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In the 80s and 90s, organizational learning started to gain importance in the middle if the other ideas which controlled other management studies. In both, academia (Argyris and Schon, 1978; Srivastava, 1983) and in business practices (Hayes et al., 1988; Argyris, 1993), organizational learning has got an escalating attention. According to Arie de Geus (1988), the only competitive advantage in future will be learning. However, the organizations which are not able to prove their potential will stand amongst the losers.
There is still confusion with the use of definition and the term of organizational learning (Edmondson and Moingeon, 1998). The main problem is the amalgamation or integration of the different approaches of organizational learning and at the same time evaluating the variety that emerged from its starting point (Buchel and Probst, 1997). The focus of this paper is on the knowledge management which is known as the competency of organizational learning. Also, many researchers have often linked the competency of organizational learning with the learning organizations (Easterby-Smith et al., 1998).
Knowledge and Knowledge Management:
The researchers in knowledge management try not to define it as they think that the definition is mere wastage of time and add a little or no value to the effective work for knowledge management. However, there is no record on what are knowledge characteristics (Firestone and McElroy, 2003). So, there are many definitions offered by different researchers in knowledge management.
Knowledge can be defined as,
“Justified true belief” (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995, 58) – This definition is adopted by many researchers and philosophers and it signifies that knowledge arguments or states can be acceptable only by facts (Goldman, 1991). However, in this definition it is difficult to know that, in spite of a good justification, every knowledge belief is correct. Though, the well justified knowledge beliefs prove the meaning of knowledge in this definition. The other difficulty in understanding that knowledge is a true belief is that knowledge claims cannot be achieved by the testing and evaluation phenomena that include full justification because a proof cannot actually result in a true knowledge belief (Firestone and McElroy, 2003). Therefore, according to the above definition it can be concluded that there is no knowledge. However, if there is no knowledge, this is objectionable when it comes to the sphere of knowledge management.
“The other most important definition of knowledge is that it is composed of and grounded exclusively in potential acts and in those signs that refer to them” (Cavaleri and Reed, 2000, 114). This definition is just common sense. Another similar definition in the same context provided by Ralph Stacey (1996) says that “knowledge is social acts”. However, both these definitions have severe issues with them. First and foremost, the potential acts mentioned in the definition above are not beliefs. These are just concepts and estimates about the information and knowledge. Moreover, this definition of knowledge as a potential act results in confusion about how the potential acts can be tested and assessed to be the knowledge beliefs (Firestone and McElroy, 2003). And in case of other definition of knowledge as “social acts”, it is clear that social acts are not beliefs. These can be termed as just commodities in nature.
Two Dimensions of Knowledge Creation:
Many researchers and writers have done a lot of research on importance of knowledge in management, however, the least concentrated part is how the knowledge is created and how this knowledge can be managed (Nonaka, 1994). First and foremost, the element of knowledge creation is to understand the two types of knowledge, i.e., tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Michael Polanyi (1966) described human knowledge in two forms. First is the explicit or codified knowledge which is in the form of formal and systematic language and second is the tacit knowledge which is more personal and where formal communication is very tough. Tacit knowledge is relative in character and very difficult to express. The important features of tacit and explicit knowledge for knowledge creation are explained in detail in Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) book which states that the knowledge is created by converting the tacit knowledge to the explicit knowledge and vice-versa and by integrating both tacit and explicit knowledge. Therefore, there are four modes of knowledge conversion listed as under (Nonaka, 1994):
- From tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge
- From explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge
- From tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge
- From explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge
The mode of knowledge conversion that allows us to convert tacit knowledge through communication between individuals is known as the tacit to tacit knowledge conversion. The beneficial thing to be taken into notice is that a person can inherit tacit knowledge just with the observation and practice. There is no need of language to learn this type of knowledge. Everything here is based on experience. However, it is not easy for individuals to gain from experience of others by sharing their thinking processes. It does not make any sense when the transfer of information is just through the emotions and shared experiences. The phenomenon of creating tacit knowledge through shared experience is called “socialization” (Nonaka, 1994).
Next important mode of knowledge creation is done through the use of social procedures in order to integrate different entities of explicit knowledge within the individuals. This exchange and integration of knowledge is done through the use of different exchange methods such as meetings, telephonic discussions, and video conferencing and so on. Today, in the technological world, there are a lot of new ways to reorganize the knowledge through sorting, calculating and reclassifying which can also direct to some new form of knowledge. This process is called “combination” (Nonaka, 1994).
Last two modes of knowledge creation involve both tacit and explicit knowledge. These forms can develop through shared communication. First is known as “externalization” which can be defined as the conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. Second is known as “internalization” which can be seen as the conversion of explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge which is also similar to the conventional concept of learning (Nonaka, 1994).
Modes of Knowledge Creation
Now, after studying the different modes of knowledge creation the important point to note is that the research of organizational learning does not illustrate the important aspect of externalization. Also, there is less stress laid in the effectiveness of socialization. Another point is that it is very difficult for the organization to execute the questioning and renovate the existing viewpoints, understanding the structures, or decision making. The problems can be caused if there is an unsuccessful communication between tacit and explicit knowledge. The existing knowledge may seem to be shallow if there is a lack of assurance and negligence of the personal meaning of knowledge. It may be difficult to create further knowledge if there is a failure to shape the knowledge. There may be a difficulty to apply knowledge to other contexts (rather than where it was originally created) if the knowledge sharing created by socialization is limited (Nonaka, 1994).
Knowledge management is an important resource within the organization. It is in the form of unprocessed material, work-in-progress or a finished good of decision making (University of Kentucky, 1998).
According to Malhotra (1998), “Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaption, survival, and competence in the face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change…. Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergetic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” Knowledge always exists in the individual’s personal context based on particular information. So, information generated by computer systems is not at all a right way to carry the human understanding for a possible action. Therefore, it might be correct to say that the knowledge exists in the user and not in the set of information (Churchman, 1971). It is very unclear about what knowledge and management is from the definition. This shows a high biased view of knowledge and unoriginal of Knowledge Management (Firestone and McElroy, 2003).
Another definition by Ellen Knapp, PWC (1998) says that “knowledge management is an art of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value for an organization’s clients and its people.” This definition is more inclined about showing us about knowledge management as an art rather than emphasizing on management. Intellectual assets concept is not at all within the scope of knowledge management. Management does not mean transforming information and there are many other things that have durable values. To conclude this definition this is mystifying as it acts more on information rather than managing knowledge and processing knowledge. This blunder is committed over and over again in knowledge management (Firestone and McElroy, 2003).
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