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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Knowledge Sharing in Real Life

Tsoukas & Vladimirou³… The title of the article is “What is organizational knowledge?” and the third sentence of the abstract mentions Polanyi so I’m hoping this article will explain some things. This article was actually a lot easier to understand than I feared it would be. Of course, the part that stood out the most to me was Tsoukas and Vladimiro’s research at a call center in Greece.

Narrating work-related episodes to one another about, for example, awkward customers and uncommon questions tackled creates an environment in which the ties of community are reinforced, collective memory is enriched, and individual knowledge is enhanced.

Water-CoolerThey mentioned how informal story-telling was paramount to how they shared knowledge and that their work experience led to their ability to find information for their customers quicker. This reminded me a lot of Mary’s post The Story of our Work. She says “In stories we might be explicting stating what has happened in the past – our experiences – but the knowledge others gain from those stories is tacit.” So I guess the Polanyi bit makes more sense now.

The operator’s ability to see through a customer’s query, that is to make ever find her distinctions, is an important skill, which is developed and consular find him a job. (pg.987)

This, to me, is what reference is. As librarians, a huge part of any future job we have (whether we intend it or not), is reference. I have never sat at a reference desk before or taken a class where I learned how to give a reference interview. However, I did have 2 and a half years of speaking to customers at a call center and learning to see through what they were asking in order to answer what they actually wanted. That’s reference.

Cook & Brown² reiterated a lot of what we’ve learned so far this semester but I did like how they brought up that training and educational programs should aim at “both passing on knowledge to individuals and creating situations that help groups develop practices (ways of knowing) that make use of knowledge in new, innovative, and more productive ways” (pg. 398).

I really liked Bissett¹. I liked the entire article but I was especially fond of the “A ‘subjects-in-community’ learning model” section. The idea of a “‘network’ where different people, exhibiting a range of talents, would interact across a number of different dimensions rather than remain confined to one functional unit” is my dream. I love being able to lead only when my skill-set is needed and be just another team player the rest of the time. The ‘new’ organizational functions described in this article are what I am looking for in a future job and I am glad I found it written down somewhere so I know it’s a possibility.

Words: 468

Words I Had to Look Up

None this week! Isn’t that cool?!


References

¹Bissett, N. (2004). Diversity writ large: Forging the link between diverse
people and diverse organisational possibilities. Journal of Organizational
Change Management, 17(3):315–325.

²Cook, S. D. N. and Brown, J. S. (1999). Bridging epistemologies: The
generative dance between organizational knowledge and organizational
knowing. Organization Science, 10(4):381–400.

³Tsoukas, H. and Vladimirou, E. (2001). What is organizational knowledge?
Journal of Management Studies, 38(7):973–993.

Trust & Best Practices

After reading Raphael’s and Audrey’s posts references Lucas’s¹ article, I wanted to read it for myself. Raphael definitely pointed out the importance of getting rid of factionalism and “instead implicitly encouraging the propagation of knowledge and skills to any and all inPodcasting-Best-Practices-Sharedividuals and groups within the organization that can make use of them”. Audrey spoke of social capital and the “importance of trust and the reputation of knowledge providers and recipients”. Once I read the article, these all made sense but (like always…) I thought back to my previous experience.

The article talks a lot about trust and how trust in an organization by its people leads to knowledge sharing. There are 4 aspects of trust Lucas talks about there must be:

  1. an element of uncertainty
  2. an expectation of some specific outcome
  3. the trusting party’s perception that the trustee is motivated to behave as expected
  4. unstated motives by both parties for meeting the other’s expectations

Once I read these, I thought about all of the group projects, both at work and in school, I have done. I have ALWAYS had an issue with trust other’s to complete there parts to my satisfaction, whether it was because I have high expectations and don’t trust the other Trust-tool3.pngparties to meet them (aspect 1) or I don’t think we have the same motivations and goals (aspects 2, 3, & 4). Reading in a scholarly article about how trust in an organization leads to  “increased knowledge transfer” and “full disclosure” made me realize how much I need to work on my trust issues. I need to trust that we, as a group, as working towards the same outcome and that our motives, while different, still mean that we will meet each others expectations. I really enjoyed reading my classmates views and then reading the article and coming to my own conclusions.

The next article speaks specifically about best practice. I had a difficult time Szulanski² primarily because it was a dry read to me. I did quite get all the minutiae of the paper but I did like the concept of ‘transfer of best practices’. I saw this a lot at the call center I worked at. We had multiple different departments and multiple different sites. If the site thumb.phpin Tampa had success with something, our site was then forced to do it. The problem with this, that Szulanski addresses, is that not every ‘best practices’ works the same with different groups of people. Szulanski talks about the ‘NIH syndrome’ or the ‘not invented here syndrome’ and it may seem laughable but it is really really real. When you create a workflow or guideline or best practice, you have stake in the game (or a horse in the race to use a work related metaphor). Having an outside force (even if it’s within your organization) tell you ‘someone else did it this way and it worked so therefore it must work for you and you’ll be punished if you don’t do it this way’ just plain sucks. It’s almost counterproductive. Szulanski also mentions ‘arduous relationships’ speaking about the tacit knowledge that comes attached to best practices that may not be known outside of that department therefore, when the successful best practice from one department is shared with others, it may not work.

The last article I read discussed electronic networks of practice. Wasko and Faraj³ talk about how, with the “advance in computer mediated communications, networks of practice are able to extend their reach using technolog[y]”. I never realized I was a part of an electronic network of practice until I read this. I am a part of many listservs through mybest-practices membership in the ALA, SLA, and SAA. The most important one to mention here I think is the one called ‘Lone Arrangers’, a listserv “geared specifically towards those … working in small or solo repositories” (Source). People e-mail the listserv to ask questions about best practices that they may not know but others do and knowledge is shared readily. I think our profession is hopefully more happy to share knowledge due to what we do for a living but I can understand being reluctant to share as well due to not feeling knowledgeable enough or not wanting someone to take your ideas and pass them off as your own.

I really liked the readings this week and can’t wait for my next post!

Words: 729

Words I Had to Look Up

Trust: “At its core, trust in the willingness of one party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party, and it is a function of access to information either through direct or indirect interactions”¹.

Best Practice: A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. A commitment to using the best practices in any field is a commitment to using all the knowledge and technology at one’s disposal to ensure success (Source).


References

¹ Lucas, L. M. (2005). The impact of trust and reputation on the transfer of
best practices. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(4):87–101.

² Szulanski, G. (1996). Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the
transfer of best practice within the firm. Strategic Management Journal,
17:27–43.

³ Wasko, M. M. and Faraj, S. (2005). Why should I share? examining social
capital and knowledge contribution in electronic networks of practice.
MIS Quarterly, 29(1):35–57.