Knowledge Management: Organizational Learning and Knowledge

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John Naisbitt: “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” (Lewis, p. 4) In today’s Information Age organizations are looking more and more towards the productive manipulation of information to succeed and stay competitive. Increases in technology give rise to an increased emphasis on the human aspects of the socio-technical system: a complex system where workers and technology interact together to achieve some common objective. Accomplishing business objectives involves better understanding and implementing of technical terms: data – raw facts without meaning; information – meaningful data; and knowledge – understanding gained through taking action based on information. Organizational learning works within the confines of this data-information-knowledge progression in increasing degrees to form knowledge. As organizational learning increases, it augments and refines organizational knowledge. Knowledge management (KM) provides a way for businesses to optimize organizational learning and organizational knowledge by helping them make better decisions and take more productive actions. KM is concerned with two areas in the facilitation of organizational learning and organizational knowledge: the management of information, and the management of people. Organizational Learning

Organizations add to and refine their knowledge base through organizational learning. Argyris and Schon (1978) were two of the first pioneers to propose models for organizational learning. They described learning as organizations modifying their actions through the detection and correction of errors. Higher-level learning occurs if modified actions change, rather than maintain, underlying objectives and policies (Fiol & Lyles, 1985). Organizational learning is an interactive social process of individuals who confirm or change their actions through either existing or modified frameworks. Learning corresponds to how much organizations maintain or modify actions based respectively on whether their data fits or disagrees with associated information (Argyris & Schon, 1978). Learning can take place in any of the various organizational functions (e.g., administration, sales) (Balasubramanian). Organizational learning and organizational knowledge are related in the following way: Organizational learning impacts organizational knowledge in that it actively creates, acquires, mobilizes, refines, and transfers organizational knowledge to adapt to a changing environment (Wikipedia). As organizations actively learn, they become more knowledgeable. Organizational Knowledge

Michael Polanyi (1962) described knowledge as having two dimensions in its creation. Tacit knowledge is “the know-how contained in people’s heads” (Levinson, 2007, p. 2). Explicit knowledge is anything that can be codified, systematized, shared, and/or communicated. Knowledge is comprised of knowing how (tacit dimension) and knowing about (explicit dimension) (Grant, 1996). Knowledge is individual – for example, I may learn the skill(s) to accomplish the same act(s) as you, but I cannot know what you know. An individual must create his or her own knowledge by internalizing someone else’s explicit knowledge through reinterpretation (Sveiby). Tacit knowledge is shown through our actions and expressible knowledge. It is difficult to acquire as it is hidden from even the owner’s grasp (Wilson, 2002). It can, however, be transferred by experienced to junior colleagues through working together on the jobsite (Sveiby). Knowledge becomes organizational when it involves collective understandings embedded within a firm shaping appropriately applied actions and/or decisions (e.g., where to invest, how to reduce costs). It involves employees internalizing its organization’s procedures, formal rules, and explicit knowledge (Wikipedia) and transferring tacit knowledge through sharing. Organizational knowledge is viewed as the core of an organization’s assets...
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