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Open Sesame: The Hidden Treasure of Second Generation Knowledge Management

Open Sesame: The Hidden Treasure of Second Generation Knowledge Management

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Published by Gary Shilling
When computers were first linked in the 1970s, the idea of creating a "knowledge society" was at the forefront of a few select minds. Together, they built an internetworked system of computers (ARPANET) that would eventually become the Internet. A collaboration beween the Department of Defence and the academy of research universities and laboratories, the DOD was testing an idea that remote networked groups would make more rational judgements than face-to-face groups. An infrastructure of open technology components resulted from an almost continuous demand for cooperative work with three core values: intellectual curiosity, informal meritocracy, and an egalitarian presumption (Kiesler, 1997). Corporations and their culture, on the other hand, emerged to suppress lateral interactions between people and direct value instead to a select group of investors (Rushkoff, 2009), with the price mechanism as a coordinating instrument (Coase, 1933). As such, it can be observed that Open Organizations respond better to the riches offered by collaborative processes such as Second Generation Knowledge Management and the creation of Social Capital.
When computers were first linked in the 1970s, the idea of creating a "knowledge society" was at the forefront of a few select minds. Together, they built an internetworked system of computers (ARPANET) that would eventually become the Internet. A collaboration beween the Department of Defence and the academy of research universities and laboratories, the DOD was testing an idea that remote networked groups would make more rational judgements than face-to-face groups. An infrastructure of open technology components resulted from an almost continuous demand for cooperative work with three core values: intellectual curiosity, informal meritocracy, and an egalitarian presumption (Kiesler, 1997). Corporations and their culture, on the other hand, emerged to suppress lateral interactions between people and direct value instead to a select group of investors (Rushkoff, 2009), with the price mechanism as a coordinating instrument (Coase, 1933). As such, it can be observed that Open Organizations respond better to the riches offered by collaborative processes such as Second Generation Knowledge Management and the creation of Social Capital.

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Published by: Gary Shilling on Sep 15, 2009
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Open Sesame:
The Hidden Treasure of Second Generation Knowledge ManagementGary Shilling August 27, 2009
 
 When computers were first linked in the 1970s, the idea of creating a "knowledge soci-ety" was at the forefront of a few select minds. Together, they built an internetworkedsystem of computers (ARPANET) that would eventually become the Internet. A collab-oration between the Department of Defence and the academy of research universitiesand laboratories, the DOD was testing an idea that remote networked groups wouldmake more rational judgements than face-to-face groups. An infrastructure of opentechnology components resulted from an almost continuous demand for cooperative work with three core values: intellectual curiosity, informal meritocracy, and an egalit-arian presumption (Kiesler, 1997). Corporations and their culture, on the other hand,emerged to suppress lateral interactions between people and direct value instead to a se-lect group of investors (Rushkoff, 2009), with the price mechanism as a coordinating in-strument (Coase, 1933). As such, we observe that Open Organizations respond better tothe riches offered by collaborative processes such as Second Generation KnowledgeManagement and the creation of Social Capital.Benkler (2002) reflects on Coase's
The Nature of the Firm,
where firms are described asclusters of resources and agents that interact through managerial command systemsrather than markets. Transaction costs that are associated with enforcing and definingproperty and contract rights within the market model affect the firm's growth and activ-ity. Open source software projects do not rely on either markets or managerial hierarch-ies to organize production and represent "[a] new model of production ... one thatshould not be there, at least according to our most widely held beliefs about economic behavior" (p.372). And yet, these large and medium scale collaborations are happeningeverywhere in cultural and information production. Programmers participate in opensource software projects without following the logistics of market-based or firm basedmodels. "The digital arrangement of this system evades the classic problem of thetragedy of the commons (Hardin, 1968) because the resource is not exhausted by use.On the contrary, the peer-to-peer technology means that the more a certain digital re-source is used, the more available it becomes" (Hughes & Reiner, 2003). This thinking isat the core of Google's search algorithms hierarchy.
 
 As described by McElroy (2002), Second Generation Knowledge Management (KM) ismore inclusive of people, process, and social initiatives, centred on knowledge assomething that is produced in human social systems through individual and shared pro-cesses. As such, its focus is both knowledge production and integration. The knowledgelife cycle begins with the detection of problems and ends with newly validated know-ledge claims (p.5). McElroy extends the concepts of the Knowledge Learning Cycle toembrace the "Open Enterprise", rooted in the thinking of Karl Popper, and the notion of the Open Society. At the root of this thinking is the idea of 'Critical Rationalism', wherethe fallibility of knowledge is stressed. In citing the example of Enron, McElroy portendsthat it was a closed KLC that lead to its downfall. He also speculates that the corporationfailed to heed the criticisms of its own people. If one extends this speculation to the re-cent collapse of the world-wide banking system, can poor KLC bear the blame for thisdemise, or is it the very nature of these firms and their priorities?Unlike the corporate model, commons-based peer production involves individuals self-identifying tasks in a decentralized collaborative system where the point of decisionrests with the individual. Unlike corporate systems that devise incentive compensationschemes to encourage efficiency and creativity (and a better bottom line), peer produc-tion provides a framework where individuals with the best information about their suit-ability for a task, will take it on. As Benkler (2002) points out: "Peer production has anadvantage over firms and markets because it allows larger groups of individuals to scourlarger groups of resources in search of materials, projects, collaborations, and combina-tions than is possible for firms or individuals who function in markets" (p.378). Ex-amples of Open Source software include: GNU/Linux operating system, Apache webserver, Drupal content management system, and BittTorrent file sharing. Free softwareand its projects do not rely on either markets or managerial hierarchies to organize pro-duction. Participation is generally not governed by a manager or monetary return.James Coleman, an American sociologist, and Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, both laid the ground work for studying the benefits accruing to individuals because of their ties to others. "Social capital became defined as (1) a source of social control, (2)

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