Can Tacit Knowledge be Shared on Cloud?: An Opportunity for Viability From PBL

Can Tacit Knowledge be Shared on Cloud?: An Opportunity for Viability From PBL

Sara Fazzin (Niccolò Cusano Italian University London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2394-9.ch010
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Knowledge manipulation is key for organizational innovation, to gain competitive advantage, enhancing the search for a caring and sharing environment between co-workers. How to foster such attitude? Many researchers have argued about the importance of tacit knowledge, highlighting how difficult - if not impossible - is to share that kind of knowledge. Giving a new definition of knowledge, the Author here presents a model of knowledge manipulation that highlights the fundamental role of education, both as knowledge enabler and recipient for a long-term change into the organization. Using education as common ground to instill a (tacit) knowledge sharing attitude, the Author argues on the importance of problem-based (PBL) training, to prepare lifelong learners to become better workers and to manipulate (tacit) knowledge.
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Last century has seen a rapid, yet massive transition from an industrial society to a world characterised by complexity, globalisation and a race for information. In this so called “knowledge-based” (OECD, 1996) or “learning” (Lundvall and Johnson, 1994) economy, that finds its extreme form in “hypercompetition” (D’Aveni, 1994), knowledge is seen as key tool for innovation in business. Furthermore, seeming that knowledge have been fundamental in the functioning of our society (Drucker, 1993; Stehr, 1994; Thurow, 2000), it is important to stress that:

[…] what is distinctive about post-industrial society is the change in the character of knowledge itself (that is) the centrality of theoretical knowledge - the primacy of theory over empiricism and the codification of knowledge into abstract systems of symbols that, as in any axiomatic system, can be used to illustrate many different and varied areas of experience. (Bell, 1999, p. 20)

Different fields of research present knowledge as a central topic in organisational management (Dwivedi et al., 2011; Lee and Chen, 2012), trying to demonstrate its predominant role in terms of competitive advantage (Birchall and Tovstiga, 1999, 2005; Sousa and Hendriks, 2006), strategic asset (Johannessen, Olaisen and Olsen, 2001), and even in relation to learning and innovation (Lam, 2000, 2010, 2015). Hence in the last three decades, different disciplines have tried to understand how to manage, share, create, measure and transfer knowledge within the organization, in an attempt to use it as competitive advantage (Coff, Coff & Eastvold, 2006; Ambrosini, 2003; Nonaka, 1994). Using the work of Michael Polanyi as theoretical background, The Knowledge-Creating Company (Nonaka and Takeshi, 1995) has become a milestone in management studies. The majority of scholars agree on the opportunity to list knowledge among the more strategically important (intangible) assets of an organisation (Grant, 1996), making it a popular topic in different fields, such as industrial economy, KM, innovation management and so on. Generally starting from Polanyi’s analysis of knowledge definition in a philosophical or even epistemological perspective, knowledge has been proved to have a massive impact on a business’ success. Several case studies and empirical researches have shown the opportunities that arise from understanding how to strategically manage, transfer or create it. To do that, one of the central questions that need yet to be answered would be how to maximise its benefits in terms of management. Szulanski (2000) uses a similar approach to understand how different characteristics of the source of knowledge - he calls them the recipient, the context and the knowledge itself - may affect its transfer. People, and assets in general, that are part of an organisation, are several and various, they live in different contexts, they do not even necessarily share the same culture, or better yet, language. However, what the Author will stress out here is that at least the large majority of an organization’s employees presents something in common, such as a higher education experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Problem-Based Learning: An enquiry-based learning method, characterised by using appropriate problems to acquire knowledge in a practical approach. Learners are encouraged to do their own independent search for knowledge, starting from a given problem or scenario, through a well defined process in group or individually. A PBL approach is known to foster knowledge and enhance a set of personal skills, such as cooperation, teamwork, reflectiveness and critical thinking.

Knowledge Enablers: Processes, inputs or sources that facilitate knowledge manipulation. According to the Author, education is the most important one, along with a personal component and social infrastructure.

Knowledge: The ability to see connections between every tangible and intangible resource elaborated by the brain, in form of emotion and/or information. In this sense, it is a life-long stream of learnability.

Competitive advantage: A firm’s ability to outperform its rivals, developing a product (tangible asset) or implementing a strategy (intangible asset) they are unable to duplicate or it would cost them too much to just imitate it. A competitive advantage cannot last forever, and for that reason innovation is crucial for the organization.

Education: The action or process of teaching, through formal schooling or training, apprenticeship, and other learning-by-doing activities. It conveys explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge, involving formal and informal learning, to enhance or acquire knowledge, skills and understanding, developing critical thinking and independent or team work. Life-long learners are an example of this cyclic process.

(Corporate) Vision: A manifesto of what an organization aspires to be in the future, guiding the firm in its strategic decisions. It is usually synthesised in a brief statement, that is challenging, emotional and positive, and inspires employees and customers to make it happen, because they relate to it.

Tacit Knowledge: A component of knowledge, that usually refers to practical knowledge, in contrast with explicit knowledge that is theoretical. It has different definitions, the most famous one as “knowledge not-yet-articulated”. It is related to past experiences, prior knowledge or learning by doing, and because of that, it is said to be personal and not easily shareable.

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