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, July 28, 2011

Organizational learning theories

My dissertation not only looks at distributed group collaboration, but also how that effects organizational learning. The following is my discussion on organizational learning, including how I differentiate knowledge management from organizational learning.

Organizational Learning Theories

There are two prevailing schools of learning theory at the organizational level. The first is based on the idea of organizational knowledge management in which knowledge is codified into information which the organization and individuals can access, monitor, acquire, and store (Allee, 1997; Contu & Willmott, 2003; Raelin, 2008). Similar to Kolb’s (1980) apprehensive and comprehensive knowledge, this school of organizational learning theorizes that the process of codification creates knowledge which can be stored and accessed for use when needed by those within the organization (Raelin; Yakhlef, 2002). Organizational knowledge then becomes the aggregate of individuals’ knowledge and experience (Allee, 1997; Cook & Yanow, 1995). As Raelin describes DiBella, Nevis, and Gould’s three-step approach to organizational learning from a knowledge management perspective, knowledge is acquired, shared, and utilized by members of the organization. Rouwette and Vennix (2008) describe the information processing approach used within knowledge management which includes attention to identification of problems, encoding information so group members create shared meaning, store information perceived as valuable which creates organizational memory, create informational retrieval processes, create workspace processes that support organizational culture, and create communication structures that support sense-making and feedback from individuals and groups within the organization.

Knowledge management based theories of organizational learning begins with codified knowledge that can be retrieved and stored from members of the organization (Cook & Brown, 1999, Nonaka, 1994). For knowledge to be useful, therefore, individuals need to be able to transform tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Knowledge that cannot be codified would not be useful to the organization as knowledge would not be able to be retrieved and stored for use by others within the organization. As a result, organizational processes need to be structured so that tacit information can be transformed into codified knowledge thus resulting in organizational learning. Using Anderson’s ACT cognitive model, Nonaka explains, “declarative knowledge has to be transformed into procedural knowledge in order for cognitive skills to develop…it can be argued that transformation is bidirectional (p. 18).” In other words, codified knowledge needs to be in a form that fits into organizational procedures, but also organizational procedures can produce knowledge that then needs to be codified for organizational use.

My working definition of knowledge management is the access, monitoring, acquisition, and storage of organizational information which is codified into a common format in order for those within the organization to participate in sense-making, group decision making and problem solving, and the creation of shared mental models at the group, departmental, and organizational level. While organizational learning may need to access some forms of knowledge management, organizational learning is not synonymous with knowledge management. In addition, not all organizational learning requires knowledge management, although knowledge management might augment organizational learning.

The second school of organizational learning theory is based on organizational members’ social and cultural interaction with the environment, often through the establishment of communities of practice within the workplace (Akgun, Lynn, & Byrne, 2003; Cook & Brown, 1999; Cook & Yanow, 1995; Nonaka, 1994). Those within this school of organizational learning believe that learning within the organization is not based on individuals possessing needed knowledge, but rather learning is a construction of knowledge within the organizational environment. Cook and Yanow go one step further by placing learning into the organizational culture which establishes patterns of activity that create knowledge. They define organizational learning as, “acquiring, sustaining or changing of intersubjective meaning and/or the artifactual vehicles of their expression and transmission, through the collective actions of the group (p.280).” In other words, it is the interaction with the environment, stimulated through organizational practices such as collaborative writing, project management, and both formal and informal group discussions that create organizational learning opportunities. These work activities, both cognitive and social, create both tacit and explicit knowledge through social interaction and the organization of work patterns (Cook & Brown, 1999).

Akgun, Lynn, & Byrne (2003) further define the organizational learning process as “ a social process mediated by artifacts. This view thus emphasizes the importance of culture, communication, and group activities in organizations (p. 843).” While the first model presented above (knowledge management) assumes that knowledge is created and possessed at the individual level and is then dispersed collectively at the group and organizational level, this second model (constructed knowledge) theorizes that there are different types of knowledge created at each level (individual, group, and organizational). Organizational learning, therefore, is influenced by the social environment, organizational culture, and work patterns that are the result of political influences within the organization’s powerstructure (Akgun, Lynn, & Byrne, 2003; Cook & Yanow, 1995; Nonaka, 1994). As a result, not all organizational knowledge can be culled and transferred to others within the organization (often through training) because the knowledge is imbedded in organizational practices and culture.

Both Cook (1995, 1999) and Nonaka (1994) concluded that there is implicit or tacit knowledge that is created within the confines of organizational boundaries. Looking at work patterns in various industries, they both concluded that knowledge is created through perspective taking, meaning making, and dialog necessitated when there was dissonance or differences in understanding within the work patterns. Perspective, meaning, and the form that communication takes are dictated by culture. In this study, we will use Cook & Yanow’s definition of culture:
We define culture in application to organizations as a set of values, beliefs, and meanings, together with the artifacts of their expression and transmission (such as myths, symbols, metaphors, rituals and ritual objects), that are created. Inherited, shared, and transmitted within one group of people (p. 388).”

Therefore, those who adhere to the second theory of organizational learning would conclude that organizational learning is bounded by organizational values, beliefs, and meaning, and transmitted and stored using organizational forms, formats, and processes that create the myths, symbols, metaphors, rituals, and ritual objects that become organizational artifacts representing the organizational culture. As a result, knowledge that is embedded within the organizational culture, would change when used outside of the environment in which it was created. Knowledge, therefore, can be dynamic as its affordance is dynamic (Cook & Brown, 1999).

The second theory of organizational learning has broader implications as knowledge could be created and transmitted both formally and informally. In the knowledge management perspective of organizational learning, knowledge is viewed as something that can be stagnate and captured for others outside of the culture and environment in which it was created. In the constructed perspective of organizational learning, knowledge may be converted from implicit to explicit formats, but any knowledge captured would need to be modified (or recreated) for a specific environment. As such, the process of knowledge creation could be learned, but the content would change depending on the environment.

Organizational learning is distinguishable from knowledge management. Organizational learning may not result in operational or behavioral changes at the individual, group, or even organizational level, and as such may be difficult to measure. In fact, Cook & Yanow (1995) give examples in which organizational learning may make subgroups or individuals less productive. Rather, organizational learning is the interaction that results in deeper knowledge and understanding at the organizational level. For this study, I will use Cook & Yanow’s definition of organizational learning:
The acquiring, sustaining or changing of intersubjective meanings and/or the artifactual vehicles of their expression and transmission, through the collective actions of the group.


Akgun, A., Lynn, G., & Byrne, J. (2003). Organizational learning: A socio-cognitive framework. Human Relations, 56 (7), 839-868.

Allee, V. (1997). The Knowledge Evolution. Newton, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Contu, A. & Willmott, H. (2003). Re-embedding situatedness: The importance of power relations in learning theory. Organizational Science (2003) 14 (3), 283-296.

Cook, S. & Brown, J. (1999). Bridging epistemologies: The generative dance between organizational knowledge and organizational knowing. Organization Science, 10 (4), 381-400.

Cook, S & Yanow, D. (1993). Culture and organizational learning. Journal of Management Inquiry, 2 (4), 373-390.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as a the source of learning and development. Englewood-Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Nonaka, I (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14-37.

Raelin, J. (2008). Work-Based Learning. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Yakhlef, A. (2002). Towards a discursive approach to organisational knowledge formation. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 18, 319-339.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nuts and Bolts of twitter

So I now have been using twitter for almost 4 weeks now. And there are some nuts and bolts that I would have liked to have known before I started. This post is meant for those that don't use twitter (or use it regularly). Anyone who is more experienced than I am, please feel free to add on insight or tips in the comments area.

Retweet, mentions, and favorites

It took a while for me to figure out these options. I could intuitively figure out WHAT retweet was. However, unlike the "reply" option, retweet just rebroadcasts without comments. However, I wasn't sure WHY you would use this. After using twitter for a while, I figured out how most people use this.

Each person has their own social network which is slightly different than anothers. Retweets allows you to pass information (or questions) on to those that may not have access to all of those within your social network. In other words, it helps to broadcast your comments/questions to a wider audience. I saw this happen when I posted a question to those who were studying for a Phd who had children, how they found time for thinking. This was then picked up by a group studying for their phd (#phdchat) and soon I had a lot of answers.

An alternative to just clicking on the Retweet button is to mark a tweet with RT (retweet). This allows you to comment on the retweet and not just pass on the information. For example, if you had a particularly good link in a tweet that you think a group would be interested in you cut and paste the tweet, starting with RT, then put a comment or hash tag to identify why this is important.

This brings me to the third way you can bring attention to someone else's tweet: the hashtag. The hashtag begins with a # and identifies a group or topic which others might be interested in. For example, many who are tweeting at conferences will use an agreed upon hashtag to identify all tweets having to do with that conference. You can then search for all tweets using that hashtag. This is how the Phdchat group identifies its members.

Another option tweeters have is to engage in a dialog about a topic. You do this through the reply button (if you move the cursor over the comment it will come up on the menu below). The reply will then be saved as an exchange. You can have a long chat just by using the reply. It took me a while to figure how to access the dialog and sometimes I lost the thread of interaction or missed others contribution to the dialog until I found the feature that allows you to see contributions to a thread through the reply button. In the upper right hand corner of the tweet is an open comment icon (the type you see in the comic strips). If you click on that or the little arrow that pops up, you'll get the dialog that includes all people that contributed the discussion.

Finally, you might find something that you feel is very important and want to save for the future. This is when the "favorite" button comes into play. I was marking things as favorite, but then wondered how to retrieve it. So I tweeted to my followers and got the answer back immediately (this is one of the things that useful in twitter: immediate answers from your network). Go to profile (menu up at the very top, next to "home") and click on favorites. Those tweets you marked as favorites will be listed. This comes in handy when you want to "bookmark" favorite resources.

Communicating Using Twitter

Twitter was originally designed for mobile technology. As such, a tweet is limited to 140 characters. For those, like myself, who are used to writing rather long sentences/comments, this can be challenging. Over the last 4 weeks, I have found that I need to think differently when writing for twitter. In fact, I think one reason that twitter is popular among businesses, but not academics is because of the writing style.

So here are some hints for writing for twitter:

1) Use truncated words when possible (i.e. U, R, 4, b/c, w/, etc...). Learn the tx spch such as RT commonly used in twitter. I find that most people use their own forms of abbreviation. Research has found that English speakers can decipher words as long as there is the initial and final sounds spelt out.

2) Simplify your words. Use "hard" rather than "challenging". I feel that I have gone back to my business writing roots when using twitter. Most academics are used to using large words and complex sentence structures. Twitter requires that you use direct sentence structures and words.

3)Learn to write without punctuation (unless lack of punctuation will make it difficult to understand your tweet) and spaces. Most of us learned that you have two spaces after a period. This is at least one less character you will have for your tweet.

4) Twitter has a new ability to shorten your links' url. It used to be that you would need to use an outside ap (tinyurl was the most popular). Twitter now automatically shortens the link so you have more characters to explain what the link is to.

As I mentioned above, these are only some of the suggestions I have from 4 weeks of being a twitter user. Please add any suggestions you have in the comments section.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What creativity, time, and interest can produce

I have often felt that the current focus in the US system has lost is creativity. As China focuses their research on moving to a more creative system, the US has moved to "standardizing" which kills creativity. Pushes in creativity within the educational system has resulted (usually after a lag time) of great prosperity. This can be seen in the 60's and the 90's.

This spring and summer, my daughter had more time on her hands. She also attends a school that is 100% project based learning. One of the unexpected results of project based learning is the increase in creativity. The initial focus of the school was to improve STEM education. However, where students excel on standardized tests was English and History. Why? I believe it is because these topics allow for greater levels of creativity within the testing assessments. However, STEM needs personnel that have a high level of creativity.

With this in mind I began to think of what conditions are needed (and that her school includes in their curriculum, including STEM). If STEM assessments began to include creativity in their assessment, teaching within STEM would need to change. So what would need to be included? In looking at the work my daughter has done over the last 3 months, I would say that creativity needs time (to try things out), interest (see Dr. Margaret Haviland's post on project based learning to see how to integrate student choice into the curriculum), and student accountability/self direction.


My daughter set a goal to get on the dance team at her dance school despite the fact that she did not know how to tap dance. She taught herself how to tap using YouTube and spending three hours a night a week before tryouts practicing. When she got stuck, she would ask me (6 years of tap). She used both online tools and personal experts to help her to learn something that was needed to achieve a personal goal she set. Part of the goal setting was due to her school, as was finding resources to achieve that goal. However, the other part was time (she did this during a week off from school) and passion (not for tap, but for dance in general).

During the month of May, my daughter finally found herself with time on her hands as school work was winding down and she no longer had any extra curricular activities (plays, dance). She took this time to play around with audacity, a program she had learned about school. She has been very focused this year on developing her music skills, both in her piano/keyboarding skills and singing. She spent hours putting recording her singing and putting together harmonies. This was the result:

The entire piece is her voice (6 tracks) that she figured out and recorded on her own.

Finally, again using a combination of YouTube and experts, my daughter has taught herself to sing. Again, this is something that she takes seriously and wants to be able to do without hurting her voice. She has acquaintances who have lost their voice (as teens) because of improper use.