Emotional Knowledge


In this book, the author presents the paradigm of the triple helix of knowledge as an alternative to the canonical paradigm of tacit and explicit knowledge. The new paradigm contains three fundamental forms of knowledge that are in a continuous interaction in the dynamic process of knowing. These forms are rational knowledge, emotional knowledge, and spiritual knowledge. Thus, emotional knowledge appears as a new concept representing the content of emotions and feelings. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the concept of emotional knowledge that is rooted in emotions and feelings. Emotional knowledge is explained in concordance with the new findings of cognitive science. Emotional thought is introduced as a new concept that reflects the dynamic interaction between emotion and cognition. Emotional knowledge is complemented with emotional intelligence, a powerful concept in management and leadership.
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Emotional knowledge does not appear explicitly in the paradigm of tacit and explicit knowledge. It is in the hidden part of the iceberg metaphor (Bratianu & Orzea, 2013), under the generic concept of tacit knowledge. Referring to its composition, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995, p. 9) consider that “Highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches are an integral part of knowledge. Knowledge also embraces ideals, values, and emotion as well as images and symbols”. The fact that tacit knowledge embraces emotion is too vague to understand how this process can be translated into managerial decision and action. Tacit knowledge can be shared by individuals in the process of socialization, a process strongly influenced by the internal field of forces of each individual and by the organizational context (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, Toyama & Hirata, 2008). Emotions play an important role in this process of knowledge sharing, but being integrated into a fuzzy structure of tacit knowledge it generates a lot of questions concerning its contribution. The problem may be solved by unfolding the package of tacit knowledge and analyzing each component of it.

One of the first critical situations in which emotional knowledge emerged from researching organizational behavior was during the Hawthorne experiments (Koontz, O’Donnel & Weihrich, 1976; Wren, 2005). These experiments designed and implemented at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Company had the purpose of establishing some correlations between work conditions and work productivity. Among the tested variables was the illumination of the working place. The main hypotheses were the following: a) when illumination level increases, the productivity increases; b) when illumination level decreases, the productivity level decreases. Intuitively, these hypotheses were correctly formulated. When the first experiments started in 1925, the tests demonstrated that productivity increases with increasing the level of illumination of the working place. To everybody’s surprise, when the illumination level was decreased, the productivity continued to increase. Since nobody could explain this fact, researchers repeated several times the experiment. However, the results did not change. Charles E. Snow, an instructor in electrical engineering at MIT, who participated at these experiments concluded that illumination was not the solution of the problem, and that other variables of psychological nature might explain these non-logical results. In conclusion to his report he proposed these experiments to be abandoned. Fortunately, the experiments were continued in the next period (1927-1932), under the supervision of Elton Mayo, professor at Harvard University. Having a background in logic and philosophy, and being trained in the medical field and industrial psychology, Elton Mayo could analyze this complex issue from new perspectives and finally discovered that emotions and feelings of the workers involved in this experiment distorted the direct correlation between illumination and productivity. He considered that explanation can be found “in the social attitude and relationships of work groups. Changing illumination – up and down – caused increased productivity because the test group began to be noticed, to feel important” (Koontz, O’Donnel & Weihrich, 1976, p. 40). Thus, emotional knowledge could explain what rational knowledge could not. Emotions and feelings distorted completely the expected linear correlation between illumination and productivity in the tested group of workers.

Emotional knowledge became essential in understanding workers motivation for performance. Motivation can be defined as “the willingness to exert high levels of effort to reach organizational goals, conditioned by the effort’s ability to satisfy some individual need” (Robbins & DeCenzo, 2005, p. 320). Thus, motivation is a result of correlating three variables: effort, organizational goals, and individual needs. Effort is a variable that describes the individual’s energy spent for performing a given task. If physical effort is dominant in industrial work, intellectual effort becomes dominant in the new knowledge economy. Any type of efforts involves both physical and cognitive human resources, rational knowledge and emotional knowledge being among the most significant ones. A need reflects “some internal state that makes certain outcomes appear attractive” (Robbins & DeCenzo, 2005, p.320).

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