Balancing Local Knowledge Within Global Organizations Through Computer-Based Systems: An Activity Theory Approach

Balancing Local Knowledge Within Global Organizations Through Computer-Based Systems: An Activity Theory Approach

Somya Joshi (National Technical University of Athens, Greece), Michael Barrett (University of Cambridge, UK), Geoff Walsham (University of Cambridge, UK) and Sam Cappleman (Hewlett-Packard Ltd, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-945-8.ch147

Abstract

This article investigates how, and with what success, global organisations design computer-based systems for knowledge sharing which aim to balance centralised and standardised approaches against more diverse local needs. The empirical basis for the article is provided by an analysis of two different global organisations, each with its own knowledge-sharing infrastructure in place. We use third-generation activity theory as the theoretical basis for our analysis. The contributions from this article are twofold. The first is our theoretical lens, where activity theory is applied to the domain of global information systems and their organisational context. This analysis provides a new approach in addressing both the mediation of and motivations behind knowledge-sharing activity. The second contribution concerns the theoretical and practical insights this gives on the problems and challenges of achieving a balance between global and local priorities within highly distributed work contexts, and the role of computer-based systems in this arena.

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