Can Risk be a Reward?

This is the last post with ‘content content’ of the semester and I’m both sad (because it’s been fun) and excited (because I’ll be done and GRADUATING). So… let’s continue.

Trkman and Desouza4 is all about knowledge and the risks associated with sharing it. While all the theory didn’t interest me a ton I did like the how basis for the paper. Organizations must have a competitive edge in order to stay afloat in today’s economy. A large part of achieving this goal is to share knowledge. This paper made really clear (at least more than others I’ve read) the true costs of sharing knowledge. It’s not always ‘risk-free’. This article has one statement that screams to me as important to realize AND understand.

While knowledge sharing is valuable it cannot be done in a haphazard fashion. The improper sharing of knowledge and a loss of knowledge during transfer can have disastrous results. (pg. 3)

They mention the how if knowledge sharing had happened effectively 9/11 could have been prevented and we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq due to its supposed ‘weapons of mass destruction’. I don’t know if any of that is true but it does put the risks into perspective. I feel this is the type of paper any organization must have as required reading in order to understand the risks of not having proper knowledge management and, like I mentioned last week, helps with the ‘burden of proof’ for knowledge managers. I also liked that part of the paper that Raphael mentioned about how “a low-risk relationship might be preferred over one which is more beneficial but which also bears a higher level of risk, necessitating additional expenditure of resources to curtail said risk”. That brings the how ‘management of risk’ into perspective.

Due to my background (leadership minor) and this class, the part of Jones and Mahon’s¹ paper that stood out to me what the bit on leadership. They say:

In the development of any effective knowledge management capability, leadership is important. As we have noted several times, the development of tacit knowledge relies on strong relationships and networks (Weiss et al., 2010). It is the leadership team that needs to keep the flexibility and relevance of tacit knowledge processes alive in the organization and to demonstrate by their own actions that tacit knowledge and its transfer is important (however see Erhardt, 2011 for a different view).

One of the challenges of management is to recognize that decisions in high velocity/turbulent environments cannot wait for complete information and knowledge – it is the ability to combine explicit knowledge and limited information with tacit knowledge that yields unique breakthrough solutions. (pgs. 779-780)

This reminds me of one of my previous posts where I say (in regards to the Challenger disaster managers), that the managers “didn’t know enough to understand the information presented to them in order to make a fully informed decision. The managers were ignorant; they had the information but not the education or knowledge. Being blind due to ignorance not lack of awareness should never happen”. The Challenger disaster was obviously a ‘high velocity/turbulent environment’ and they obviously didn’t participate in ‘nimble knowledge transfer’.

Powell and Snellman’s³ article is one of the driest ones I have read this semester. It is conversational, I’ll give it that. The only thing of merit I gleaned from this article is on page 213 where they discuss the change in the job market. They say:

There’s a growing research suggesting that some of the new jobs that have been created over the past two decades are fundamentally different from the ones that have been lost. The new jobs tend to favor educated workers over those with less education and skills.

This was published over a decade ago, in 2004, but I don’t think the sentiment has changed. How jobs work are different now. I was watching Quantico last night and there was a scene where this older FBI agent was talking about how his job as a handler has changed so much over the decades and he’s considered a dinosaur even though he still has amazing contributions he could make. This reminded me of this paper. The jobs are changing fundamentally, yes. But that doesn’t mean we should forget how they were. And all the education in the world can’t make up for something with no real life experience or basic common sense/decision making skills.

Nahapiet and Ghoshal² write an interesting paper on organizational advantage. I had never really thought about social capital in a business sense but, after reading their paper, it made a lot more sense. I definitely will take this knowledge into any future job I have about how social and intellectual capital can be used to the organization’s advantage… if treated right.

Words:

Words I Had to Look Up

None this week! Isn’t that cool?!


References

¹ Jones, N. B. and Mahon, J. F. (2012). Nimble knowledge transfer in high
velocity/turbulent environments. Journal of Knowledge Management,
16(5):774–788.

² Nahapiet, J. and Ghoshal, S. (1998). Social capital, intellectual capital, and
the organizational advantage. The Academy of Management Review,
23(2):242–266.

³ Powell, W. W. and Snellman, K. (2004). The knowledge economy. Annual
Review of Sociology, 30(1):199–220.

Trkman, P. and Desouza, K. C. (2012). Knowledge risks in organizational
networks: An exploratory framework. The Journal of Strategic
Information Systems, 21(1):1–17.

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10 thoughts on “Can Risk be a Reward?

  1. I like that you say that although jobs do change, that does not mean we should ignore the past. Real world experience is important and that sort of knowledge cannot be pushed aside. We need to learn from the past even if the jobs have changed. We just can’t be reliant completely on the past.

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  2. The jobs thing is true but it isn’t so linear. Take the sharing economy, for instance (Uber, Airbnb, etc.). These markets do not require an educated population, at least not directly, even though they do require technologically advanced organizations and structures to support them. Those orgs, by the way, are small compared to manufacturing orgs that were worth the same, and given the difference in sizes, the results are that a relatively few share a greater amount of wealth (and contributes to the 1%/99% problem).

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  3. I like the thoughts on the risks of knowledge sharing. It reminds me of the downside of sharing – for example, internal changes in leadership may make stockholders uneasy, so stock values may drop when that knowledge is shared with them.

    Jobs might change over time, but I think that is also (at least in part) because of knowledge sharing and knowledge development. As our knowledge grows and develops, we adopt more efficient methods of doing things (hopefully).

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    1. That’s definitely the key difference between an effective executive and an incompetent stuffed suit. The knowledge a director has may even be valid in some way, but if it’s at odds with the knowledge of practice possessed by the people doing the work, there’s disaster in store.

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  5. I think pointing out the knowledge sharing failures surrounding 9/11 is interesting. We are obviously still having issues with knowledge sharing and terrorism prevention. What about knowledge creation in this context? In my crisis communication course, we talked about how economists were developing algorithms to better interpret and create information to utilize in terrorism prevention.

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  6. The risks of knowledge sharing are indeed interesting to ponder. A lot of is very complex and requires a ethical and morality perspective especially in regards to crisis. It becomes more and more apparent in today’s information age how imprint knowledge sharing can actually be. This blog does a nice job diving into these issues and presents a clear response. There are definitely a lot of takeaways.

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