About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Distributed knowledge in the workplace

I'm still working on this idea, but both Michael Hanley and Karyn Romeis have blogged about knowledge recently so I decided to post what I currently am grappling with. There are still a lot of questions to answer.

Three types of knowledge

In analyzing the data, knowledge could be placed into three categories: tangible representation of knowledge which could be found in policies, forms, formats, curriculum, degrees or credentials, records, and other artifacts at the individual, group, departmental, organizational, and/or professional level; procedural and tacit knowledge, which would include an understanding of work processes and the knowledge created as a result of those processes; and spatial knowledge, which was created through the linking of ideas, social relationships, cognitive interaction, and/or cultural interaction. Each type of knowledge was manifested, accessed, created, and valued differently at the individual, group, and organizational level.

Spatial knowledge is the most valuable for knowledge based organizations. Knowledge can be part of the network internal to the group, external to the group, within the profession, internal to the organization and external to the organization.

However, spatial knowledge is difficult to quantify, control, and capture. Spatial knowledge is created through creative practices (writing, design, problem solving) rather than through the imposition of formats or processes. The imposition of formats helps to create organizational boundaries and impose organizational expectations that may lead to a change culture. But there will be no cultural change if the individuals do not perceive ownership to a document, work artifact or product, or process. In other words, they will confom to the imposed format, process, and/or culture, but they will not claim ownership to it.

This creates a tension between values imposed through authority and personal values. As the AIM model theorizes (Skitka, L., 2003), a group member has three choices: 1) live with the imposed values while maintaining personal values, try to change imposed values, or leave the environment (in the case of this study, quit) in order to maintain individual or group values. In this study, a fourth option developed, create a parallel structure so both individual/group values are maintained, while fulfilling the requirements of the imposed culture.


1) If there is a difference in epistemology which leads to a breakdown in the group knowledge creation process, it might help to use a strategy in which acceptable content rather than knowledge is defined and negotiated at the individual, group, and organizational level. (What are the other components of “knowledge” which might need to be negotiated initially or will affect the collaborative writing process? Start the collaborative writing process with a common “content”.)

2)This brings up questions as to the role of “know-how” in the group collaborative process. If it is considered an individual attribute, can a group have “know-how”? Is there such a thing as collective “know-how”? Would it be developed or used in the same way as individual know how? Is this why knowledge management is unable to capture group implicit knowledge? Is the continuation of the communication a way to develop collective know-how which is important to the group and not to the power structure? Because it is more difficult to measure, is it possible that collective know-how is in fact knowledge that is not important to those in power or within a group, but is important to the individual?

3) Who owns the knowledge? This is especially important in a distributed group in which knowledge is culled from multiple sources (profession, personal experience, the group, the department, the organization, and other stackholders). What if no one takes ownership? What happens to the work process, the end product, group dynamics, organizational culture? This can be seen in corporations where everyone, yet no one owns the knowledge.

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5-21.

Skitka, L. (2003). Of different minds: An accessible identity model of justice reasoning. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(4), 286-297.

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