Where Has Knowledge Gone?

For many decades organizations have dealt with the issue of conceptualizing organizational knowledge. Since the early 1990’s, knowledge management has moved from the leveraging of explicit knowledge to leveraging collective knowledge (Dixion, 2009). The concept of knowledge has been debated by many; however, a conclusion as to how to appropriately manage knowledge within organizations has yet to be determined. Weinberger (2011) suggests that knowledge lives in the network and not in books or people’s heads. Likewise, Weinberger believes that the internet can develop knowledge more than individuals ever can because of the capabilities of hyperlinks, the connectivity and communication that the internet offers people from diverse perspectives, and the cumulative nature of the internet (2011). The social aspect of the internet influences the management of knowledge because it allows a group of experts with diverse perspectives to come together to address a problem and reinforces the idea that people and knowledge is stronger when people are together (Weinberger, 2011).  Jarache (2016) encourages the management of knowledge through social learning in which organizational environments encourage social sharing and the use of technology to enhance problem solving, knowledge sharing, and social learning. These contemporary approaches to knowledge management pushes organizations to move away from knowledge management that is static and encourages the management of knowledge through training and a push for competency for individuals by leveraging exploit knowledge because this approach fails to acknowledge the knowledge in people’s heads and the resistance to using he knowledge of others (Dixon, 2009). Instead, the contemporary approaches to knowledge management emphasize leveraging experiential and collective knowledge to address challenging and complex problems by engaging the thoughts of groups over the knowledge of individuals (Dixon, 2009).

At my institution, we recently instituted the “Grocery Store Challenge” which is a campus effort designed to solve an adaptive challenge of the campus community in which there is little agreement on the problem and on how it can be solved (Dixon, 2009). The major issue is that a food desert exists surrounding the University because there is no grocery store within a ten to 15-mile radius of the campus. Our president has invited our campus community to come together as faculty, student and staff to form think groups to contemplate ways in which we can bring a grocery store to campus or the surrounding community. Our President’s approach to trying to solve this difficult issue is to bring together some cognitive diversity and thought to solve the issue with many types of people. This approach to solving the issue emphasizing intra-organizational learning through a networked community and in a collaborative nature with hopes that groups will be better at making decisions and achieving the defined goal (Jarche, 2016). Technology could also serve a role in helping to solve this campus community effort by offering an online community or depository for ideas or suggestions as ways to address this issue, thus bringing together even more diverse perspectives, interpretations, thought in working to solve the problem (Weinberger, 2011).

The internet is a powerful tool in the management of knowledge and encourages the leveraging of collective knowledge; however, some question if the internet is running knowledge management. Davenport (2015) suggests that knowledge management has faded overtime because people have not wanted to search for knowledge, have not wanted to share knowledge, have not wanted to adopt new ways of accessing knowledge. In addition, Davenport believes that the internet has killed knowledge management because it has made knowledge more easily accessible because it makes searching for external knowledge more easy than searching for internal knowledge of an organization (2015). I do believe that the internet has killed knowledge management because it allows knowledge management at many different levels. Through the internet knowledge can be managed at the explicit level, experiential level. And collective level. Other forms of knowledge management simply lack this versatility. Weinberger (2011) offers reasons as to why the internet is so effective as a knowledge management tool including, the large network of connection the internet offers, the cognitive diversity that exists in the network formed over the internet, the ability to connect experts and novice thinkers, and the cumulative nature of the internet. Additionally, the internet reduces the boundaries of collective thought and expertise sharing and moves knowledge away from the static form of knowledge that we once relied upon in the paper format of knowledge (Weinberger, 2011).

As knowledge management evolves I think that leaders play a central role in the future of knowledge management. To push knowledge management to a more collective leverage of knowledge to address adaptive challenges it is important that leaders correctly frame a question to encourage thought about the issue rather than posing a solution or addressing the symptoms of the problem. In addition, leaders have a responsibility to establish an organizational culture that encourages conversation. Moreover, leaders can enhance the ability of members of an organization to engage in conversation by creating the most appropriate physical space for conversation and by encouraging diversity of thought among the people engaged in the conversation (Dixon, 2009). Lastly, it is important that leaders are transparent in the knowledge management process, by providing access to data and all perspectives. For leaders, knowledge management has not disappeared, but rather knowledge management has evolved. Knowledge has evolved in its nature, the experts who hold the knowledge, control, in how it is transferred and how it is created. Leaders are responsible for building and supporting communities that can collectively manage knowledge to meet the challenges of the future.

References:

Davenport, T. H. (24 June, 2015). Whatever happened to knowledge management? The Wall Street Journal. New York: NY.

Dixon, N. (2009). Three eras of knowledge management [blogpost]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html

Jarche, H. (24 February, 2010). A framework for social learning in the enterprise [blogpost]. Retrieved from http://jarche.com/2010/02/a-framework-for-social-learning-in-the-enterprise/

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York, NY: Basic Books.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Where Has Knowledge Gone?

  1. I love the example of how your campus is coming together to figure out how to get a grocery store on campus! That’s a perfect example of an adaptive challenge, and how your leader is convening those with cognitive diversity to work on it in different ways. You mention how technology could be used to help this process. Is it being used currently? If so – how? If not, how could you lobby to get technology integrated into the process?

    Thanks,
    Andrea

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    1. Hi Andrea,
      Before reading the articles from the week I was not very familiar with the term adaptive challenge, but as I read more and more, the grocery store challenge initiated by our University President came to mind. From the current information that Dr. Lovell has offered the campus community it does not sound like technology has been integrated into the challenge yet. I think the best way to integrate technology is to create a team that is connected in an online community so that there can be greater cognitive diversity and thought that is brought together without any geographical boundaries or limitations. One of the online tools that I explored in addition to my selected tool was the online tool, Zoom. This web tool would be perfect for an online group because it is an online, collaborative based video conferencing platform that allows groups to host online meetings, engage in group messaging, and is cloud supported. Integrating technology is not easy for this challenge; however, it can be done.
      Thank you,
      Adrienne

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  2. I admire your institution’s getting together to solve the problem of the food desert – I’d certainly like to know what is the outcome of that! I also like the way you defended Davenport’s theory – your arguments are sound and well put together. How can web-based tools improve the management of information and knowledge?

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    1. Dr. Robinson,
      I am very anxious to see what comes from this approach to meeting this adaptive challenge that Marquette’s campus has. For over a decade this has been an issue that students have raised and finally a solution could finally be on the horizon. In regards to how web-based tools can be used to improve the management of information and knowledge, I think the simplest of information management via a web based tool is the leveraging of explicit knowledge. With the use of web based tools, organizations can more easily capture information and connect people to it, thus finding a simpler way to manage explicit organizational content (Dixon, 2009). One example of this from my current organization is the documenting of statistics and records that we record for our athletic programs and student-athletes. For approximately the last 40 years, our department traditionally produced a media guide each year for each our athletic teams. This was an expensive mass produced and printed collection of historical data on each team including team rosters, team records, and statistics and current rooster information. Two years ago, we discontinued the printing of the media guides and took all the content online. The same stable content is now accessible online through our GoMarquette website and the website also offers the opportunity to dynamic content as well. Before the website our department worked diligently to capture knowledge, however, because the knowledge was only accessible when people had the media guide in their hands, this making it cumbersome for individuals to use the knowledge. With the website, the stable and dynamic content is now easily accessible: however, there remains the challenge of getting our external constituents to use the website for information.
      Adrienne
      Reference:
      Dixon, N. (2009). Three eras of knowledge management [blogpost]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html

      Like

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