You are on page 1of 4

Track A-1

Cognitive Theories and Knowledge Management:
A Review of Recent Studies

Tadao KAGONO*

Our society is composed of three subgroups: A, B, and C; A- Academia B-Business and
C-Consultants. On behalf of the academic subgroup I would like to review the contributions of recent
cognitive studies to knowledge management.

Cognition and cognitive theories

Let me start out my review by defining the concept of cognition. Cognition of a humanbeing
is his or her internal. mental process that begins with the reception of information and
terminates with action taking. It is possible to see a cognitive process in an organization or
communities of people, although the process includes a communicative, interactive process.
Cognitive process consists of various mental processes of using knowledge. 1) Information
gathering: People and organizations are not passive receivers of information, but they actively
engage in searching valuable information based on their knowledge. 2) Sense-making. After
acquiring relevant information, they make sense of the information by combining it with their
existing knowledge. 3) Choice: Based on the sense making, people derive alternative courses of
action using their knowledge. They compare the results of alternatives and choose alternative
that satisfies their goals, using their knowledge. 4) Commitment: People and organizations
commit themselves to the chosen course of action.
Cognitive process is the process of using knowledge and driven by knowledge. There is
another aspect of cognitive process: it is the process of creating, acquiring, enhancing, mixing,
and discarding knowledge, or the learning process.

Management and cognitive theories: three basic disciplines

Management is a field that applies the theories of basic disciplines. Human and
organizational cognition have been studied in various basic disciplines. and discarding.
The most important basic disciplines is psychology, or cognitive psychology in particular.
deliberative decisions.
* Professor Dr. of Kobe University. Graduate School of Business Administration, Managing Director
of KMSJ

The traditional sociology of knowledge studied the community of scientists. Their actions are constrained by their own knowledge on society. Biases in decision making Janis (1982) found that a small group of confident elites tend to choose a risky and brave alternative when they have to make big decision urgently. 1976). epistemology plays a very important role in building cognitive theories. Epistemology has a long intellectual history but is not a science in its strict sense. there was a paradigmatic change in the sociology of knowledge. In the late 1960's. as it provides starting hypotheses for the cognitive theories. Most successful was the information processing theory Cognitive science in a narrow sense and information processing theory emerged as a part of computer science. In the late 60's to the early 70's. We are human. not computers. as well. Epistemology has a long intellectual history but is not a science in its strict sense. when they consider the acquisition of large American companies. There are other basic disciplines that may contribute to knowledge management. Emotion sometimes plays positive roles. in 1980's. The second important basic discipline in cognitive theories is the epistemology in philosophy. She also hypothesizes that the dialectical interactions between the two cultural groups help the corporation to make creative but . and this information processing theory as the cognitive theory. One group. has a culture that favor intuitive decisions and brave actions. however. The view is too narrow. Various theories emerged from the new paradigm. The second important basic discipline in cognitive theories is the epistemology in philosophy. cautious analyses before decisions. Simulation became a powerful research tool. The traditional psychology put mental process in a black box seeking to be an objective science like physics. This evolution was driven by the progresses in computers and computer science. various studies have been made. It was observed in some Japanese companies. and have emotion. Based on the three basic disciplines. This phenomenon is called group think. It comes to focus on the knowledge of people (Berger and Luckman. 1985). Emotion sometimes drives us to choose a wrong alternative. Some people narrowly view that cognitive theories are a branch of computer science. some psychologists came to take mental process out of the black box and tried to understand the internal mental processes. The other group is composed of lower level managers and has culture valuing scientific. The third important basic discipline is sociology. Odaka found that a multinational corporation has two groups with their own subcultures. The new paradigm seriously saw an apparent fact: Not only the scientists but people on the streets were also using knowledge in forming their social action. too. This change of research paradigm is called cognitive revolution (Gardner. which consists of senior executives. focusing on researchers close to me. sociology of knowledge in particular. We can not observe the mental process but simulate it by computers. Let me review the major research findings in cognitive theories that may help us to improve our knowledge management. and as a matter of course most of the brave decisions eventually failed. Although it is a part of metaphysics.

and discarding. Skill development through competition among small groups Yoshimura (2003) studied two old companies in the Japanese construction industry. Human and organizational cognition have been studied in various basic disciplines. lead to increase the risk of wrong decisions. Tochio gave the rationale of counter-intuitive finding as follows : Candidates are tested by the complicated task whether they have the potential to be the die-making craftsmen. Training Tochio (2003) studied the training processes of craftsmen in die-making firms. where they have to account their own decisions to outsiders. and found that they were assigned most complicated task as the starting task. Nisbett (2003) found that the Orientals look at the woods (or context). perhaps the oldest company in the . They explain poor performance referring to the external environment. The elder company has the history of more than 1400 years. Deguchi found that culture is shared not by directly sharing knowledge. and norms shared by the member of the organization. is a field that applies the theories of basic disciplines. Cultural Bias Decisions are biased not only by organizational cultures and social positions but also by the wider social cultures. through intensive observations on merged banks. Khurana (2002) found that board of directors tend to use objective matching method in identifying candidates for a CEO position in order to show the legitimacy of their decisions. A culture is a sort of a shared knowledge. whereas the Westerners look at the trees (objects) . It is generally believed that training is got started with the simplest task and gradually proceeded to the more difficult tasks. The matching process reduce the number of candidates and. thus. Organizational culture: Sharing of a culture through sharing styles The culture of an organization is a set of values. beliefs. but by indirectly sharing the observable styles. Accountability biases Some people are in positions. Tochio studied the process training the die-making craftsmen. while they explain good performance by referring to their own strategy and efforts. Kida (2000) analyzed the letters of CEO's at the annual reports and found that their explanations tend to be self-serving. He suggests that there are differences in perception and decisions between Orientals and Westerners.

The elder company has a set of subgroups called kumi inside the whole organization. 1967 Deguchi. Gardner. Social construction of reality.Y.world. 1982. Tokyo : Hakuto-Shobo.. Matsumoto. although the company is too old to have the hard evidence of the founding year. recruiting and developing carpenters by themselves.. 2004. Another company is younger than the first. P. Odaka. The studies reviewed were a biased sample of vast pool of studies. The chief of kumi can put his name to the kumi. Thesis. Kobe University.. I. Y. Two cultures of decision making in an organization. 1988. Reference Berger. The mind’s new science. Kobe University. Various studies based on cognitive theories have been done. Managing the organizational culture: Sharing of styles (Japanese). Ph. Tochio. The parent chooses the suitable kumis for each construction project. L. Wakayama university. Business practitioners can get something from cognitive theories. H. D. Skill transmission in old organizations.K. and Lacknan. Y. 1985 Janis. Tokyo: Hakuto-shobo. L. Skill Development in small firms in die-making industry. The same approach is being taken by the second firm. San Francisco: Chandler. There is competition among kumis. 2003. New York : Basic Books. Thesis.T. Organizational epistemology (Japanese). Kagono. 2000. . Kumis are independent communities. D. Ph. Organization and skills (Japanese). Dallas : Houghton Miffin. each kumi seek to improve and transmits the skills of carpenters from generation to generation and enhance their technological strength. working paper. 2002. Skilled carpenters are honored to become a chief of kumis. yet has a history of more than 500 years. which will give useful insights to knowledge management. Both have a similar organizational arrangement. Through the competition within the organization. Tokyo: Chikura-shobo. Groupthink (second edition). 2002.... Yoshimura.