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.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A traditional model of organizational knowledge creation

Unfortunately, I still haven't figured out how to include my word graphics into blogger and since I don't have a lot of time to figure it out, it will just have to be left out of this post. I have included in the references a bibliography of all of the references used in my literature review (of which I have posted most of it over the last couple of months.

The Traditional Model

The traditional model used by organizational learning theorists begins with the depth of knowledge. This can further be linked to depth of knowledge being greater as it is internalized (Yaklief, 2010), as exhibit 2 illustrates. Most literature distinguishes between content knowledge, which is held outside of the individual; competency, which is usually identified as tacit knowledge developed through interaction with a worker’s or organization’s context and environment; and expertise, which is performance based. The greater the level of internalization of knowledge, the greater perceived depth of knowledge (Allee, 1999; Herling, 2000; Yaklief, 2010). Information becomes content when there is a situation to apply it (Nonaka, 1999, Yaklief, 2010), but does not require a depth of understanding to access or transfer. Competency, as discussed earlier, requires experience to understand and develop skills that become tacit knowledge. Although explicit understanding may not be necessary, the ability to apply information to action requires a greater depth of understanding, than the simple transfer of information from one person to another. Expertise requires both an understanding of the environment and the context of information for knowledge to be applied effectively and efficiently (Herling). This understanding requires a deep understanding of the information so that knowledge can be recreated and negotiated depending on the social and cognitive requirements of the situation.

The second variable often used in organizational knowledge creation is the location of knowledge and the work processes that create knowledge. There are 4 locations often used: the individual, intragroup, intergroup, and organizational. Knowledge can be created by the individual through reflection or developed through interaction at the intra- or inter-group levels. Once created, individual, groups, departments, or the organization can control the dissemination and access to a larger number of people. As exhibit 3 illustrates, the larger the group to control and store knowledge and determine processes to create that the knowledge, the more distant knowledge is from the individual. This has implications for agency and ownership as knowledge that is created by and for the organization may be perceived as being owned by the organization (Ende & Lungsford, 2001).

Based on these two variables, a traditional model of how organizations perceive knowledge and knowledge creation can be developed (exhibit 4). Current organizational learning and knowledge literature identify and categorize 12 different types of knowledge depending on the location in which the knowledge is created and the depth of knowledge. These categories include: Resume and portfolio of work, credentials and degrees (including licensing), performance standards, group documentation, group processes, group outcomes, information processing, interdepartmental collaboration, specialization, institutional or organizational memory, organizational learning or training, and knowledge management.

Individual content knowledge: Resume and portfolio of work
. Unlike formal schooling, individual content knowledge is not necessarily assessed through testing (Diaz, et al, 1999). As mentioned previously, content knowledge is explicit. Therefore, there needs to be some mechanism to access it, measure it, transfer its use, and, in some cases, store and retrieve it. One way in which individual content knowledge is evaluated is through a list of knowledge, as found on resumes, and/or through an individual’s artifacts that are created in the workplace. These artifacts can be represented using a portfolio of work which the individual provides as evidence of their knowledge. An individual takes personal ownership of this work and the resume, using it to demonstrate his or her content knowledge.
Sometimes this content knowledge is transferred in the form of presentations, interviews, or workplace dialog. However, even this mode of communicating content knowledge is often backed up with resumes and work artifacts such as reports, products, and work records.

Individual competency: Credentials, degrees, and licenses: Unlike individual content knowledge, individual competency has an element of skill, understanding of processes, and situated application of content all of which indicates tacit workplace knowledge. While individual content knowledge can be listed on a resume and demonstrated using workplace artifacts, tacit knowledge is more difficult to represent as it is not explicit. In the workplace, therefore, minimum tacit knowledge (or competency) is often expressed using credentials (such as work experience), degrees, and licenses or certification. These credentials not only imply a level of content knowledge, but also a certain level of experience and understanding in the application of the content.

It is important to note that the level of competency is based on the types and combination of credentials, degrees, and licenses for a particular situation which indicates the level of internalization of the content. For example, a graduate with an associate’s degree in accounting may be competent for recording inventory, but not creating a company’s tax return. The implication is that the degree does not include sufficient experience to create a tax return. However, that same graduate with a CPA indicates additional work experience which would allow for greater tacit knowledge and understanding of the environment to enable he or she to create a tax return. The certification represents tacit knowledge that the degree on a resume or a filled out tax return (artifact) alone would indicate (content knowledge) which would make a professional qualified to apply content to multiple situations.

Individual expertise: Performance standards: Building on individual competence, performance standards valuate different competencies and the level of knowledge created through individual experience (Allee, 1999; Herling, 2000). While performance standards may be developed externally, these standards attempt to measure the level of internalization or expertise of an individual. In other words, they try to quantify the level of understanding and apprehensive knowledge of the worker. The focus of performance standards is on the application of content and the ability to negotiate understanding within multiple environments and contexts. There is an understanding that while the environment and contexts change, the outcomes (performance standards) will be constant. As a result, an individual will need to be able to adapt to the environment and context (creating and recreating knowledge to do so) in order to achieve consistent outcomes. To be successful, therefore, an expert will need to have a deeper understanding of the content, work processes, and social structure of the environment in which performance standards will be used to valuate the individual’s work.

Intragroup content knowledge
: documentation: Within a group, the content that the group uses and produces is represented through group documents such as reports, memos, agendas, and correspondence within the group. This documentation can then be used to store and transfer knowledge created by the group to those outside of the group, either physically located in another place, located temporally in a different space, or occupying a different social sphere.

Not all individual members of the group may have the same interpretation or level of understanding of the content. Through group filtering and curating, documents become a record of the group’s content knowledge or shared cognition (Cannon-Bower & Salas, 2001). The content located outside of the individual’s knowledge and understanding becomes the property of the group, representing explicit knowledge that the group can agree upon (Ede & Lundsford, 2001).

Intragroup competency: group process: Through the negotiation of group processes and interaction between members of the group, group norms and mental models are created (Boland & Tenkas, 1995; Conceicao, Heitor, & Veloso, 2003; Jehn & Mannix, 2001; Mohammed & Dumville, 2001; Moreland & Levine, 2001) which then become the basis for evaluating the group’s competency. While individual members may have differing levels of competency, the group must be able to work collaboratively to achieve group norms and defined level of competency. The group process becomes the structure within which content and tacit knowledge, in the form of expected levels of application of the content, are defined. It also becomes a tangible representation of tacit knowledge for both group members and those outside of the group (Conceicao, Heitor, & Veloso, 2003; Yaklief, 2002).

Intragroup expertise: group outcomes: At the group level, group outcomes measure the performance of the group as a whole, rather than individual members. The ability for the group to apply their shared cognition towards a problem or dynamic environment requires more than individual expertise, but rather a shared expertise created through group interaction and knowledge creation (Herling, 2000; Yaklief, 2010). While a group
may have members with expertise, the group outcomes indict how well expertise is used in creating and applying collective knowledge within the group. The greater the mutual interpretation of the content and processes within the context of the group work, the greater the level of group knowledge created and the more efficient group outcomes, according to organizational management literature (Allee, 1997; Jehn & Mannix, 2001; Mohammed & Dumville, 2001; Moreland & Levine, 2001). The main difference between group process and group outcomes is the level of performance, as group outcomes valuates the group process. In other words, group processes create a shared mental model and group outcomes valuates the level in which those processes have been internalized by the group to create efficient and effective work practices.

Intergroup content knowledge: Information processing: Content knowledge between groups requires the storage and transfer of information that other groups can access and interpret within their own contexts. Information lies outside of the context in which it was developed (Nonaka, 1994; Yaklief, 2010), thus it is not necessarily knowledge until it is processed by the group(s) using it for their own context. Access to the information is dependent upon the individual group(s) making their own content and information available and the individual group(s) accessing and processing the information for their own context based upon their perception that the information will be relevant for their own needs.

Intergroup competency: Interdepartmental collaboration/conflict: While many groups create their own norms within which they are working, often they are unaware of these norms until they are exposed to other groups (Hagtvet & Wold, 2003; McGrath et al., 2000; Moreland & Levine, 2001). Interaction between groups can result in cognitive dissonance which may result in the redefining and/or realignment of norms and meaning (McGrath et al; Mohammed & Dumville, 2001). Cognitive dissonance can be the result of differences in tacit knowledge, in which groups have differing understandings based on apprehensive knowledge which cannot be identified. The resolution of the dissonance creates norms and new perspectives which in turn may result in the creation of comprehensive, tacit, and new content knowledge.

Without interdepartmental collaboration or conflict, individual groups lack the opportunity to reinterpret intergroup content and negotiate meaning. Content from other groups may be transferred, but interpreted using the norms and discourse created within their group. This limits cognitive dissonance and perspective taking which contributes to knowledge creation and deeper understanding of the content.

Intergroup expertise: Specialization: As groups develop their identity in relation to other groups, performance standards are established based on intergroup negotiation (Mc Grath, et al, 2000). This negotiated identity can be termed specialization, which then translates into negotiated performance standards. In order to maintain the group’s identity in relation to the other groups, a group needs to continually perform at the expected level or renegotiate/realign intergroup expectations. As a result, specialization is not a stagnant concept, but rather a dynamic renegotiation/realignment. This requires the creation of new knowledge and the ability to apply content and processes to a changing environment, as well as the ability to understand social and cognitive factors impacting the work environment.

Organizational content knowledge: Organizational or institutional memory: Organizational or institutional memory is storage of information perceived as being owned by the organization which members can access when needed. The interpretation, valuation, and use of the information is dictated by the organization, even though individuals and groups may have a different interpretation that deviates from the official organizational memory. The organizational interpretation becomes static knowledge that can be stored for use by those who were not even a part of the organization when the knowledge was created. In addition, the interpretation of the organizational knowledge can be reinterpreted to align with the organizational culture as time and distance require.

Organizational competency: Organizational learning or training: Organizational competency is the minimum standards of organizational behavior in which knowledge is embedded in the cultural routines and processes developed through training and learning. Through the establishment of organizational culture and behavioral expectations, individuals develop tacit knowledge which then helps to shape cultural and behavioral expectations (Brandt, 1992). As a result, learning and training at the organizational level establishes work processes and an organizational culture which helps to capture and structure tacit knowledge at the organizational level (Cook & Yanow, 1995).

Organizational expertise: Knowledge management: Most knowledge management literature identifies knowledge management as the ability to access knowledge embedded in the organization (Akgun, Lynn, & Byrne, 2003; Cook & Brown, 1999; Cook & Yanow, 1995; Nonaka, 1994). The deeper knowledge is embedded and the broader that knowledge is distributed within an organization, the greater the level of internalization of knowledge at the organizational level. This means that knowledge is not held by just one person to be lost when that person (or group of people) leave the organization. Likewise, the ability to access and share information through dialog, work practices, and development of shared organizational culture allows the organization to create synergy that goes beyond any individual’s level of understanding. This knowledge (especially in knowledge based industries) becomes the organization’s product. As a result, the management of knowledge becomes more than access to embedded knowledge; it becomes the organization’s identity.


Using this model as a starting point, it is important that any study on collaborative workplace writing looks at the different types of knowledge that are being used to accomplish the writing task. These types of knowledge include tacit, explicit, collective (or organizational), individual, social/relational, and cognitive. Because this study begins with the premise that knowledge is constructed, dynamic, and influenced by both social, political, and cognitive factors, it is important that the study be conducted in authentic or natural occurring context. It is equally important that the context in which the collaborative writing project takes place is studied in order to situate the creation of knowledge within the various levels that knowledge creation can take place; namely the individual, group, departmental, and organizational levels.

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