Are Research Universities Knowledge-Intensive Learning Organizations?

Are Research Universities Knowledge-Intensive Learning Organizations?

Davydd J. Greenwood (Cornell University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch001
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This chapter questions the clarity of the concepts of “knowledge society” and “knowledge-intensive organization”. In particular, the author asserts that the notion that postindustrial society is more knowledge intensive than industrial society is a self-serving proposition made by academics and organizational consultants to emphasize the importance of their own industries. Since all organizations are knowledgeintensive in major ways, the specific meanings of a newly emergent kind of knowledge-intensive organization need to be clarified. The author undertakes this by means of an analysis of research universities.
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Research universities could seem to be among the best contemporary embodiments of knowledge-intensive organizations, given the vast quantities of people and knowledge resources at their disposal and their mission to expand and transmit knowledge. In addition, universities claim to be preparing students to work in the “knowledge society” of the future. Thus it would seem that universities are specially situated in a position of expertise about life in the knowledge society and in knowledge-intensive organizations. I do not believe this is the case.

Despite the many Ph.D.s awarded, students taught, research projects undertaken, and libraries/databases, universities generally do not embody the defining characteristics of knowledge-intensive organizations nor do they behave like learning organizations. Very little of the social science and humanistic knowledge universities have is deployed beyond the boundaries of the academic professional groups that generate it, few social scientists and humanists have the competence to act as thoughtful organizational participants in their own institutions or in the world beyond the university, and many of the students that universities train graduate lacking the competence to perform the jobs for which they are hired.

The situation of faculty and students in the sciences and engineering is somewhat better because they maintain multiple and continuing contacts with the world outside the university, often work in teams, and train students through participation in projects. However, in general, the effectiveness of research universities as contributors to the training of new participants in the knowledge society, beyond being successful businesses in their own right, is limited.

Against this backdrop, this paper provides a provisional analysis of what seems to be a key issue: If a high quantity of knowledge and a large staff of highly trained people automatically give rise to a knowledge-intensive organization, then research universities would be, by definition, knowledge-intensive organizations. However, since universities are not knowledge-intensive organizations by any reasonable definition, exploring why not reveals three things. First, it shows that knowledge-intensive organizations are a product of structures, relationships, and dynamics in the organization, not of the quanta of knowledge they contain, the level of education of their personnel, or their sectoral location. Second, a knowledge-intensive organization must have at least some of the key characteristics of learning organizations (Argyris and Schön, 1996). That is to say, unless organizations are capable of creatively modifying their structures, behavior, and alignment with the environment, then they simply cannot be knowledge- intensive organizations at all. Third, these characteristics of learning organizations are generally lacking in research universities which are Tayloristically- organized and yet loosely-coupled systems.

To make these points, I focus on research universities and compare some current models of knowledge-intensive organizations and learning organizations with the way knowledge and learning are organized in universities. To anticipate, my argument is that, though research universities are dedicated to the development and dissemination of knowledge, there are many ways that they do not function as knowledge-intensive organizations and they lack most of the characteristics of learning organizations.a Once this argument is made, I turn to asking if universities wished to become more predominantly knowledge-intensive organizationsb, how they would have to change and I close asking if these changes could be made while avoiding the further dilution of some of the key disciplinary knowledge development and management functions research universities perform.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Socio-Technical Perspective, Systems: An analytical and intervention approach pioneered in Europe linking technical systems and equipment with the social organizational characteristics and promoting a mutuality of design that alters the technology and the social organization to achieve a desired and more humane fit.

Discipline, Disciplines, Disciplinary: Knowledge and organizational structures that divide knowledge into putatively self-managing compartments; based on the erroneous assumption that a many individual non-interacting disciplines together add up to comprehensive understanding of complex systems.

Defensive, defensively, defensiveness, also non-defensive, defensively: Responding to organizational challenges by blaming external forces for problem rather than examining how individual and organizational behavior plays a role in creating the challenges.

Loosely-Coupled Organizations, Systems: Karl Weick’s term for organizations that are systems but systems in which the parts do not operate in tight functional coordination; universities are an example.

Taylorism, Tayloristic: From Frederick Winslow Taylor, the perspective on organizational design that treats organizations as an array of independent tasks, each to be designed for maximum efficiency according to a trained expert and then integrated into a production system by the system designer and the leader of the organization.

Knowing That: Gilbert Ryle’s notion of knowledge of discrete facts and the idea that knowledge is possible without actions other than thought; contrasts with knowing how.

Knowing How: Gilbert Ryle’s notion of knowledge embodied in the ability to accomplish a desired goal or outcome; contrasts with knowing that.

Learning Organizations: Organizations capable of responding to challenges by reorganizing internally and/or changing their parameters to bring their operations into a more adaptive and sustainable relationship with their environment.

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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