practice-based The perspective onknowledge
What is knowledge?
-rapter 2 provided one specific answer to the question 'what is knowledge?, However, --::robjectivist perspective has been widely challenged, and for a number of different ::asons. Arguably the most fundamental challenge and critique of it is that it is based .:: ilawed epistemological assumptions. Chapter 3 therefore presents an alternative :::swer to the question 'what is knowledge?' This chapter is basedon fundamentally dif:::ent epistemological assumptions, and as will be seen, characterizesknowledge and r:owledge management practices quite differently from the obiectivist perspective :c Iable 3.1). The practice-based perspective conceptualizes knowledge not as a codifiable riect/entity, but instead emphasizes the extent to which it is embeddedwithin and .::separable from practice. cook and Brown (1999) labelled this perspectivean ,epi,:cmology of practice'due to the centrality of human activity to its conception of know,:j.ge. Further, Gherardi (2ooo, 218) argues that 'practice connects ,knowing, with :':ing". Thus, the embeddedness knowledgein human activity (practice)represents of ,::e of the central characteristics this epistemological of perspective. Table 3.1. Objectivist practice-based and epistemologiesknowledge of
Objectivist epistemology - - .',ledge derived lrom process an intellectual Practice-based epistemology r knowledge embedded practice is in o knowing/doing inseparable o knowledge embodied people is in r knowledge socially is constructed r knowledge culturally is embedded o knowledge contestable is o knowledge socially is constructed . tacitandexplicit knowledge inseparable are and mutuaily constituted r Knowledge multidimensional is

--,'.';edge a disembodied is entity/object - - .'.'iedge objective'facts' is

,: :it knowledge (objective) (subjective) , :ged overtacitknowledge :, ^ct knowledge categories


E P I S T E M O L O G I E SF K N O W L E D G E O perspective Table 3.2. Theoretical relatedto the practice-based Dersoectrve

( Empsom2001) (1 Blackler 995) (1 Tsoukas 996) Cook& Brown(1999) Sayer(1992) (2003) Suchman

Interprettve Activity Theory Ethnom ethodoIogy/interpretive phiIosophy American Pragmatists

( L a v e& W e n g e r 1 9 9 1 ) Situated Learning Theory CriticalRealism Actor Network Theory

Practice refers purposeful to human activity.isbased theassumption activity lt that includes both on physical cognitive and elements, thatthese and elements inseparable. are Knowledge and use istherefore regarded a fundamental ofactivity. development as aspect

While the objectivist perspectivewas closely aligned with a positivistic philosophy, the practice-basedperspective is compatible with a number of different philosophical per(Table3.2). Another perspective spectives that has much in common with the practicebasedperspective,but has thus far not been utilized by knowledge management analysts is Critical Realism(with the exception of Mutch 2OOr.2 The chapter follows a similar structure to Chapter 2, and begins by firstly outlining perspective.Following this, the way knowledge is characterizedwithin the practice-based the chapter then examines how knowledge management processes conceptualized. are As the chapter proceeds, vast differencesthat exist between the practice-based, the and the objectivist perspective knowledgeillustrated in Table3.1, should becomemore apparent. on

perspectiveson knowledge Practice-based
The practice-based epistemologycan be understoodin terms of sevenspecific,but interrelatedfactors,eachof which are now examinedin turn (Table3.3).

The embeddednessof knowledge in practice Perhapsthe most important difference between the objectivist and practice-basedepiperspective the entitative stemologies knowledgeis that the practice-based of challenges conception of knowledge.From this perspective, knowledge isn't regardedas a discrete 2 It is beyondthe scope this bookto examine detailthe differences these theoretical of in between perspectives.

P R A C T I C E - B A S E D R S P E C T I VO N K N O W L E D G E PE E Table 3.3. Practlce-based characteristics knowledge of Gharacteristics of knowledge from practice-based epistemology 1. Knowledge embedded practice is in 2. Tacit andexplicit knowledge inseparable are 3. Knowledge embodied people is in 4. Knowledge socially is constructed 5. Knowledge culturally is embedded 6 . K n o w l e d gie m u l t i d i m e n s i o n a l s 7. Knowledge contestable is


entity/object that can be codified and separated from people. Instead,knowledge,or as some of the writers from this perspectiveprefer, knowing, is inseparable.fromhuman activity. Thus all activity is to some extent knowledgeable, involving the use and/or developmentof knowledge.conversely,all knowledgework, whether using it, sharingit, developing it, or creating it, will involve an element of activity. Blackler (1995, lOZ3) rummed this up as follows, 'rather than regardingknowledge as something that people have,it is suggested that knowing is better regardedas somethingthey do., As well as challengingthe knowing-doing dichotomy, this perspective also challenges the mind-body dichotomy that is inherent to the obiectivist perspective(seeTable 3.4 'ater).As outlined, the objectivistperspective, drawing on the classical imagesof science, conceptualizes knowledge as being primarily derived from cognitive processes, some:hing involving the brain but not the body. The practice-based perspective insteadviews i.nowing and the developmentof knowledgeas occurring on an ongoing basisthrough the routine activitiesthat peopleundertake.Knowing thus can be seenaslessof a purely cognitive process, and more of a holistic process involving the whole body (Gherardi2000). Thus, from this perspective,thinking and doing are fused in knowledgeableactivity, the development and use of embodied knowledge in undertaking specificactivities/tasks. Theseideascan be illustrated through consideringa number of examples.First, Orr,s 1990)widely referencedstudy of photocopier engineersemphasizes how their knowledge developed through a processof dialogue and improvization, which involved the adaptationof existingknowledgeto new and novel situations.Similarly,Patriotta(2003), 1na study of a FiatAuto plant in Italy, showedthe embeddedness knowledgein the narof rativespossessed workers,and how thesenarrativesevolvedin the resolution of 'disby ruptive occurrences' (3a9).Thirdly, DeFillippi and Arthur (199g) in a study of film (i.e. movie) production, showed that for apprentice technicians processes learning by of rt-atching were crucial.Knowledgein this context tended to developthrough processes of socialization, observation,and practice.The final example,of the traditional craft skill of metalworking can be illustratedby a quotation:
\\'hen you have a bar of iron in front of you which has to be twisted and wrought into a certain shape.. . . then you learn to apply ideasto things. You becomepractical.Youcannotthink the iron


EPISTEMOLOGOFKNOWLEDGE IES Your thoughts, that is wanted,but you cannotdo it without thought. and into the position shape downto the factsof the bound mustbelimited,circumscribed, in if you areto succeed your purpose, added) 6, McKinlay(799 86,emphasis situation. for This quotation alsoreflectswhat a growing number of authors arearguing (see, example, regarded as knowledge work, and that all Alvesson 2000, 2001), that all work can be workers, whether bus drivers, cleaners, accountants, management consultants, oI researchScientists,ale, to Someextent knowledge workers. However, this debate will be examinedin more detail in Chapter 14.

Tacit and explicit knowledge are inseparable Another point of departure between the objectivist and practice-basedperspectiveson knowledge is in the way that the relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge is that rather than tacit and explicit perspectivesuggests conceptualized.The practice-based separateand distinctive t)?es of knowledge, they represent two knowledge representing aspects of knowledge and are in fact are inseparable, and are mutually constituted of (Tsoukas 1996; Werr and Stiernberg2003). One consequence this is that there is no such thing as fully explicit knowledge, as all knowledge will have tacit dimensions. Clark (2000) usesthe term'explacit knowledge'to linguistically syrnbolizestheir inseparability (Table3.4). For example text, which is often referred to as a form of codified knowledge, has tacit components, without which no readercould make senseof it. Examplesof these tacit elementsinclude an understanding of the languagein which they arewritten, or the that, 'The idea grammal and syntax usedto structule them. Polanyi (1969, 195) suggests of a strictly explicit knowledge is indeed self-contradictory; deprived of their tacit coefficients, all spoken wotds, all formulae, all maps and graphs, are strictly meaningless''

This book: partially explicit knowledge as Firstly, an author for knowledge two reasons. explicit of a Thisbookrepresentspiece partially and frameworks theoretical assumptions, all makefullyexplicit the ideas, I havenotbeenableto it point viewof the reader canalsobeconof From the written. whatI have whichunderpin values and language, of a to it partially as explicit, to read yourequire have goodgrasp the English sidered toplcs. academic of havesomeknowledge otherrelevant
g T a b l e3 . 4 . C h a l l e n g i nd i c h o t o m l e s Ghallenging obiectivist dichotomies (tacit knowledge) and explicit knowledge Explacit (knowing doing) and activity Knowledgeable (brain and body) cognition Sensual

PER VE P R A C T I C E - B A S E D S P E C T IO N K N O W L E D G E \Vhile, as outlined in Chapter 2, Polanyi'swork is often used to justify the tacit-explicit ::chotomy, a number of writers suggestthat this misunderstandshis analysis (Brown and that his analysisis )uguid 2001; Prichard2000).Thesewriters challengethis and suSgest perspective. .rounded more in the practice-based

Knowledgeis embodied that knowledge can exist in a fully .::e objectivist perspectiveon knowledge assumes .:..rlicit and codified form, that knowledge can exist independently of human beings.This perspectiveon knowledge, -,, sition is fundamentally challengedby the practice-based perspective personal.The practice-based , ,::ich assumes knowledge or knowing is all that it is impossibleto totally disembodyknowledgefrom people into :.-,=refore assumes , -:1ly-explicit form. This assumptionis thereforecloselyrelatedto, and flows from, the examined:that all knowledgehas tacit dimensions,and that knowl.::'.ious two issues from practice. : :.E is embeddedin, and inseparable that knowledge develops nature of knowing/knowledge assumes -:e practice-based '--::,ughpractice:people'sknowledgedevelopsasthey conduct activitiesand gain experi:.:=. Further, the inseparableand mutually constituted nature of tacit and explicit means that it is not possibleto make such knowledge fully explicit. There will ,- -,";ledge in , ,,:,r'sbe an element to which knowledgeresides the head/body of those who develpossess Thus while it may be possibleto partially convert tacit knowledge it. :":. and - : an explicit form, in contradiction with the oblectivistperspective, practice-based the can that such plocesses never be complete.For example,in terms of :'::::ective assumes are , .:jttion most readers likely to be familiar with from one context or another, con:.: :he nature of knowledgesharingin'master-apprentice'type relations,whete Some- = .rDeriencedattemptsto sharetheir knowledgewith a more inexperienced colleague. * -: nature of the knowledge assumes that the practice-based perspective ::actice-based means that this knowledge will be to some extent the 'master' possesses on, :rpertise ",- , .;ied, and cannot be fully articulatedand made explicit. Further,the practice-based that I ir - ::,:{tive aSSumeS for the apprentice to learn the knowledge of the master requires :t1 ::€\' communicate,interact, and work together,typically over an extendedperiod i: , *::her sensein which knowledge is embodied (and simultaneouslyembeddedin of (1996)referredto asthe 'indeterminacy practice' ,where to rr!,: :. relates what Tsoukas of ::itntial distinctiveness all situationsthat people act in requiresthem to continullrr No ::.-<epersonaljudgements. matter how explicit and well deflnedthe rulesarethat urlll. m; r;: ie action, there will alwaysbe someelementof ambiguity or uncertainty that creumy r :ied for actors to make inferencesand judgements.For example, applying this no of nr rr-.: :-. the perspective the'apprentice' just discussed, matter how formalized, ,[]r-rr.*-t:c. there will alwaysbe circumand explicit the knowledgethey have acquired, --:.at itfiiirtr.r-:.! emelge where an element of judgement will be required. Thus, knowledge/ urr-olves the active agencyof people making decisionsin light of the specific Umi:n,-,:,: iulrrr:- i::nces in which they find themselves.


E P I S T E M O L O G I EF K N O W L E D G E O S The socially constructed and culturally embedded nature of knowledge Two factors that are closely interwoven are that knowledge is socially constructed and In to culturally embedded.It is thereforenecessary examine them simultaneously. stark contrast to the 'knowledge is truth' assumption of the objectivist perspective on knowlthat codifled knowledgecan exist in an objectiveform indeedge,where it is suggested that argues pendent of socialand cultural values,the epistemologyof practiceperspective all knowledge is socially constructed in nature, which makes it somewhat subjective and open to interpretation.Thus, knowledgeis never totally neutral and unbiased,and is, to from the valuesof those who producedit. someextent, inseparable this viewpoint is basedon a particular understandAs with the objectivistperspective, that languagehas assumes The objectivist perspective ing about the nature of language. fixed and obiective meanings, and that there is a direct equivalence between words and that language perspectivesuggests that which they denote. Instead,the practice-based has no such fixed meanings, and that in fact the meaning of languageis inherently ambiguous. This subjectivity, or interpretive flexibility in language,thus.undermines any claims about the objective status of any knowledge, whether it is highly tacit and personal, or whether it is partially explicit and codified. However,the socially negotiated nature of languagelimits the scopeindividuals have to modify and interpret the meaning and use of language(Sayer1992;Tsoukas1996).

its and strengthens, sustains through which community a develops, making theprocess is Perspective people an develop understanding through which Perspective istheprocess taking knowledge values. and oftheknow|edge,va|ues,and,wor|dview,ofothers.

The socially constructed nature of knowledge applies to both its production and its and senseas interpretation. Polanyi (1969)referredto thesetwo processes sense-giving reading, while Boland and Tenkasi(1995) used the terms perspectivemaking and perspective taking. Thus both the production of knowledge, and the reading/interpretation required to develop an understanding of it, involves an active process of meaning construction/inference. For example, a written report is a piece of partially explicit may infer a knowledge,whose meaning is constructedby its author/s. However,readers This aspect of the practice-basedperspective therefore different meaning and analysis. has profound implications for the way knowledge is sharedand managed,asthe attractive model is questioned. simolicitv of the transmitter-receiver

of of experience wherea range peopleinferred from yourorganizational Canyou thinkof an example partlybe explained the f luidity meaning of by Canthesedifferences meaningsrom a report? f different inlanguage?

P R A C T I C E - B A S E D S P E C T IO N K N O W L E D G E PER VE Further,this process meaning construction/inferenceis typically culturally embedded. of The meanings people attach to language/events shapedby the valuesand assumptions are of the social and cultural context in which people live and work. one way in which preexisting values and assumptions influence these processes knowledge construction/ of knowledge interpretation is through the flltering of data-information in deciding what is considered'relevant'. A dramatic, and tragic example of such a filtering processwas one of the contributory factorsto the ChallengerSpaceShuttle accident (Baumard 1999; Starbuck and Milliken 1988).In this caseNASAengineersneglectedwhat tumed out to be important information regardingO-ring erosion,asbasedon the assumptions they had, sucha situation was regarded as presenting a minute risk. This cultural embeddedness results in much knowledgebeing context-specificand context-dependent,making its relevance,and transferability between contexts not necessarily alwaysstraightforward. The idea of knowledge being culturally embeddedlinks to the concept of collective knowledge discussedin Chapter 2. Collective knowledge was shown to be culturally embeddedin a number of different contexts/such as within communities of practice,or tvithin the context of a national or regional culture. What distinguishesthe cultural embeddingof knowledgein the practice-based perspective from collectiveknowledgein the obiectivist perspective,is that from the practice-based perspectiveall knowledge is to some extent culturally embedded.Thus from this perspective,none of the knowledge we possess totally separate independentfrom the socialcontextsthat peopleoperatein. is and The simultaneousmultidimensionality knowledge of The use of taxonomies,asillustratedin the previouschapter,suggests that all knowledge can be classified into distinctive categories, that it is either tacit or explicit, or that it is i.e. tacit-collective, explicit-individual, etc. This idea is questionedby a number of writers or trho suggest that while such an approachmay have analytical,benefits, misrepresents it the complexity of organizationalknowledge.Tsoukas (1996),for example,suggests that dichotomies such as tacit-explicit and individual-group are unhelpful as they disguise the extent to which theseelementsareinseparable, and mutually defined.Blackler(1995, 1032)makesa similar point by suggesting that, . . . it is a mistake assume embodied, to that embedded, embrained, encultured encoded and know,:dgecansensibly conceived separate eachother. be as from Knowledge multi-faceted complex, is and :eing both situated and abstract, implicit and explicit,distributed and individual, physical and :.lrental, developing static, and verbal encoded. and Thus the practice-base perspective rejectsthe taxonomy-based approachto categoriz-ng knowledge.For example,considerthe knowledge that an engineerusesto design a car'schassis, that a craftsman(/person) or usesto assemble and build it. In both cases this inowledge is simultaneously individual and collective; tacit and explicit; physical and nental; and abstractand situated.


nk of somespecific organizational knowledge thatyou possess. Canit be classified a neat into :::egory,suchas tacit-collective,doesit havemultiple or dimensions simultaneously?

O S E P I S T E M O L O G I EF K N O W L E D G E The contestible nature of knowledge The flnal key aspect of the practice-basedperspective is the acknowledgement that the subjective, socially constructed, and culturally embedded nature of knowledge, means that what constitutes knowledge is open to dispute. This therefore challengesand undermines the idea central to the objectivist perspective that it is possible to produce truly 'legitimate' obiective knowledge. Thus, competing conceptions of what constitutes knowledge can occur where different groups/individuals develop incompatible and contradictory analysesof the same events, which may lead to conflict due to attempts by these groups to have their knowledge legitimated. which flow from this, therefore, is that issuesof power, One of the main consequences by politics, and conflict becomemore important than are acknowledged the obiectivist Foucault'sconception of power/knowledge sugperspective.Most fundamentally, Michel geststhat these concepts are inseparable(Foucault 1980; McKinlay 2000). Relatedly, Storey and Barnett (2000) suggestthat all knowledge management initiatives require to be seenashighly political, and are likely to be accompaniedby what they desqibe as'turf wars'by different organizationalinterest Sroupsattempting to gain.some control over these projects.The importance of acknowledgingand taking account of the contested and political nature of knowledge is magnifled by the fact that this aspectof knowledge, and knowledge management initiatives is typically either neglected or ignored by the maiority of the knowledge management literature. Theseissuesare examined more fully in Chapter 7.

:3ir: ::Tr:ii9'i1Y:I :l I"-l:i1T: :lT*:iig:liig::
pharma-co a UK pharmaceutical Untilthe early1980sit hadbeena governmentcompany. is in 990stherewas stillevidence partof the company and laboratory, by the mid-1 ownedresearch 990sa the During mid-1 predominated. whichhadhistorically culture focused of the technically rhetoThedominant system. management a was madeto implement new information decision of nature their justify needfor change was thatthe changing the teamto ric usedby the project of the to changes be madeto improve competitiveness theirprosignificant required markets project was the World Manufacturing figureto Pharma-co's An ductionfacilities. important recent he started hadbeena relatlvely it. Whenthe project championed who strongly Director, morecommerof adopting Strategy long-term As to recruit the organrzation. partof Pharma-co's suchattitudes to practices needhadbeenidentified introduce a operating cialandcost-sensitive was Director oneof these of The management. recruitment theWorldManufacturing to itssenior 'commercial' was from workingoutsideof the company knowledge Thus his appointments. emerged proposed changes to resistance the However, management. by regarded senior highly changes the Theysuggested proposed function. withinthe production from middlemanagers staylng through competitive couldremain andthatPharma-co unnecessary, werefundamentally culproducts. traditional The innovative of and on focused the development production technically production. around was predominant withinPharma-co focused turewhichhadbeenhistorically

P R A C T I C E - B A S E D R S P E C T I VO N K N O W L E D G E PE E m w t - - e o f t h e m a i n f a c t o r ss t r e n g t h e n i n gh e a r g u m e n to f p r o d u c t i o n a n a g e m e n t a s t h e i r :::ailed knowledge of the company's internal manufacturingpractices.Thus at the start of r-aTma-co's change projectthere was a highly politicalconflict between those for and against --:nge which centred on the validityof their knowledgeand the way they used it to legitimate --: r dlfferentanalyses the extent to which changewas needed. of


- s:ch situations, what extentis it possible objectively arguments and evaluate competing the to to of : = : : d eo n t h e ' c o r r e c t ' c o u r s e a c t i o n ? ^ groupsayaboutthe cultural perspectives the interests embeddedness of " tt doesthe different from the values and derived To of -' <rowledge? what extentarethe viewpoints thosein conflict in? communities they areembedded :=:s of the organizational

lmplicationsfor the nature of the organizationalknowledge base
- re above outlined characteristicsof knowledge have profound implications with regard as : - the nature of organizationalknowledgebases, a growing number of writers recognpractice-based perspective knowledgesuggests that rather than being unitary on .-e. The .:d coherent, organizational knowledge basesare in fact fragmented and dispersed, and specificknowledge communities, which have some -eing made up of specialized :=qree of overlapping 'common knowledge' (Kogut and Zanger 1992). This led Brown as that organizationsrequire to be conceptualized a :::d Duguid (1991,53) to suggesting : rmmunity-of-communities', and Blackler et al. (2000) as decentred and distributed Finaliy, as will be seenin the following section,theseinsights have ,::orr'ledge systems. implications for the sharingand managementof knowledgein organizations. ::tormous closelyto the idea that The fragmentationof the organizationalknowledgebaserelates is undertakenby organizational .::orvledge embeddedin practice.Typically,the practices are .'J, and hence the knowledgethey possess, localizedand specific,being shapedby (local customers, market conditions, characterof ::-e particulardemandsof their context -..ional/regional regulation and legislation,etc.).The degreeof fragmentation and spe--"iization will alsobe relatedto the culture of the organization,and the extent to which working practices. : -ncourages and supportsautonomousor standardized

Autonomous businessunits and specializedknowledge communities - :.ved-Truck, been fork workhadhistorically organwhichsold,rented, serviced lifttrucks, and s tr l s s , : = t r t o s m a l ld i s c r e t b u s i n e su n i t sw h i c hh a dr e s p o n s i b i lfioy a 1b u s i n e sw i t h i n p e c i f i c , e business between regions. Within thisstructure, therewas littleneedfor interaction :=:3'aphic e b s l bu s , - : s .a n dt h e yo p e r a t ea sv i r t u as t a n d - a l o n e s i n e s s eW.h i l e a c h u s i n e su n i ti n p r i n c i p l e d overhow autonomy in theyhadsignificant of and , - : :he samerange products services, reality -:, Cidthis.Thiswas because varied of boththe nature the market character customers of and


E P I S T E M O L O G I E SF K N O W L E D G E O signlficantly each business, for and alsothat managementin each businessunit offered different levelsof serviceand support.The autonomyof the businessunitswas such that the evolutionof their working practices, the upgrading their lT systems etc., was done purelyon the basisof of localconsiderations. Thus,discreteand specif knowledgecommunitiesdeveloped, ic with staff in each businessunlt possessingsubstantial amounts of specialized knowledge,reievantto their own localized working practices, and customer demands,which had limited transferabilitv and relevance, other businessunits. in

ls the existence suchspecialist of communities, with theirown knowledge bases andways of workingnecessarily problem organizatlons? a for Towhat extentis it possible multidivisional in corporations balance conflicting to the demands of providing divisions autonomy work independently havesome levelof standardization the to and across corporation the ?

Not only can the knowledge of organizational communities be different (i.e. specialized and specific),but it may also be basedon qualitatively different assumptions,values, and interpretativeframeworks.Brown and Duguid (2001)referredto these as 'epistemicdifferences'. For example, the communication and interaction difficulties between staff from different functions of an organization (such as production and R&D, or finance and R&D), or between staff from different disciplinary backgrounds (such as in a multidisciplinary project team) can be to some extent explained by such differences.As will be seen in Chapter 6, where this issueis explored in detail, this significantly affectsthe dynamics of knowledge-sharing processes. Finally, these issuesare again examined in Chapter 13 which examines knowledge-sharing within the context of global multinationals, where, what Becker(2001)referredto this asthe problem ot'large numbers', meansthat asorganizational size increases,so do the problems in managing an increasingly fragmented organizationalknowledgebase.

Thinkaboutan organization haveworkedin.Was its knowledge you basefragmented? Further, what factors influenced nature the knowledge the of basemore:the management culture the diversity or of localconditions?

A practice-based perspectiveon the managementand sharing of knowledge
Having consideredin detail how the practice-based epistemologyconceptualizes knowledge it is now time to examine the implications of theseideasfor understanding the characterof organizationalknowledge-sharing and knowledgemanagementprocesses Table3.5). (see One of the central components of the practice-based perspectiveon knowledge managementis that it eschews idea that it is possiblefor organizationsto collect knowledge the

P R A C T I C E - B A S E D R S P E C T I VO N K N O W L E D G E PE E perspective knowledgemanagement on Table 3.5. A practice-based Knowledge management from a practice-based epistemology 'perspective 'perspective making'and requires Knowledge sharing/acquisition an of taking'-developing understanding tacitassumptions throu Knowledge sharlng/acquisition gh - ' r i c h ' s o c i ailn t e r a c t i o n - immersion practice-watching in and/or doing role social interaction 3 . Management to facilitate


- , .ether into a central repository,or for middle and seniormanagers fully understand to - ,= knowledgeof those who work for them (Goodall and Roberts2003). Tsoukas (L996, that a belief in the ability to achievesuch a staterepresents . I quoting Hayek, suggests -:-: slnoptic delusion . . . that knowledgecan be suweyedby a singlemind.'Thus man.:.:ial understandingof organizationalknowledgewill alwaysbe fragmentedand incom. :.i, Zlrldattempts to collect knowledge in a central location likely to be limited. The ' .-rn'ing quotation from Tsoukas(7996,22) sums this up, and points towards the 'the key processes: conceptualizationof knowledge-sharing :::;tice-based perspective/s ' ,;hieving coordinatedaction doesnot so much dependon those"higher up" collecting * .t and more knowledge,ason those "lower down" finding more and more waysto get , :-::ectedand interrelatingthe knowledgeeachone has.' model of perspective further suggests that the transmitter*receiver -:e practice-based - ',i1edge-sharing questionablebecause the sharing of knowledge does not involve is ' - . '-mple transferral of a fixed entity between two people. Instead,the sharing of knowl: : i: involves two people actively inferring and constructing meaning. This perspective ,<,.ests that to be effectivethe sharing of knowledgerequiresindividuals to developan ,.'::.ciation of (someof) the tacit assumptionsand valueson which the knowledge of --.::s is based-the processes 'perspective taking' outlined making' and 'perspective of : r:.,:r by Boland and Tenkasi(1995).This challengesthe assumption embeddedin the ':.:-:nitter-receiver model that the knowledgeexchanged suchprocesses unchanged. is in (2000) suggest perspective knowledge-sharing on the practice-based 1, ,'."ni and Scarso .::t:sents a'language game'/ due to the importance of dialogue and languageto such ;-.-:sses.BolandandTenkasi(1995,358)arguethateffectiveknowledge-sharinginvolves, r tr'-rc€ssof mutual perspective taking where distinctive individual knowledge is : i .:3nged, evaluatedand integratedwith that of others in the organization.' .= iogic of the 'languagegame' model complicatesthe nature of knowledge-sharing r- i,:sses,as the inherent ambiguity of language,combined with the fact that those - .',.ed the knowledge-sharing processhave different cognitive frameworksmeans in " ;: ::rereis alwaysscopefor differing interpretations.Thus, as you read this book, the Tr::a-1g you take from a pieceof partially explicit knowledge may vary from the mean" i - -ltend to convey. -,:se processes typically requirean extensperspective-making, perspective-taking and ', : ::]tourit of socialinteraction and face-to-face communication, which is a conclusion


EPISTEMOLOGOFKNOWLEDGE IES reachedby a number of empirical studies(see,for example,Lam 1997,2000; LeonardBarton 1995;Swanet al. 1999).The acquisitionand sharingof knowledgetypically occur through two distinct, but closelyinterrelatedprocesses: 1. Immersion in practice-for example learning by doing, or learning by watching. 2. 'Rich' socialinteraction-for example,an interaction which allows people to develop some level of trust with each other, as well as develop some insights into the tacit knowledge,values,and assumptionsof eachother. Theseprocesses interrelated becauselearning by doing is likely fo simultaneously are involve an element of social interaction, and vice versa,the sort of 'discursivepractice' referredto by Gherardi (2OOO,221).

Swed-truck: an example of practice-based knowledge management
In the late 1990s Swed-Truck(describedearlier-see pages 35-6) decided to implement an organization-wide informationmanagementsystem, with the objectiveof introducing greater a level of coordination and standardization across its businessunits. To implement this it used a sociallybased model of knowledge-sharing, which made extensiveuse of intensivesocialinteraction.This can be consideredby examiningthe system developmentphase only.The system being implementedinvolvedthe introduction a common information of system acrossa significant numberof differentbusinessunits.As outlinedearlier, their businessunits had operatedquite autonomouslyfrom each other, and as a consequencehad developedtheir own specialized knowledgebases.The projectteam decidedthat the development and implementation a comof mon informationmanagement system requiredthe utilization this distributedknowledge, of which was achievedthroughthe creationof a projectteam bringingtogether staff from a range of their businessunits (who worked part time on the project). a substantial As amount of development work was necessary, this processlastedfor a year.This interbusiness unit projectteam worked intensivelywith consultantsto develop common systems that were compatiblewith the diverse needs of their different business units. While the project was not without its problems and delays, the project was deemed a success, and was implemented close to predictedtime-scales.

To achieve richsocial interactions it necessary get people is to face-to-face? together How important the success knowledge-sharing processes the existence trust between to of is of participants suchprocesses? to

From a practice-based perspective, managerialrole is thereforeto encourage the and facilitate the type of communication and social interaction processes that will allow effective perspectivemaking and taking to occur.This can be done through an enormously diverse

P R A C T I C E - B A S E D S P E C T IO N K N O W L E D G E PER VE ' i :-:e of waysincluding (to highlight iust a few examples): o ::\-elop a knowledge-sharing culture (through rewarding people for sharing); " ::;litating the development of organizational communities of practice; . -;.rriding forums (electronicor face-to-face) which encourage and support knowledge::-aring; . :::)lement a formalized 'mentoring' system to pair experiencedand inexperienced "._:kers l:ese issues examinedin more detail in subsequent are chapters,with Chapter 4 look- . jt generalissues motivation to shareknowledge,Chapters5 and 6 looking at the of :'=:inc dynamics of knowledge-sharing within and between communities, Chapter 7 , .lng at the political nature of knowledge-sharing, while Chapter 9 considersthe role ' - j- Luganizations can play through their human resourcemanagement policies and --:ire management practices.Finally, Chapter 8 considersthe role that information ,:=ns may be able to play in facilitating perspective making and taking processes.


- - : rclusion, Chapters 2 and 3 have outlined two distinctive epistemological perspect:: '"rhich characterize knowledge in extremely different ways (seeTable 3.1). These "n,:.:tctives also conceptualized knowledge-sharing and knowledge management : - .:-tses differently. They therefore have very different managerial implications with ' ::':d to how knowledgemanagementefforts should be organizedand structured: . :',;titist perspective: focus on the codification and collection of knowledge, cleate --:chanisms to allow this knowledge baseto be searched and accessed, such assetting up . :tarchable database and encouraging staff to codify their knowledge and store it there. . :-.;-iice-based perspective: facilitate interpersonal knowledge-sharing through diverse - ::ns of interaction and communication, such asdeveloping the levels of trust between -::: membersof a new proiect team through allowing them to interact extensively face- . -:ace(perhaps both work and socialcontexts)at the initial stages the project. in of


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::: '' instructions how to conducta certaintask.What tacit knowledgeis necessary on for : - :c make sense of them? What does this say about the inseparability tacit and explicit of -:,', edge? : - : - , o u t h i n ko f a n e x a m p l e r o m y o u r o w n e x p e r i e n c e f w h e r e t h e r e h a s b e e nd i s p u t e n d f o a . - -= ct between competingknowledgeclaims?What political tacticsand strategies the did 'expertise' - - -' cting partiesutilizeto justify their position?Did they use external as a way of :: :^alizing laims, tc? c e


E P I S T E M O L O GO FK N O W L E D G E IES t Compare two perspectives knowledge the on outlined Chapters and3. Whichonemore in 2 closely models nature knowledge the organizations you have the of in that workedin?lf theseorganizations implemented knowledge management initiatives, whichepistemological perspective weretheybased Didthisaffect success theseinitiatives? on? the of

'Knowledge, (1995). F Blackler Knowledge work andorganizations: overviewano An lnterpretation', Organization Studies,1616: 1021|-46. Widely referencedarticle that advocatesadopting a practice/activity-based view of knowledge 'Bridging S. CookandJ. Brown(1999). Epistemologies: Generative The Dance between organizational Knowledge organizational and 1ol4:381-400. Knowing', organization science, Links together the objectivistand practice-based perspectivesinto a unitary framework. 'The (1996). H. Tsoukas Firmas a Distributed Knowledge System: Constructionist A Approach', Strategic Management Journal,1J (WinterSpeciallssue):11-2S. Argues that organizational knowledge basesare highly distributed. Special issueof Organizationon'Knowing (2OOO],712. in practice, A collection of theoreticaland empiricalpapers atl embedded in the practice-based perspective,but utilizinga diversity of theoreticalframeworks.

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