Knowledge Creation, Ba and CoP: The Experience at IADE-UAM

Knowledge Creation, Ba and CoP: The Experience at IADE-UAM

Monica Longo Somoza (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain), Julio Acosta Prado (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain) and Cecilia Murcia Rivera (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-802-4.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter analyzes the knowledge-creating process that has been developed in the Institute for Research in Knowledge Management and Business Innovation (IADE) of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM). IADE develops activities of technical and scientific investigation, makes projects of technical assistance to different kind of organizations and makes a labour of postgraduate education. This chapter proposes that professors and doctoral students, from different countries and organizations, who carry out their research projects in IADE, work as an investigation Community of Practice (CoP) both in purpose, character and functionality, and develop a knowledge-creating process in a Ba. This chapter studies this process, describes the Ba and the investigation CoP as an element of the Ba. In order to get a deep understanding of these elements, we have chosen a case study as empirical research methodology and we have based our findings and conclusions in a previous theoretical analysis of these concepts.
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Introduction

In the current knowledge-based economy, knowledge has become a critical factor. Organizations need to manage knowledge in order to take advantage of the opportunities brought by the quick changes of their environment and gain sustainable competitive advantages. This approach is specified in Nonaka’s school, whose contributions will be quoted along this work, as a natural and logic relation between knowledge and innovation. That is, knowledge creation drives to the generation of innovation it does not matter its category and field of application. In this context, the Institute for Research in Knowledge Management and Business Innovation (IADE) of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM) develops activities of technical and scientific investigation, and makes projects of technical assistance to different kind of organizations, publics and privates. The results of these activities and projects have been published in scientific publications and international congresses. Also, IADE makes a labour of postgraduate education at master-level and doctoral-level. Consequently, processes of knowledge creation and innovation are developed within IADE through relations and collaborative models between people (researchers) who take part in its activities.

In this chapter, we analyze the dynamic process used by some members of IADE to share and create knowledge. We propose that this knowledge-creating process is developed in a context called Ba (Nonaka & Konno, 1998; Nonaka & Toyama, 2003; Nonaka, Toyama & Konno, 2000) and our objective is to identify and describe this Ba and its practical relation with a Community of Practice (CoP).The motivation of this study arose when some members of IADE realized they were sharing and creating knowledge in a context that was not exactly a CoP because this context did not have clear boundaries of participants or history and it changed quickly (Peltokorpi, Nonaka & Kodama, 2007). Moreover, the positive results they were obtained for their personal objectives and also for IADE’s aims (scientific publications, projects and doctoral thesis) lead them to think it was interesting to study how they were creating knowledge in order to take advantages of this process in the future.

Past studies in the areas of CoPs an Ba have not explored in deep the practical relation between both concepts. This chapter analyzed this relation by proposing first of all a theoretical relation and latter testing it empirically in the context of the IADE. We though IADE was an interesting context to make the empirical study as their members develop a research work and wanted to study how they were creating knowledge in order to take advantages of this process for the future. The members of an organization share experience and knowledge in a Ba and using CoPs. This starts a knowledge creation process that leads organizations to obtain superior results through innovation. This is the reason why in the last decades it has been a growing interest in this two concepts in organizational literature.

Knowledge is created in social interactions amongst individuals and between individuals and their organizations so it is a dynamic human process. Also, it is contextually embedded because it depends on a particular time and space. Information becomes knowledge when it is contextualized and interpreted by individuals (Hayek, 1945; Maturana & Valera, 1984; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka & Toyama, 2002). Ba provides the context where people interact in order to interpret information and create meanings. It is a shared context in which people interact and knowledge is shared, created and utilised. The Japanese word Ba does not mean only a context as a physical space, this concept unifies physical, virtual and mental space. Ba is defined as “shared context in motion” because it is constantly evolving, that is, its boundaries are fluid (Nonaka, & Konno, 1998; Nonaka, Toyama & Konno, 2000). On the other hand, a CoP is an informal group of people who, according to Wenger (2001), “share a common interest and problems in a certain domain of human endeavour and engage in a process of collective learning that creates bonds between them”.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Explicit Knowledge: This knowledge is universal and abstract and it can be articulated, codified and stored.

Tacit Knowledge: This knowledge is creative and dependent on the history and experience of people, embodied in their minds and therefore, difficult to access, transfer and shared.

Community Of Practice: An informal group of people who share a common interest and problems in a certain domain of human endeavour and engage in a process of collective learning that creates bonds between them.

Socialization: It is the process of sharing tacit knowledge through face-to-face communication.

SECI (socialization, externalization, combination and internalization): A model of knowledge creation process developed to understand the dynamic nature of knowledge creation by the interaction of Ba , knowledge assets and socialization, externalization, combination and internalization.

Ba: It refers to a physical, mental and virtual space or a combination of all these, to create new and original ideas developed by individuals and work teams which are potentially relevant to the organization.

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