D ai si ni no es Br le us tro An R isc ec D El Functionality 120
    • Graph 2Appraisals of network functionality, according to pre-specified responses chosen by members whoreturned completed evaluation questionnaires. Member responses to the question: "How would you describe the functionality of the network (i.e. does it let you do what you want it to do)? 14 Number of responses per 12 type of appraisal 10 8 6 4 2 0 Insufficient Adequate Good Excellent Functionality appraisals Graph 3Appraisals of the infrastructure enabling the use of the Learning Network for those members whoresponded to the evaluation questionnaire, according to pre-specified responses that they chose. Member responses to the question: "How much does the technology infrastructure (e.g. the quality of the internet connection) impede your use of the network?" Number of responses for 16 14 each category 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Not at all A little Not very To a great To an much extent extreme extent How much technology infrastructure constrains network use 121
    • 4. Appendix four: Table summarizing data obtained for the Equipping RuralCommunities Learning Network Table 7 (on the next page)Relationship to the Countryside Agency (CA) according to Equipping Rural CommunitiesLearning Network membership acquisition, rate of using the network website, rate of adding todiscussions and perceived benefit from participating in the network. Data were obtained for 7respondents to the evaluation questionnaire (age range between 27-50). 5 respondents were malesand 2 females. EPQ scores are available for 5 of these respondents. For Extraversion (max 12): 0-2 (2 members), 4-8 (2 members), 8-10 (1 member). Therefore the respondent population isrelatively introverted rather than extraverted and this conclusion cannot be generalized across thewhole Learning Network community because of the very small number of respondents. ForNeuroticism (max 12): 0-2 (1 member), 2-4 (2 members), 4-8 (1 member), 8-10 (1 member),respondents are relatively low on this personal style variable and again the small number ofrespondents makes impossible the generalizing of this observation to the whole community andthe drawing of conclusions regarding the influence of personal style on member participation andcommunity development. Discussion threads posted on the network were indicated as the mostuseful feature, followed by documents loaded for member use. Time was revealed as the mainconstraint to logging on the network website more often and actively contributing, as well as“forgetting that it is there!”, which indicates the low integration of the network within the workingculture of members and the non-existent conditions for community of interest to develop and thenbe supported by the network. 1 member referred to the network as mainly “an informationgathering exercise”, where it is hard to put views across if they have not been approved by linemanagement (again this indicates that members are not allowed a healthy autonomy to foster,engage and create the community process to generate knowledge). Most members indicated thatthere are not enough contributions to the network and 1 member said that contributions are justopinions with no impact on policy development (“discussions are mainly just gossip and daftopinions”), thus describing the community process as defeating its original purpose. Regarding thebenefit of network participation to members, most of them indicated that they are not interested inthe purpose of the network as a whole, but rather in some and not other of the specific topics setby the facilitator over time; this removes member opportunity for action learning. 122
    • CA staff CA CA No TOTAL partners contractors relationship 2 members 7 2 members 1 member to CA 2 members membersMembershipacquisitionI was asked because ofthe organization that I 1(“I felt I was 1 2work for helping out a fledging project”)I was asked because ofthe nature of my work 1 1 1 2 5UseLess than once per month 1 1 1 31-5 times per month 2 (“for the topic I was involved 1 3 in”)1-5 times per week 1 1Active contributionEvery time the discussionis directly relevant to my 1 1 2workFrom time to timebecause I think I should 1 1 2 4From time to timebecause I have been 1 1askedBenefitI apply most of what canbe found on the network 1 1in my practiceI apply a moderateamount of what can be 1found on the network in 1my practiceI apply a little of whatcan be found on the 2 1 1 4network in my practice 123
    • 5. Appendix five: Table summarizing data obtained from email questionnaireresponses for the Rural Affairs Forum for England Learning Network Table 8 (on the next page)Relationship to the Countryside Agency (CA) according to the Rural Affairs Forum for EnglandLearning Network membership acquisition, rate of network website use, rate of active contributionand perceived benefit from network community participation.Data were obtained for 4 members: Extraversion (max 12) = 4, 8, 12, 1 member not available;Neuroticism (max 12) = 1, 2, 5, 1 member not available; age range = 36-73. Personal style datacannot be generalized to the whole network community because of the very small number ofrespondents to the network evaluation questionnaire.Time was indicated as the main factor impeding network use and active contribution, as well as thenetwork not currently working in the way originally intended. Documents loaded for member useappeared to be most popular with the respondents and 1 member indicated that he uses the networkto “pass these documents onto the departments that deal with those topics”, thus revealing theusefulness of the network as an information, rather than knowledge, source. Apart fromdocuments, information on government policy and minutes and statements from interested groupswere also indicated of practical use.In addition, another respondent expressed an expectation of the network to become more useful forknowledge, rather than information, purposes, when the Rural Affairs sub-groups start their work(this could be because of the greater cohesion among community members that would be broughtabout by them sharing very similar concerns in terms of their belonging to the same geographicalregion). Interaction among members was described as limited and minimal where people are justacquaintances and not relations and where the size of the community is too big in order to bridgeacross different opinions during network meetings.Finally, one member expressed the view that the network has the potential to be very powerful,provided that there is a “strong community of interest to be the virtual embodiment of a strongphysical community”, where conditions for “physical” community development, in terms ofeffective development of interpersonal relations, need to exist in order for the virtual community tobe perceived as optimizing the “physical” process of knowledge creation. 124
    • CA staff CA partners CA No TOTAL (3 members) contractors relationship (none) (4 (none) to CA members) (1 members)MembershipacquisitionI was asked because ofthe organization that I 2 1 3work forI was asked because ofthe nature of my work 1 1Use1-5 times per month 2 1 31-5 times per week 1 1Active contributionEvery time the discussionis directly relevant to my 1 1workFrom time to timebecause I think I should 1 1I never actively 1 1 2contributeBenefitI apply most of what canbe found on the network 1 1in my practiceI apply a moderateamount of what can be 1 1 2found on the network inmy practiceI do not apply anythingfound on the network in 1 1my practice 125