A Communities of Practice Approach to Management Knowledge Dissemination

A Communities of Practice Approach to Management Knowledge Dissemination

Joanne Roberts (Newcastle University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-802-4.ch001
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Abstract

A communities of practice perspective is used to unravel the actions and activities that facilitate the dissemination of management knowledge between organizations across space and time. In so doing, the local embedded nature of knowledge is recognized, as is the manner in which interactions between the pervasive and the specific provide a creative dynamic that facilitates the widespread dissemination and a multiple creation of knowledge. Knowledge interactions are explored in terms of boundary processes involving interactions between management gurus, management consultants, business schools/management academics, managers and business media. Moreover, by making a clear distinction between management knowledge and management ideas and techniques, important differences between the groups engaged in the dissemination of management knowledge are revealed.
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The Management Knowledge Field

The management knowledge field is the context within which management knowledge is produced and distributed. It is useful to begin by exploring the notion of knowledge in general terms before elaborating on the management knowledge field. Knowledge involves an awareness or understanding gained through experience, familiarity or learning; it entails cognitive structures that can assimilate information and put it into a wider context, allowing actions to be undertaken from it (Howells & Roberts, 2000). In discussions of knowledge a distinction is often made between tacit and codified or implicit and explicit knowledge. Knowledge is codified if it is recorded or transmitted in the form of symbols (e.g. writing or drawings) or embodied in a tangible form (e.g. machinery or tools). Through the process of codification, knowledge is reduced to information that can be transformed into knowledge by those individuals who have access to the appropriate code or framework of analysis. Tacit knowledge is non-codified knowledge that is acquired via the informal take-up of learning behaviour and procedures (Howells, 1996); it is often referred to as know-how.

In their study of organizational knowledge, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) identify two dimensions of tacit knowledge: the technical dimension encompassing skills or crafts; and, the cognitive dimension consisting of schemata, mental models, and beliefs that shape the way individuals perceive the world around them. Elaborating on their idea of knowledge conversion in the context of the organization, they stress the mutual complementary nature of tacit and explicit knowledge, arguing that they ‘interact with and interchange into each other in the creative activities of human beings.’ Their dynamic model of knowledge creation ‘is anchored to a critical assumption that human knowledge is created and expanded through social interaction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge’ (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995, p. 61).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Management Academics: Scholars concerned with the theoretical and empirical investigation of management and business issues and active in the delivery of management and business education.

Communities of Practice: A group of people bound together by an understanding of a sense of joint enterprise who interact with one another, establishing norms and relationships through mutual engagement and who produce over time a shared repertoire of communal resources.

Managers: Individuals engaged in the management of organizations.

Management Gurus: Are producers and promoters of management ideas through the writing of best-selling books, business magazine and journals articles, and the delivery of lectures and seminars.

Management Knowledge: In general terms this refers to knowledge about management. However, the term is used here to refer to knowledge that is tacit in the sense that it is embedded into the everyday practice of management.

Business Media: Includes publishers of business books, CDs, videos, DVDs, journals, magazines and websites.

Management Ideas and Techniques: A management idea concerns management knowledge that is disembedded from practice and embodied in a mental representation or the characterization of knowledge in general terms, that is, a concept, while a management technique is a practical method applied to a particular task.

Business Schools: Educational organizations concerned with the delivery of management and business education.

Management Knowledge Field: The context within which management knowledge is produced and distributed.

Management Consultants: Qualified individuals and organizations providing advisory services to organizations to identify management problems, analyze such problems, recommend solutions to these problems, and help, when requested, in the implementation of solutions.

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