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