Achieving Organizational Independence of Employees' Knowledge Using Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, and the Learning Organization

Achieving Organizational Independence of Employees' Knowledge Using Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, and the Learning Organization

Anders Örtenblad (Halmstad University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch014
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The ambition of this chapter is to pay some attention to more obvious, as well as more subtle, methods for organizations to become independent of the individual’s subjective knowledge, from the employees’ point of view. Terms such as ‘knowledge sharing’, ‘knowledge transfer’, and ‘learning for all’ are almost always seen as being positive for both employers and employees. However, this chapter will critically examines those terms. Three popular management ideas relating to knowledge and/or learning have been analysed from a ‘knowledge control’ perspective: knowledge management, organizational learning, and the learning organization. The main conclusion of this conceptual and elaborating chapter is that the more current and less academic ideas of the learning organization and knowledge management contain the same tools as the idea of ‘old’ organizational learning as regards gaining control over knowledge, but that these two ideas additionally contain other knowledge control measures, which are more refined, in the sense that they are less obvious as knowledge control measures. The idea of ‘new’ organizational learning, however, is less suited to knowledge control, since it implies that knowledge is not storable. In other words, the chapter’s contribution is an analysis of some of the most popular management ideas that deal with knowledge and/or learning relating to the organizational/employer independence of subjective knowledge, from the employees’ point of view, something which is rarely seen.
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We are said to live in a ‘knowledge society’. If this is true, it would mean, among other things, that individuals and their subjective knowledge are becoming more important at the expense of machines and other so called ‘resources’. Droege and Hoobler recently (2003: 50) described one of the problems of the ‘knowledge economy’ stating that employees’ knowledge ‘is rarely shared, swapped, traced, and fertilized to ensure that it remains, at least in part, with the firm when employees leave’.

There are, however, ways for organizations to become more or less independent of any one individual and her or his subjective knowledge. The aim of this chapter is to identify and draw attention to such means, which are sometimes obvious but often quite subtle, in the following management ideas concerning knowledge and/or learning in an organizational context: organizational learning, the learning organization, and knowledge management. I have analysed literature on these ideas in order to highlight and ‘unveil’ means enabling organizations to become independent of the individual’s subjective knowledge.

Organizations interfere a lot in every single person’s life; Deetz (1992) has even claimed that organizations ‘colonize’ us and our world – we grow up in organizations (child care centres, schools, etc.), we shop in them, we work there, etc. They can easily – like giants – in one way or another destroy the originality of the only thing that makes individuals unique on the labour market: subjective knowledge. There is always a risk that all knowledge will stay within, or be transferred to, organizations. The employees – and especially their subjective knowledge – run the risk of being exploited. Therefore, it is so important to unveil all the means enabling employers to become independent of the individual’s subjective knowledge, for instance in popular management ideas, which this chapter is about.

Most of the management literature generally seems to view the struggle to become independent of subjective knowledge as risk reduction, if it is acknowledged at all. From such a functionalistic perspective, independence struggles are thus a necessity that organizations – and in particular employers – would not be able to cope without. For instance, Bonora and Revang (1993) discussed strategies for reducing firms’ dependence on subjective knowledge, by building knowledge into the organization and by building exit barriers. Clegg argued that:

If management can reduce their dependency on individuals as the bearers of knowledge and skills by rendering these skills into computer-based artifacts, it is possible to manipulate and combine these with other factors of production in ways that are impossible if these skills remain a human possession.(Clegg, 2000: 87-88)

Stovel and Bontis (2002: 310) argued that ‘senior managers must implement knowledge management strategies to ensure that monies they have spent on the training and operation of departments are not wasted when voluntary turnover occurs within the firm’.

I will instead view the means enabling organizations to become independent of subjective knowledge from a more critical perspective, thus following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Braverman (1974), and view them as concrete tools for gaining control over knowledge. From such a critical perspective, current and more hidden means of controlling knowledge are hardly signs of a new trend, rather they are extensions of earlier ways of controlling knowledge, such as slavery, where the workforce was (and at some places in the world still is) owned, and Taylorism, where the employees are alienated from knowledge of the whole product/service and are only allowed to learn and master narrow, specialised work tasks, which could also be expressed in terms of control by deskilling the employees (Braverman, 1974). I see it as a continuous struggle between organizations on the one hand, mainly represented by the employers, trying to remain or become independent, and on the other, the individual’s (which, of course, in some cases might at the same time represent an employer) struggle not to become redundant. Both the organization and the individuals have their passions for knowledge, or should I say possessions for knowledge. In this chapter, however, the conflict in focus is that between the organization and the individual. I will, however, assume that employers are more interested in organizational independence than employees are. Consequently, the conflict at stake is also that between employers and employees.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Management: The dissemination of knowledge throughout the organization.

Knowledge Control: Accessibility and possession of knowledge.

Organizational Independence: A state in which the organization is not vulnerable for personnel turnover.

New Organizational Learning: Situated, collective learning.

Subjective Knowledge: Knowledge that is possessed by the individual and that no others have access to.

Leaning Organization: A flexible organization with a relatively flat structure and empowered employees.

Organizational Memory: Embedded, encoded and encultured knowledge.

Old Organizational Learning: The storing of knowledge in the organizational memory.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Chapter 1
Davydd J. Greenwood
This chapter questions the clarity of the concepts of “knowledge society” and “knowledge-intensive organization”. In particular, the author asserts... Sample PDF
Are Research Universities Knowledge-Intensive Learning Organizations?
Chapter 2
Juha Kettunen
The aims of knowledge management are to create knowledge and stimulate innovation. Knowledge management allows the knowledge of an organization to... Sample PDF
Construction of Knowledge-Intensive organizations in Higher Education
Chapter 3
Jeff Gold, Richard Thorpe
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is usually conceived as a planned and formulated process for individual members of professional... Sample PDF
Collective CPD: Professional Learning in a Law Firm
Chapter 4
Paul Trott, Andreas Hoecht
The United States and European economies have witnessed an enormous increase in the amount of specialized business services, which now provide... Sample PDF
Innovation Risks of Outsourcing within Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS)
Chapter 5
Lars Steiner
A new knowledge management perspective and tool, ANT/AUTOPOIESIS, for analysis of knowledge management in knowledge-intensive organizations is... Sample PDF
Actor-Network Theory and Autopoiesis: A New Perspective on Knowledge Management
Chapter 6
Jo A. Tyler, David M. Boje
This chapter fits the theme, the interplay between creativity and control in organizations. Story is often claimed to be a way to elicit tacit... Sample PDF
Sorting the Relationship of Tacit Knowledge to Story and Narrative Knowing
Chapter 7
Louise Grisoni
The central discussion in this chapter is that poetry can be used to provide a bridge between tangible, rational and explicit knowledge and tacit or... Sample PDF
Exploring Organizational Learning and Knowledge Exchange through Poetry
Chapter 8
Ester Barinaga
“How do we define our project goal?” “How are we going to coordinate our independent national studies?” “Who is responsible for what?” “How are... Sample PDF
Vagueness: The Role of Language in the Organizing Process of Knowledge Intensive Work
Chapter 9
Stephen Sheard
In this chapter the author offers an argument towards the resurgence of a proto-alphabetic imagination in electronic and mobile communications. It... Sample PDF
Tyranny of the Eye? The Resurgence of the Proto-Alphabetic Sensibility in Contemporary Electronic Modes of Media (PC/Mobile Telephony); and its Significance for the Status of Knowledge
Chapter 10
Krzysztof Klincewicz
The chapter discusses the role of IT Research & Analysis firms in the diffusion of knowledge management. The research is based on content analysis... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management and IT Research and Analysis Firms: Agenda-Setters, Oracles and Judges
Chapter 11
Fatima Guadamillas-Gomez, Mario J. Donate-Manzanares
This chapter analyses the implementation of knowledge management strategies (KMS) in technologyintensive firms. Firstly, a review of KMS in the... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management Strategies Implementation in Innovation Intensive Firms
Chapter 12
Arla Juntunen
This chapter focuses on the development of the Knowledge Management (KM) platform, and, more generally, the knowledge- and resource based view (RBV)... Sample PDF
Developing a Corporate Knowledge Management Platform in a Multibusiness Company
Chapter 13
Jonathan D. Owens
Success in new product development (NPD) can be considered a general aim for any company wishing to survive in the 21st Century. It has been found... Sample PDF
Modeling the New Product Development Process: The Value of a Product Development Process Model Approach as a Means for Business Survival in the 21st Century
Chapter 14
Anders Örtenblad
The ambition of this chapter is to pay some attention to more obvious, as well as more subtle, methods for organizations to become independent of... Sample PDF
Achieving Organizational Independence of Employees' Knowledge Using Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, and the Learning Organization
Chapter 15
Angelo Ditillo
Knowledge-intensive firms are composed of various communities, each characterized by specialized knowledge. These communities operate as critical... Sample PDF
Balancing Stability and Innovation in Knowledge-Intensive Firms: The Role of Management Control Mechanisms
Chapter 16
Aino Kianto, Jianzhong Hong
Nowadays knowledge and competencies are the key productive factors, and the organizational capability for continuous learning, development and... Sample PDF
The Knowledge-Based Approach to Organizational Measurement: Exploring the Future of Organizational Assessment
Chapter 17
Vidar Hepsø
In knowledge management literature, common information spaces (CIS) are believed to be instrumental in the development and sharing of knowledge.... Sample PDF
Common Information Spaces in Knowledge-Intensive Work: Representation and Negotiation of Meaning in Computer-Supported Collaboration Rooms
Chapter 18
Agnieszka Postula
This chapter presents and discusses two factors – creativity and control – which correspond to every organizational reality. IT specialists’... Sample PDF
Creativitiy and Control in IT Professionals' Communities
Chapter 19
Patrocinio Zaragoza-Saez, Enrique Claver-Cortes, Diego Quer-Ramon
Knowledge is one of the basic production factors owned by enterprises, and knowledge management is one of the main dynamic capabilities on which... Sample PDF
A Qualitative Study of Knowledge Management: The Multinational Firm Point of View
Chapter 20
Cliff Bowan, Pauline Gleadle
The chapter addresses a central dilemma from the viewpoint of dynamic capabilities and the resource based view of the firm: how to manage creativity... Sample PDF
Culture as a Dynamic Capability: The Case of 3M in the United Kingdom
Chapter 21
Maria E. Burke
The purpose of this chapter is to consider an original way of improving Knowledge Management relationships. This is done within the context of an... Sample PDF
Cultural Issues, Organizations and Information Fulfillment: An Exploration Towards Improved Knowledge Management Relationships
Chapter 22
Darius Mehri
The author worked in the research and design department at a large Toyota company in the late 1990s and experienced an innovative process where... Sample PDF
Engineering Design at a Toyota Company: Knowledge Management and the Innovative Process
Chapter 23
Federica Ricceri, James Guthrie
The shift towards a knowledge based economy is at the core of the debate of contemporary management and accounting literature and organisations are... Sample PDF
Critical Analysis of International Guidelines for the Management of Knowledge Resources
Chapter 24
Christiane Prange
Internationalization has accelerated the speed of knowledge generation and innovation. Thus, companies increasingly need to pool and create new... Sample PDF
Strategic Alliance Capability: Bridging the Individual Back into Inter-Organizational Collaboration
Chapter 25
Meryem Sevinc, Lawrence Locker, John D. Murray
In the contemporary context of knowledge discovery, the amount of information and the process itself has increased in complexity. Relevant to the... Sample PDF
Automation vs. Human Intervention: Is There any Room Left for the Analyst in the Data Mining Process?
Chapter 26
Joanna Shih
The hi-tech firms that predominate in Silicon Valley contain a large proportion of knowledge workers—employees with high levels of education and... Sample PDF
Temporality and Knowledge Work
Chapter 27
Alice MacGilivray
Knowledge management is often associated with the need for change and related shifts in ontologies, ways of knowing and ways of working. Combine the... Sample PDF
Knowledge Intensive Work in a Network of Counter-Terrorism Communities
Chapter 28
Tatiana Andreeva
Contemporary literature usually views knowledge creation and knowledge sharing as either independent or positively related processes. However, based... Sample PDF
Tensions between Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing: Individual Preferences of Employees in Knowledge-Intensive Organizations
Chapter 29
Steffen Boehm, Chris Land
Knowledge is implicitly assumed to form an increasingly important, or even the dominant source of values for today’s knowledge based organizations.... Sample PDF
The 'Value' of Knowledge: Reappraising Labour in the Post-Industrial Economy
Chapter 30
Alexander Styhre
This chapter discusses the use of media in knowledge-intensive organizations. Media is defined here as the integration of technologies, practices... Sample PDF
New Media and Knowledge Work
Chapter 31
Ben Tran
This chapter examines knowledge and innovation as invaluable factors affecting the longevity of large organizations. It presents the history and... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management: The Construction of Knowledge in Organizations
Chapter 32
Premilla D’Cruz, Ernesto Noronha
Scholars researching the area of the sociology of professions had earlier predicted that as occupations seek to improve their public image... Sample PDF
Redefining Professional: The Case of India's Call Center Agents
Chapter 33
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Knowledge management and knowledge-intensive work are two of today’s hot buzzwords, though both already have a history of managerial usage. While... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management: Fad or Enduring Organizational Concept?
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