Knowledge Intensive Work in a Network of Counter-Terrorism Communities

Knowledge Intensive Work in a Network of Counter-Terrorism Communities

Alice MacGilivray (, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch027
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Knowledge management is often associated with the need for change and related shifts in ontologies, ways of knowing and ways of working. Combine the centuries-old debates about what defines knowledge with proposed paradigm shifts to become knowledge-oriented, focused on inter-relationships, and cognisant of the complex and voluntary nature of knowledge work, and there is bound to be controversy and ambiguity. However, knowledge management research and practice becomes more focused and less ambiguous when set in the context of an urgent need. This chapter describes a study of a Canadian public sector science initiative. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 catalyzed ripples of reflection and innovation over great distances. In Canada, the federal government initiated the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI) to enable learning and progress, using what is essentially a communities of practice model. CRTI established a knowledge management office, to help this network of communities generate, share and use tacit and explicit knowledge. Some aspects of the initiative were working better than others and I was asked to conduct research to explore how CRTI members understand their work in a complex, knowledge-rich environment. I collected data through interviews and observation, and used phenomenography: a qualitative methodology from Scandinavia, which reveals qualitatively different ways of understanding phenomena. Phenomenography is usually driven by the desire to improve something, rather than simply to deepen understanding. As part of the analysis, I used a model for understanding communities of practice that was developed by [then] Major Pete Kilner in his work with the internationally respected CompanyCommand community.Participants who understood their work as complex and unpredictable tended to emphasize connections and relationships, focused on learning more than doing, spontaneously referenced all aspects of Kilner’s model, saw knowledge as more of a flow than a thing, and were more satisfied with their individual and community effectiveness. This research had added value in that CRTI is considered successful and is being considered as a potential model for other science and technology work in the Canadian public service. The research has implications for knowledge-intensive work in complex environments and suggests that there is fertile ground for more qualitative research that integrates thinking from knowledge management and complexity thinking.
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Senior managers often initiate knowledge management work because issues or crises push them to think in new ways and to encourage their staffs to innovate and adapt. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were one such crisis, which led to ripples of reflection and innovation far from the physical impacts of the planes. Canadian officials recognized the need to improve counter-terrorism capacity and capability and launched the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI) to enable learning and capacity-building. CRTI is now situated in a unit called the Centre for Security Science. They employ what is essentially a communities of practice model in which a threat type (such as radiological/nuclear) forms the domain of each community. Community members who work in different parts and levels of government interact in these communities to learn from each other, and they undertake projects that make sense to the members. The named leaders of these communities work without positional authority. When I conducted research in CRTI, there were four such communities. The original three were threat-based: chemical, biological and radiological/nuclear. The newer forensics community focused on front line response and procedures for gathering evidence so that it would stand up in a court of law. Since then, an explosives community—which was approved in principle at the time of the interviews—has been formalized, expanding the acronym to CBRNE. Members of these groups often refer to them as clusters, so I retain this term where it was used in direct quotes.

CRTI’s knowledge management office helps this network of communities generate, share and use tacit and explicit knowledge. They have taken on initiatives as diverse as the development of a portal, support of scientific and social science research, and the organization of an annual symposium, the goal of which is “to provide a forum to share and exchange the knowledge created by CRTI partners and to learn about related allied work in CBRN” (Proceedings of the 2006CRTI Summer Symposium).

CRTI knowledge management leader Susan McIntyre contacted me in 2005 when I was directing knowledge management graduate programs at Royal Roads University. She wanted to better understand why some aspects of CRTI were working better than others. She also relayed her interest in spanning disciplines and her desire to ground her work in theory.

Susan said the comments and case studies in my response whetted her appetite. I had written that the highly contextual nature of the work is what makes knowledge management so interesting. “Part of it is a function of the newness of the field; part of it is the complex and messy nature of human beings, organizational cultures and emergent needs.” In 2006, our conversations gelled in the form of a research project to explore how CRTI members understood their work in a “complex, knowledge-rich environment.”

Scope of Study and Chapter

In the full study, I focused on overlaps between and amongst the fields of knowledge management, leadership and complexity. They are intertwined in many ways. For example, knowledge—particularly tacit knowledge—is shaped by an individual’s experience and context. Knowledge sharing is a voluntary activity inspired by context and enabled by trust. In knowledge-intensive work, the shift from a “things” mindset to a mindset of intangibles and human relationships typically involves leadership at many levels of an organization. The variables involved in individual experience, relationships, leadership, trust and context make knowledge-intensive work complex. I am using the term “complex” as used in complexity theory and thinking. These involve the study of environments in which there are many interacting entities, which exhibit emergence and where results are difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy. In this chapter, I am focusing primarily on the knowledge management sphere with some reference to overlaps with leadership and the complex, knowledge-intensive nature of CRTI work. (Figure 1)

Figure 1.

Scope of study

Key Terms in this Chapter

Complex System: A complex system has many elements involved in non-linear interactions, making precise predictions impossible.

Counter-Terrorism Work: Work that improves capability and capacity for prevention of, preparedness for, and response to terrorism-related threats to public safety and security.

Effectiveness: Improvement that is broader than efficiency. Improvements can include increased relevance, perceived value, acceptance by stakeholders, protection of assets, achievement of results, secondary benefits, and so on.

Phenomenography: A qualitative research methodology originating in Scandinavia, which seeks to reveal qualitatively different ways of understanding concepts.

Knowledge Management: In this paper I draw on work of Snowden and McElroy to describe knowledge management as work that helps to establish common context in order to enable organizational learning. Resulting activities could include knowledge generation, acquisition, sharing, re-use, and mobilization for decision-support and innovation.

Boundaries: Are [often socially constructed] areas of discontinuity containing or dividing entities.

Communities of Practice: Groups of people who engage in ongoing, voluntarily interaction to learn from each other and improve their work in a given field or domain.

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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