Visualizing Knowledge Networks and Flows to Enhance Organizational Metacognition in Virtual Organizations

Visualizing Knowledge Networks and Flows to Enhance Organizational Metacognition in Virtual Organizations

Mark E. Nissen (Naval Postgraduate School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-070-7.ch005
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In today’s increasingly networked world of organizational practice, information and computer technologies are enabling people and organizations to collaborate ever more virtually (i.e., even when distributed temporally and geographically). Despite the clear and many advantages enabled by the virtual organization, this increasingly common virtual organizational form is very demanding in terms of Knowledge Management. The key problem is that many otherwise knowledgeable people and organizations are not fully aware of their knowledge networks, and even more problematic, they are not aware that they are not aware. Thus organizational metacognition (e.g., an organization knowing what it knows) offers the potential to elucidate the key issues associated with knowledge networking in the virtual organization. The research described in this chapter builds upon a stream of work to understand and harness dynamic knowledge and organization for competitive advantage, with a particular emphasis upon knowledge networks and flows in the virtual organizational context.
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In the increasingly networked world of organizational practice today, information and computer technologies are enabling people and organizations to collaborate ever more closely, even when distributed temporally and geographically. Indeed, organizations themselves are becoming increasingly virtual (e.g., see Davidow and Malone, 1992; Wong and Burton 2000): forming across formal organizational boundaries, national borders, cultures, specializations and time zones to collaborate on the accomplishment of projects that require specific mixes of expertise that the various participants possess (e.g., see Nissen, 2007).

Shekhar (2006) reviews substantial literature on virtual organizations, including a variety of definitions: “a temporary network of independent companies” (Byrne, 1993), “a bundle of competencies [. . .] pulled together to deliver a value” (Donlon, 1997), “an opportunistic alliance of core competencies” (Goldman et al., 1995), “an ever-varying cluster of common activities in the midst of a vast fabric of relationships” (Davidow and Malone, 1992), “a way of structuring, managing and operating dynamically” (Mowshowitz, 1997), and “organization in which workers are not physically but electronically connected” (Fulk and DeSanctis, 1995). Common among these is a focus on competencies and activities that are combined and managed at a distance (e.g., electronically), beyond the authority of a single organization (e.g., independent companies), and that involve dynamic interrelationships between participants (e.g., temporary network). This leads to (p. 468) a working definition that is suitable for our purposes here: “…any organization with non-co-located organizational entities and resources, necessitating the use of virtual space for interaction between the people in these entities to achieve organizational objectives.

By accessing, linking and coordinating the competencies and activities of multiple organizations, the virtual organization is able to increase the scope of its endeavors without the need to invest in and grow the requisite expertise internally. This can be particularly important in knowledge-intensive competitive arenas, in which opportunities are ephemeral, but the tacit knowledge required to seize such opportunities requires years if not decades to accumulate. Whereas a single firm, for instance, which lacked such tacit knowledge, would be unable to take advantage of a knowledge-intensive opportunity within the time allowed by competitive pressure, this firm could team with one or more others, which had accumulated the requisite knowledge, and compete. Hence the virtual organization offers potential advantages in terms of the speed with which organizations can respond to ephemeral opportunities. Additionally, by teaming with one or more other firms, the resulting virtual organization would distribute the cost and risk of pursuing such opportunity effectively among each of the participating firms. Hence the virtual organization offers potential advantages also in terms of the cost and risk associated with responding to ephemeral opportunities.

Despite the clear and many advantages enabled by the virtual organization, however, this increasingly common, virtual, organizational form is inherently very demanding in terms of Knowledge Management (KM). This is the case in particular where knowledge-intensive opportunities are pursued: the same access to and integration of knowledge across participants that offers potential for competitive advantage to the virtual organization also requires identification, organization, sharing and application of such knowledge from different organizations. This serves to exacerbate a well-known KM problem that is severe even within single organizations (e.g., see Kogut and Zander, 1992; Szulanski and Winter, 2002). The problem exacerbation is even more pronounced where the key knowledge required to be access and shared across organizations is tacit: tacit knowledge is notably “sticky” (von Hippel, 1994), appropriable (Grant, 1996) and difficult to codify, substitute or imitate (Saviotti, 1998). Hence to realize the potential opportunities enabled by virtual organizations, its inherent and exacerbated KM demands must be met.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Knowledge Management and Virtual Organizations
Chapter 1
Fernando Garrigos
This chapter presents the interrelationships between professional virtual communities and social networks, and analyzes how, and in what ways, these... Sample PDF
Interrelationships Between Professional Virtual Communities and Social Networks, and the Importance of Virtual Communities in Creating and Sharing Knowledge
Chapter 2
Luis V. Casaló
The rapid growth of virtual communities has created a new interest in researchers. Indeed, understanding these communities is especially relevant... Sample PDF
The Role of Trust, Satisfaction, and Communication in the Development of Participation in Virtual Communities
Chapter 3
Cesar Camison
Organisations are finding it more difficult to keep abreast with the pace of change. The continuous rise of business opportunities and the increase... Sample PDF
Can Virtual Networks Encourage Knowledge Absorptive Capacity?
Chapter 4
Montserrat Boronat Navarro
In this study we adopt an inter-organizational view to examine virtual organizations. Thus, we understand this phenomenon as a strategic agreement... Sample PDF
Knowledge Integration Through Inter-Organizational Virtual Organizations
Chapter 5
Mark E. Nissen
In today’s increasingly networked world of organizational practice, information and computer technologies are enabling people and organizations to... Sample PDF
Visualizing Knowledge Networks and Flows to Enhance Organizational Metacognition in Virtual Organizations
Chapter 6
Eduardo Bueno Campos
The aim of this chapter is to deepen the concept of ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoPs) from the understanding of a reference framework for knowledge... Sample PDF
Model on Knowledge-Governance: Collaboration Focus and Communities of Practice
Chapter 7
Josep Capó-Vicedo
This chapter highlights the necessity of establishing relationships with other companies and external agents in order to empower the creation and... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management in SMEs Clusters
Chapter 8
Raquel Sanchis
This chapter presents a general overview of the relationships between information and communications technologies (ITCs) and the process of... Sample PDF
Tools for Supporting Knowledge Management: Knowledge Internalization Through E-Learning
Chapter 9
Cesar Camison, Carlos Devece, Daniel Palacios, Carles Camisón-Haba
In this chapter we describe a practical tool useful to managing knowledge in the firm. It has already been introduced and tested in several firms... Sample PDF
The Value of Virtual Networks for Knowledge Management: A Tool for Practical Development
Chapter 10
M. Eugenia Fabra, Cesar Camison
Companies are increasingly conscious of the fact that the achieving of their objectives, together with the improvement of their competitive... Sample PDF
Human Capital and E-Learning: Developing Knowledge Through Virtual Networks
Chapter 11
Júlio Da Costa Mendes
This chapter looks to analyse new paradigms in the relationship between public and private organisations towards tourism destinations. It proposes... Sample PDF
The Development of Knowledge and Information Networks in Tourism Destinations
Chapter 12
E. Claver-Cortés
Government agencies are being pressed to become more efficient. For this reason, e-government strategies result from the expectations from society... Sample PDF
E-Government Challenges: Barriers and Facilitators in Spanish City Councils
Chapter 13
Hindupur Ramakrishna
The chapter presents a conceptual framework that identifies technological and organizational factors that impact the success of business analytics... Sample PDF
Business Analytics Success: A Conceptual Framework and an Application to Virtual Organizing
Chapter 14
Andrew Targowski
This chapter provides theoretical analysis and synthesis of how computer applications are applied in problem-solving and decision-making in practice... Sample PDF
The Evolution from Data to Wisdom in Decision-Making at the Level of Real and Virtual Networks
Chapter 15
Editor Conclusions  (pages 278-279)
Cesar Camison
The study of virtual organizations encompasses several research fields, and the variables involved in each of them are sometimes closely related.... Sample PDF
Editor Conclusions
Chapter 16
Andrew P. Sage, Cynthia T. Small
This chapter describes a complex adaptive systems (CAS)-based enterprise knowledge-sharing (KnS) model. The CAS-based enterprise KnS model consists... Sample PDF
A Complex Adaptive Systems-Based Enterprise Knowledge Sharing Model
Chapter 17
James G. Williams, Kai A. Olsen
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened competition in the telecommunications market in the U.S. and forced the incumbent telecommunications... Sample PDF
Developing a Telecommunication Operation Support Systems (OSS): The Impact of a Change in Network Technology
Chapter 18
Tor Guimaraes
Emerging agent-based systems offer new means of effectively addressing complex decision processes and enabling solutions to business requirements... Sample PDF
Enabling the Virtual Organization with Agent Technology
Chapter 19
Jens Gammelgaard
In geographically dispersed organizations, like multinational corporations (MNCs), contextual gaps exist between senders and receivers of knowledge.... Sample PDF
Virtual Communities of Practice: A Mechanism for Efficient Knowledge Retrieval in MNCs
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