This research article presents a framework for knowledge generation that consists of a fusion process to create new knowledge and technological innovations. It then proposed a method that can be used in assisting managerial decision making process.
The objective of this article is to contrive a framework to aid decision making. Furthermore, the framework covers "a knowledge fusion process for creating new knowledge and technological innovations." (Heffner, Nawaz M.Sharif, 2008, p.79)
The article's domain is on knowledge generation particularly the uses of knowledge fusion to create new knowledge and accelerate technological innovation.
This article is recommended for students, academicians, company directors, head of departments and stakeholders that are directly involve in knowledge management. The article is a useful guide especially to those in the managerial level to gain insights on how to embark on knowledge fusion processes to encourage innovations in their respective fields. It gives an in-depth view on how human and organizational resources can be integrated to create new knowledge thus encourages technological innovation. It also prepares them for the impact on implementing this process and the outcome it brings. Therefore, this article is intended for specific group that is involved in knowledge management.
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This research paper was written by Michael C. Heffner, Vice President for Strategic Development, Software Applications Corporation and Nawaz M. Sharif, Professor and Program Director in University of Maryland USA in 2008 to derive and cover knowledge fusion process for technological innovation. The authors have developed a conceptual framework to illustrate the interactions of knowledge, with organizational resources and capabilities in a cycle of technological innovation and generation of intellectual capital. Then it explores existing literatures on how tacit knowledge can be transform to explicit knowledge (Heffner, Nawaz M.Sharif, 2008, p.83). Furthermore, it discusses the fusing processes of knowledge with technoware, humanware, inforware and orgaware (Heffner, Nawaz M.Sharif, 2008, pp. 86-87).
The structure of this article is as followed. First, it explains the views of knowledge key area, namely personal knowledge and organizational knowledge. It furthers explains the process of integrating knowledge which is known as knowledge fusion. Subsequently, it explains thoroughly the transformation process of tacit knowledge to explicit. Next, it suggests viewing the knowledge in four distinctive embodiment forms which was first proposed by Mintzberg and Shariff in 2005. The four forms are Tehcnoware (tools), Humanware (talents), Inforware (facts), Orgaware (methods). These technologies are also "use in combination to accomplish a certain task or assist in decision making." (Mintzberg, Shariff, 2005, p. 87). Then it explains the daily operations of business for project execution which revolves around four categories which are art (represents insights, vision, and imagination), courage (represents spirit, resolution and the will to act), science (represents the application of analysis and systematic knowledge) and craft (represents application of experience. It is crucial for managers to balance these four to encourage intellectual entrepreneurship (Mintzberg, 2004; Sharif, 2005 p87-88). Then the authors presented The Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) which was developed by Saaty (1980, 1982) to facilitate analysis and decision making.
This is a basic/fundamental/pure research which was done to generate body of knowledge in the vicinity of knowledge management (Sekaran, 2003). The authors suggested a framework of knowledge fusion process as part of organizational learning cycle. It consists of "knowledge acquisition and formation, technological embodiment of knowledge, application of technologies and assessment of knowledge-in-use by the organization" (Sharif, 2005, p.85). Subsequently, this research proposed a method called The Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) to facilitate analysis and decision making. From this hierarchy, a manager can weigh the relative importance of various branches of the tree and collapse those branches of lesser interest, Saaty (1980, 1982). As a result, managers can focus on the remaining detailed structures. Then, pair-wise comparisons (in matrix) are made to establish the relative weight of interest for each various elements. At the end of the process, managers are able to determine where efforts should be concentrated to solve certain crisis (Saaty 1980, 1982).
Result and Contributions
This research presents a framework that integrates various types of knowledge making it comprehensible and easier to understand and to assess the knowledge management activities that takes part in a day to day work in an organization. Furthermore it ventures into a new and refreshing concept which views technologies in four forms which are technoware, humanware, inforware and orgaware (Mintzberg, Shariff in 2005) This partitioning according to Sharif (1986,1988,1995), makes it easier to measure innovation, change in each technological type and shifts in emphasis among those four categories. Subsequently, the authors recommended the use of AHP model to assist decision making processes to reduce the pressure on decision making (Saaty 1980, 1982).
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According to Thomas Davenport in his book titled Working Knowledge; Knowledge fusion is a process that "brings people with different perspectives to work on a problem or project, forcing them to come up with a joint answer" (Davenport, 1998, p.60). However in this research, the authors suggested that the knowledge fusion process not only brings people together but also integrates tools, facts, talents and methods in the fusion process thus creating more new organizational knowledge and enhanced technological innovation (Heffner, Nawaz M. Shariff, 2008).
This research can be considered as recent because it was written in 2008. The research on this subject is very limited. The framework that was presented can be applied to almost all organizations as it exploits on common resources such as tools, human, facts and talents (Heffner, Nawaz M. Shariff, 2008). However, managers might have doubts on implementing the framework in assisting decision making as the processes is a bit complex and if it's not applied accurately, reverse result could occur.
Issues (Listed by the author)
There are two forms of knowledge; explicit and tacit. The major challenge is to transform tacit knowledge to explicit form to enable knowledge sharing within the organization) Polanyi, 1962). This is an important issue and it must be addressed accordingly because tacit knowledge is the most valuable knowledge that organization needs retain in order to remain competitive. The authors suggested the "use of dialog and modeling for the transformation process and the outcomes are conceptual diagrams and possibly in other codification in other forms or media" (Heffner, Nawaz M. Shariff, 2008, p. 83). The author uses concept diagram as a tool to surface tacit knowledge within an organization in order to make that knowledge shareable within the organization. However it is not fully known on how knowledge is created, stored and retrieved by the brain and the value of knowledge is very subjective, even by experts (Heffner, Nawaz M. Shariff, 2008, p. 83).
Decision making, problem solving and opportunity realizing environment for managers is very intricate. In this context, the spirit of the intellectual entrepreneur may be critical for success. Even though the subject is evolving, the study on intellectual entrepreneurship is still scarce and references on this subject are very limited.
Issues (In my opinion)
The authors suggested a complex knowledge fusion process which involves human and company resources, but it might not be feasible to apply it in an organization. This is because the approach suggested was 'one size fits all' but in actual fact this process is very specific and complex. This is an important issue because the top management needs to be convinced of the benefits before they can commit to embark this method of knowledge generation that integrates tools, human, facts and information.
Results of the fusion process cannot be asses accurately if the process is too complicated thus defeat the whole purpose as it cannot aid in decision making. One of the solutions is to introduce one resource at time to the fusion process to minimize the complexity and to familiarize with the knowledge generation process.
Another issue that may arise is that when bringing people together to solve a certain crises, chaos might occur. So, decision on putting together the right combination of people is easy as it seems. Management should also decide on consensus decision for every issue and not let political influence interfere with the decision made. Selection process must be done thoroughly and avoid employees with negative attitude to be in any team as this will hinder brainstorming thus making fusion process difficult.
There are a few pros and cons in putting together employees using the matrix approach, the pros are of course ideas would be diversified. But the con is that their immediate boss would not let their subordinates join the team, fearing that the subordinates might neglect their core task, dampen their productivity or lose concentration. However if all the employees have the same vision for the organization, and are willing to sacrifice their time, energy and effort the cons can be diminish.
The AHP model that managers use to weigh the relative importance of various subjects and the pair-wise comparisons between elements at each level of the hierarchy can be biased thus affecting the result. This can be resolve by having panel of experts on the team which may be made up by members of the organization as well as external consultants so that the process becomes more transparent.
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This research has open up a new level of knowledge generation process via knowledge fusion that not only integrates human perspectives but also combines other resources to create new knowledge and technological innovations. It also gives better understanding on organizational knowledge creation with the use of framework. Finally, this research should be use as a guidance to other researchers who wants to venture their research in the area of knowledge fusion.
The authors outline the knowledge fusion process to facilitate decision making. It is a much needed area of research as organizations become more competitive and susceptible to public opinion if wrong decisions are made. In regards of the words that he used to explain his findings, and the framework presented, the authors conveyed their findings very clearly using minimal jargons. As a result, this article can be considered as a high-quality article. However, the area of knowledge fusion is very complex and readers may need to read it a few times and refer certain terms to academic dictionary to fully understand the suggestion made by the authors.
Furthermore, the journal that published this article was of international standard with strict criteria for admittance. This shows that the authors has proved his authoritativeness when elaborating this particular topic and managed to convince the panel of editors from the journal.