the captured information incrementally,rather than at the time of capture.
This activity makes information in theorganizational memory available to workersto help their problem solving. TraditionalKM approaches assume that workers per-form repetitive and predictable tasks,so theydisseminate knowledge through classroomtraining or printed reference documents.These approaches separate learning andworking. They typically use informationtechnology to broadcast information (forexample,email) or to provide searchabledatabases. As we mentioned earlier,theinformation that workers receive or accesscomes from management (or the creator of the training materials) rather than fromcoworkers.In the design perspective,the specificinformation needs of workers are unpre-dictable. The need for information resultsfrom particular situations that arise from aworker’s struggle to understand a problem.The context of problem solving dictates theinformation demand and provides the con-text for learning. On-demand informationintegrates working and learning,because theneed for learning comes from work,and thelearning takes place within the context of thework situation.
Now we look at some of the major bar–riers to implementing a design-orientedapproach.
Creating shared understanding
KM aims to increase the ability of work-ers to perform knowledge-intensive tasks.From the perspective of work as creativedesign,we can restate this purpose simply asunderstanding the problem at hand.
An important aspectof design is the creation of artifacts that exter-nalize knowledge. This is important for threereasons:•In so doing,we begin to move from vague,tacit conceptualizations of an idea to amore explicit representation.•The artifact provides a means for others tointeract with,react to,negotiate around,and build on the externalized idea.•The artifact provides an opportunity to cre-ate a common language of understanding.We have found that using external repre-sentations exposes,and focuses discussionon,relevant aspects of the framing and under-standing of the problem being studied,suchas tacit attitudes,values,and perspectives.
This is because designers engage in a “con-versation with the materials of a situation.”
In this conversation,designers interact withan external representation of the problem,and the situation talks back to them,causingbreakdowns in their prior understandings. Todesigners,breakdowns are not mistakes butopportunities to create new understandings.When a breakdown occurs,designers reflecton the breakdown,
learning more about theproblem,its framing,and possible solutions.
Increasingly,groupsor communities working together—not indi-viduals—perform design tasks. Complexityin collaborative design arises from the needto synthesize different perspectives of a prob-lem,to manage large amounts of informationrelevant to a design task,and to understandthe design decisions that have determined adesigned artifact’s long-term evolution.Our work focuses on two types of groups,
communities of practice
Communities of practice consist of peo-ple sharing a common practice or domain of interest. CoPs are sustained over time. Theyprovide a means for newcomers to learnabout the practice and for established mem-bers to share knowledge about their work andto collaborate on projects. They need supportfor understanding long-term evolution of artifacts and for understanding problemscaused by rapid change in their domain.CoIs consist of people from different fieldswho come together to work on a particularproject or problem. They typically exist for aproject’s duration. They need support for cre-ating shared understanding among stake-holders from different backgrounds,whobring different perspectives and languages tothe problem.CoPs are typically associated with KM.CoIs are becoming increasingly involved inKM as projects become more interdisciplinaryand as collaborative design brings togetherspecialists from many domains. The challengeis to meaningfully bridge and integrate thesevarious perspectives. Such integration requiressupport for
reflection in action
. For collabo-rative design,where many people work to-gether to understand a problem,designbecomes a conversation in a more literal sense.That is,external representations facilitate aconversation not only with the design situa-tion but also with other designers. In this way,externalizations expose breakdowns due to alack of understanding of the problem,conflictsamong perspectives,or the absence of sharedunderstanding. As we mentioned earlier,suchbreakdowns are opportunities to build new,shared understandings.Collaborative designs result in work prod-ucts
that are enriched by the multiple per-spectives of the participants and the discoursesthat result from the process. This integratesthe individual and the group knowledge inways impossible in settings that rely solely on“divide and conquer”team organization.
Putting communities in charge
The view of workers as reflective practi-tioners within CoPs does not correspond towhat is taught in training or what is containedin information systems supporting the tradi-tional KM view. Traditional information sys-tems are closed systems that store answersto questions that might arise during work,under the assumption that workers are per-forming tasks that have been anticipated anddescribed. This assumption is a barrier toinnovation,because it does not let workersshare their new ideas for their peers to dis-cuss,debate,or build on. Closed systems donot give communities control over their ownknowledge but put a gulf between creationand integration. So,innovations happen out-side systems,and systems contain informa-tion that is chronically out of date and thatreflects an outsider’s view of work.
Capturing information at use time.
Designcommunities have learned that anticipatingall possible uses at design time (that is,when
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Closed systems do not givecommunities control over theirown knowledge but put a gulf between creation and integration.So, innovations happen outsidesystems.