Organizational Learning

These readings were a bit dense and hard to get through in my opinion.

Let’s start with Blackler¹. The part that stood out to me the most was the Activity Theory, Knowing and Doing section. I didn’t quite understand what Vygotsky was getting at but the Xerox example was so spot on to my personal experiences I kind of had flashbacks to working at the call center. As I’ve mentioned before, I trained/coached new agents in my department. When I read what Blackler wrote (referencing a study by Orr):

In the first place the stories they tell you to their serve a key informational function, preserving and circulating essential news about particular problems. Second, the storytelling has an educational function: not only do the technicians learn about particular faults on the machines, they also help the participants develop their diagnostic and troubleshooting skills. Finally, the stories provide an opportunity for technicians to establish their identity within the community of technicians itself; as newcomers contribute to the storytelling process they begin to both demonstrate their identity as professionals and to contribute to the collective wisdom of their group.¹ (pg. 1036)

I felt this chill come over me as I realized the value of how I used to run my training classes. I knew there were reasons we talked about our experiences and told examples from real life. I knew they worked but I didn’t quite understand the impact and importance of doing so. What some people see as water cooler gossip can actually be a way of sharing knowledge and organization learning. That’s really awesome!

The first thing I noticed about the Brown & Duguid² was the term downskilling in the tags the authors placed on the text. This is a term I used at the call center for when we had an agent who was trained for a higher level of call queue, work in a lower call level queue in order to lower the wait time. I had never heard of this queue outside call center work so I was interested to see what these authors had to say about it. They don’t outright define it but they reference it to mean the same thing.

An ostensible downskilling and actual upskilling therefore proceed simultaneously. Although the documentation becomes more prescriptive and ostensibly more simple, in actuality the task becomes more improvisational and more complex. The reps develop sophisticated noncanonical practices to bridge the gulf between their corporation’s canonical approach and successful work practices, laden with the dilemmas, inconsistencies, and unpredictability of everyday life. The directive documentation does not “deprive the workers of the skills they have;” rather, “it merely reduces the amount of information given them” (Orr 1990a, 26).

This is very much what we did at the call center. Corporate would tell us what we needed to do and we would find the easiest most efficient way to do so. Corporate has these ideas sometimes they think are great but in reality don’t really work in the real world. So these ‘corporate demands’ aka the “corporation’s canonical approach” need “noncanonical practices” aka work arounds in order for “successful work practices” to occur.

This reminds me of when I learned about ICTs and how they sometimes don’t work because the company that created the ICT doesn’t take into consideration real life use of the ICT. People are lazy and those in the positions they’re trying to force and ICT on or make corporate demands of, typically already know the best way to meet these demands and don’t need to be told step-by-step what to do. Hmmm… maybe corporations should think about speaking to the people they’re trying to make demands of to see how they actually work.

I liked Huber’s³ discussion of unlearning (defined as purposeful and intentional forgetting of knowledge). It wasn’t long (you should definitely check it out on pls 104-105) but it had some good points like: “unlearning opens the way for new learning to take place”.

Words: 662

Words I Had to Look Up

Downskilling: Downskilling refers to a process of reducing the talent or skill level of a position, job, or vocation primarily for the purpose of decreasing short-term cost (Source).

Prescriptive: Giving exact rules, directions, or instructions about how you should do something. Providing rules and opinions that tell people how language should be used (Source).

Noncanonical: Not included within a canon or group of rules (Source).  The origins of this word are biblical but my understanding of this word comes from fan fiction. Canon from fan fiction means: All of the events which *expressly* happen in the fandom. Meaning, everything, person, event, statement, that happens in the show, movie, or book is canon. For example, Megabyte’s real name being Marmaduke is canon because it expressly says in Origin Story that it is. Everything that happens in the show is canon. This is sort of used like a law for fan fiction. Alternate universes are where an author deliberately ignores, goes against, or stop paying attention to canon in order to create their own canon (Source). So noncanonical practices would be them making their own non-sanctioned workarounds to corporate practices.


¹ Blackler, F. (1995). Knowledge, knowledge work and organizations: An
overview and interpretation. Organization Studies, 16(6):1021–1046.

² Brown, J. S. and Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational learning and
Communities-of-Practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning,
and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1):40–57.

³ Huber, G. P. (1991). Organizational learning: The contributing processes
and the literatures. Organization Science, 2(1):88–115.


Knowledge Management & Social Media

I love reading about social media. It’s a very relevant topic to me. I use social media all the time AND I use it for my internships and classes (this one… :D). I decided to start with the Levy³ article as a way to ease into today’s readings.

Levy talks about the WEB 2.0 (I don’t quite get why she capitalizes it but whatever…) issue and its implications on Knowledge Management (again why is she capitalizing it? I’m just going to use KM). Let’s start with what WEB 2.0 is. WEB 2.0 has many definitions. O’Reilly says it is:

The business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.³ (pg. 121 from O’Reilly)

That is long and can be confusing. I like it when Mayfield says “Web 1.0 was commerce. Web 2.0 is people” (pg. 121 from Singel). McLean says WEB 2.0 is “the catch-all descriptor for what is essentially a much more dynamic internet computing” (pg 121 from McLean). Weinberger defines WEB 2.0 as “an establishment of ‘open architecture, its lowering of the barriers to publishing, the ease with which people can connect ideas, increase in available bandwidth and compu[t]ing power’” (pg. 121 from Weinberger). Weinberger is essentially talking about evolution of the web rather than revolution.

All these different definitions culminate in one definition for me. WEB 2.0 is a dynamic, people centric evolution/revolution of how people use computers.

I really like how Levy made me think about knowledge management in a WEB 2.0 era. She talks about how, with WEB 2.0 and social media becoming how society interacts and shares knowledge, those that were previously not sharing knowledge in organizations are now doing so. Because sharing is such a way of life now, sharing while at work is more nature and less cumbersome than it used to be. I never connected the two in my head before but it makes total sense. Thanks Levy.

Well Hemsley & Mason² even mentions Polanyi at the beginning of my favorite section of his article. Polanyi is everywhere! They write:

For example, wikis support individual participation in group knowledge production, and this coproduction process can make explicit more of the social knowledge. One of the assumptions behind the architecture of wikis is that knowledge is emergent, not static. The knowledge made available through wikis thus can be expected to be more fluid than in more fixed media and may be viewed as more current.

Blogging also arguably contributes to an increase in the availability of knowledge. Hsu and Lin find that knowledge sharing for reasons of it altruism and reputation building are positively related to attitudes bloggers have about blogging and their intention to continue to use blogs (Hsu and Lin, 2008).² (pg. 152)

A lot of the research I’ve done for this degree has been in blogs because they are the sources that are most up-to-date and current like Hemsley & Mason say. I actually got into a discussion (/argument)  with my parents yesterday about how blogs aren’t ‘real’ sources (that’s that they think). Blogs may not be ‘academic’ sources but a lot of the blogs I read and the ones I’ve cited in my papers were just as well sourced (and a lot of times better written) than the academic sources I’ve read. AND when you’re doing research on trigger warnings and whether they should be used in library’s, there are no academic sources so blogs, wikis, and news sites are the only place you can find to cite.

I also love that they mention “contributes to an increase in the availability of knowledge” because that what I see blogs as. There are not enough scholars in the word to write academic and peer-reviewed articles that can cover the amount of knowledge being produced through blogs.

Grace’s article about Wikis as KM tools made me feel a bit dumb. I’ve used my knowledge from working at a call center throughout my academic career and I have just know realized that the database of knowledge called IRIS (Integrated Resource Information System), that we used where I worked was a WIKI! It was this interactive repository of knowledge that we used constantly throughout the day to source our knowledge and tell customers the facts. The only issue with it is that IRIS wasn’t easy to edit for the people who used it. IRIS was maintained by corporate and edits had to be submitted and approved. Towards the end of my career there, they were finally taking the suggestions we submitted (from those who actually used the site) seriously and making changes where it was more like the Wikis Grace talks about.

I really like these readings.

Words: 827

Words I Had to Look Up

None this week! Isn’t that cool?!


¹ Grace, T. P. L. (2009). Wikis as a knowledge management tool. Journal
of Knowledge Management, 13(4):64–74.

² Hemsley, J. and Mason, R. M. (2012). Knowledge and knowledge
management in the social media age. Journal of Organizational
Computing and Electronic Commerce, 23(1-2):138–167.

³ Levy, M. (2009). WEB 2.0 implications on knowledge management.
Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(1):120–134.

Knowledge Transfer

Argote and Ingram¹ wrote a stellar article that helped introduce me to what knowledge transfer was all about. They wrote this article with the intention of arguing that “creation and transfer of knowledge in organizations provide a basis for competitive advantage in firms” (pg. 151).

HiRes1-470x260First off, what is knowledge transfer? Argote and Ingram define knowledge transfer (in organizations) as “the process through which one unit (e.g. group, department, or division) is affected by the experience of another. Because they are analyzing knowledge transfer at an organizational level, the ‘unit’ of measure is not individuals but groups or larger. Argote and Ingram state that while knowledge transfer at the individual level does happen, the “problem of knowledge transfer in organizations transcends the individual level to include transfer at higher levels of analysis” (pg. 151). They use an example of how one manufacturing team may learn from another team a more efficient way to assemble a product.

The part of the article¹ that stood out to me was their talk of “the nature of social ties” (pg. 162) and how it affects the transference of knowledge. When social ties are weak (infrequent, distance relationships) between two units, if the knowledge is simple to understand and codified then knowledge was easily transferred. When knowledge was more complex and not codified (i.e.: tacit), stronger relationships were needed in order for easy transference to occur. I like that they’re not saying that, for knowledge transference to work well, you must have close relationships because that doesn’t work in every organization and with every person. However, depending on the type of knowledge, a strong relationship can make it easier.

Organizations have to create new knowledge continuously to maintain their competitive advantage in rapidly changing environments. However, knowledge creation is not a process that necessarily creates completely new knowledge but an operation that recombines and reorganize existing knowledge.³ (pg. 8155)

It’s always nice when the first paragraph of a paper is the one that speaks to you. Kang, Rhee, and Kang³ are speaking to my need for efficiency. I feel a lot of people (me included) assume that knowledge creation means the creation of brand new knowledge. I love Kang et al. because I feel it almost gives me permission to do what I normally do, which is use previously created items as a base to move on instead of creating new knowledge every time. I feel like it’s less exhausting, more efficient, and can lead to more new knowledge being created because it is maximizing the value and benefits of the knowledge that’s already out there. Like Kang et al. says “innovations are generated by a  recombination of knowledge, it can be a driving force of innovation to acquire new knowledge from knowledge sources”.

The knowledge that transfers from knowledge sources becomes the raw material in knowledge creation for a recipient organization, and successful knowledge transfer is an important driving force in knowledge creation.³ (pg. 8155)

Like Kang et al., the first paragraph of Connelly, Zweig, Webster, and Trougakos² stood out to me, but not in a good way. The first sentence says “Organizations do not ‘own’ the ‘intellectual assets’ of employees, and as such, cannot coerce workers to transfer their knowledge to other organizational members” (pg. 64). This read as a total lie to me. Wikipedia says that “Human Capital is inherent in people [tacit] and cannot be owned by an organization. Therefore, Human Capital leaves an organization when people leave” (Source). I see where people would say this is true but, and this may be because of the places I have worked, the ‘intellectual assets’ of employees, aka human capital, were basically mandated to be shared or you weren’t seen as a team player.

Figure-1-Knowledge-hiding-and-other-behaviors-in-organizations-extended-from-Pearson-et.png.jpegI can completely understand why knowledge hoarding and knowledge hiding would occur. In my experience, when a ‘boss’ sees you have a good idea, it doesn’t always end up well for you. The idea is either taken or you’re forced to share it until it doesn’t feel right anymore. Or your fellow employees look at you like you’re a horrible person because you had a good idea and the ‘bosses’ noticed which makes you social interaction at work more difficult.

Connelly et al.² definitely made me feel a little better about my future in the work force. I’m hoping that my issues happened just because of where I used to work. I have a habit of creating things that make work easier and I would love to share them, if they’re were respected and I wasn’t punished for it. I feel validated that this is an issue and it’s being researched. Because I want to go into special collections or knowledge management, I hope this means that the people I will be working for and with will be more open to knowledge sharing. Hopefully…

Words: 810

Words I Had to Look Up

Competitive Advantage: an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices (Source).

Codification: to organize or arrange systematically, especially in writing; to establish or express in a conventional form or standard formulation (Source). The process of creating systematic rules to govern a specific activity, such as the cataloging of bibliographic materials. In the United States, Britain, and Canada, the joint efforts of the American Library Association, the Library Association (UK), and the Canadian Library Association have produced Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, which apply to library materials in various formats (books, manuscripts, cartographic materials, music, sound recordings, motion pictures and videorecordings, graphic materials, computer files, three-dimensional artifacts and realia, microforms, and serials) (Source).

Human Capital: the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. Alternatively, human capital is a collection of resources—all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population (Source).


¹ Argote, L. and Ingram, P. (2000). Knowledge transfer: A basis for
competitive advantage in firms. Organizational Behavior and Human
Decision Processes, 82(1):150–169.

² Connelly, C. E., Zweig, D., Webster, J., and Trougakos, J. P. (2012).
Knowledge hiding in organizations. J. Organiz. Behav., 33(1):64–88.

³ Kang, J., Rhee, M., and Kang, K. H. (2010). Revisiting knowledge transfer:
Effects of knowledge characteristics on organizational effort for knowledge
transfer. Expert Systems with Applications.

Trying to Understand Polanyi & Knowledge

So… I took this class because I love knowledge management and my boss told me this class would be better for my future than the other option I was looking at. I will totally admit that the past 3 weeks have consisted of me freaking out because of the syllabus and Polanyi. I do not understand academic speech very well, especially not when it is written. I learn and understand best through verbal instruction and conversation. After I met with Dr. Burns on Monday I feel much better about this class so I am just going to jump in. Bear with me and here we go…!

Polanyi², Polanyi, Polanyi… I finally finished the book and what I took from Polanyi about knowledge can be summed up with two quotes. The obvious:

We can know more than we can tell.² (pg. 4)

and the two types of knowing:

Such is the functional relation between the two terms [specifiably known and tacitly known] of tacit knowing: we know the first term only by relying on our awareness of it for attending to the second.² (pg. 10)

But to be honest, that’s not the part that got to me. His view of existentialism is what drew me in and made me think.

The conception of morality established by this movement [modern existentialism] eliminates the distinction between good and evil, and it is pointless therefore to express opposition to it by moral reprobation. The unprecedented critical lucidity of modern man is fused here with his equally unprecedented moral demands and produces an angry absolute individualism. But adjacent to this, the same fusion produces political teachings which sanction the total suppression of the individual.² (pg. 59)

1454720084I was discussing this quote with my platonic life partner Sarah, trying to figure out what Polanyi was trying to say. She said that modern existentialism is where “philosophy has reached a point that people don’t know what to complain about because everything is vague and they still want to complain about something”.

We talked about how our view (from an existentialist point of view) of society has changed from being a collective conscience to the fact that we are individuals. As individuals, we don’t have a purpose unless we make one for ourselves. We make our own fate. AND, if we make our own fate, what is considered good and what is evil? If we are individuals and make our own fate, then others can’t tell you that you’re a bad person because there is no good and evil.

Because society has shifted where we are so aware of everything we can and cannot make ourselves into AND at the same time society has moral demands on us, it creates an angry individual. As Sarah says, “Just look at public education and you’ll see. Standardized testing”. This is the part of Polanyi that made the most sense to me.

HOWEVER, I learned more about knowledge from the other article I read!

350px-Knowledge_spiral.svgNonaka¹ had a lot of interesting things to say and was a good first article to read (especially after the confusion that was Polanyi). I was especially drawn to the ‘conversion of knowledge’. When I think about knowledge, the different types of knowledge, and how knowledge can be converted, I think about converting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Nonaka talk about how there are 4 different types of conversion: tacit→tacit aka socialization, explicit→explicit aka combination, tacit→explicit aka internalization, and explicit→tacit aka externalization. Nonaka talks about how socialization, combination, and internalization are connected to organizational theory but externalization hasn’t been explored as much.

The ‘spiral of knowledge’ was interesting as well. Nonaka says “Organizational knowledge creation, as distinct from individual knowledge creation, takes place when all four modes of knowledge creation are ‘organizationally’ managed to form a continual cycle” (pg. 20). I really like this. To me it’s saying that an organization can’t develop and succeed (through organizational knowledge creation) unless all aspects of knowledge and knowledge creation are working together like a well oiled machine. I love how Nonaka views knowledge.

Words: 674

Words I Had to Look Up

Tacitunderstood without being openly expressed; implied (Source)

Physiognomy: the art of determining character orpersonal characteristics from the form or features of the body, especially of the face OR the outward appearance of anything, taken as offering some insight into its character (Source)

Reprobation: disapproval, condemnation, or censure (Source)

Epistemology: a term first used by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier to describe the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge; it is also referred to as “theory of knowledge”. Put concisely, it is the study of knowledge and justified belief. It questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired, and the extent to which knowledge pertinent to any given subject or entity can be acquired (Source).


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

² Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension. Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1