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Managing of Knowledge with theAid of Communication Technology      Learning Networks at the Countryside Agency            ...
I would like to thank Malcolm Ballantine, whose help has beeninvaluable for the accomplishment of this thesis.I would also...
ABSTRACTThe present work is concerned with the effectiveness of managing knowledgeusing Communication Technology to suppor...
TABLE OF CONTENTSPart I ...………………………………………………………. 1 - 71. Introduction to the present work ……………………………….. 21.1. Overview o...
3.3. Conclusions ………………………………………………………….. 304. Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge ……………………… 314.1. Polanyi’s view on t...
2.6. Rationale behind using the MBTIin Learning Network evaluation ………………………………………….632.7. Data obtained from the personal...
LIST OF TABLESMarket Towns Learning Network Evaluation:Table 1 …………………………………… p. 111Table 2 …………………………………… p. 112Table 3 …...
Part IIntroduction
1. INTRODUCTION TO THE PRESENT WORK1.1. Overview of the subject of the present workThe present work was set out with the a...
a general questionnaire to members of the communities that the extranets weredeemed to support. These interviews and quest...
1.4. Knowledge Management at the Countryside AgencyAbout a year ago (June 2001), following on the Modernizing Government W...
Network. Learning Networks provide a web-based space, specifically designed toproject Agency messages and views on creatin...
for them, their work practice must allow for the execution of a knowledge practicewithin it, so that it can be effective.F...
Interviews with the facilitator and material provided by some of the participantsindicated that contributions on the netwo...
Part IILiterature Review
LEARNING AND THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGEHow to Optimise Human Knowledge by Using Communication Technologies             as Par...
1. IntroductionWithin the recent five years, there has been a growing interest in the nature ofknowledge, in terms of its ...
‘Knowledge managing’, in contrast, recognises the continuous social constructionof human knowledge via the dynamic nature ...
and technology tools (Kling, 1993), where organisational analysis embracescomputer science, and can be seen as a superior ...
2. Situated learning in communities-of-practiceIn their work based on ethnographic observations, Lave and Wenger (1991) an...
coming information to elaborate on their knowledge. The presence of sharedintelligent efforts follows from the joint passi...
Thus communities-of-practice, through the cultivation of social bonds, offer theconditions enabling not only knowledge, as...
everywhere except in the productivity statistics’ (Solow, 1987), ignoring that theway to productivity is indirect and pass...
case studies described by Tsoukas and Vladimirou (2001) and Lanzarra andPatriotta (2001), where communities-of-actual-prac...
resents over-structuring designs in attempts at other than facilitating theirdevelopment.The above makes clear the opposit...
them from contextual demands in order to facilitate the design process (i.e. in thetradition of classical Ergonomics; this...
members in fact assures the community a challenging, whilst an informallyproductive, vibrancy.Expert members of communitie...
by ‘intelligent efforts’ to elaborate on their expertise. Rather, it is usually‘imposed’ on employees, following on an unr...
Table 1. : Shift in thinking and practice experienced by Xerox, which offers an organizationalmodel for managing communiti...
facilitation of knowledge communities. The stories disseminating the knowledgeacquired within communities-of-practice are ...
communities. Designing technologies with facilitating and not ordainingassumptions will stimulate the development of actua...
3. The ‘real world’ problem: Is Communication Technologyat present useful to human knowledge creation?Within the present s...
action. It is always knowledge to “some end”. And third, knowledge, unlike information, is aboutmeaning. It is context-spe...
3.2. Information can not effectively yield knowledge, unless within the contextof practiceEfforts to manage the knowledge ...
initiate knowledge-enabling interpretation of information via collective memoryaction. The assumption behind this approach...
3.2.2. Optimizing knowledge by increasing the value of social exchange with CTIn their work, Thompson and Walsham (2001) c...
3.3. ConclusionsThe above section shows that technology is not useful to human knowledgecreation, unless technology suppor...
4. Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledgeThe purpose of this section is to provide a thorough account of the nature ofknow...
knowledge        shared    by    individuals      that    makes      possible     the    perceivedmeaningfulness, exchange...
Cook and Brown (1999) also discuss the tacit-explicit knowledge dimension interms of knowledge acquisition:Precisely, taci...
We can learn such meanings by getting involved in the context (e.g. a community-of-practice) from which the explicit conce...
of knowledge creation. This point is illustrated within the case studies byThompson and Walsham (2001) described earlier w...
reading of information to understand and apply this understanding in practice,were not unified by a socially integrated pu...
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
Managing of Knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies - MSc Dissertation Project
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

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

  1. 1. 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.
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. Part IIntroduction
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. Part IILiterature Review
  16. 16. 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. ‘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
  19. 19. 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
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. 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
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. 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
  30. 30. 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
  31. 31. 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
  32. 32. 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
  33. 33. 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
  34. 34. 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
  35. 35. 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
  36. 36. 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
  37. 37. 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
  38. 38. 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
  39. 39. 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
  40. 40. 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
  41. 41. 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
  42. 42. 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
  43. 43. 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

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