Negotiating Knowledge Gaps in Dispersed Knowledge Work

Negotiating Knowledge Gaps in Dispersed Knowledge Work

Rashmi H. Assudani (Xavier University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1873-2.ch005
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Abstract

Reviews from the two streams of research - knowledge based view of the firm and dispersed work – offers evidence for knowledge gaps that exist among dispersed members. Dispersed members therefore cannot take for granted that they have a common context, making dispersed collaboration problematic. A major challenge for such teams is thus to co-create a commonly shared context. This paper examines the process of how dispersed teams negotiate knowledge gaps to create a common context. The study uses a multiple case design on dispersed teams at a knowledge-based marketing organization in the US. The findings from this field study highlight three strategies to negotiate knowledge gaps: (1) active engagement strategies, (2) negotiating relationally, and (3) redundant knowledge structures. Taken together, these findings have the potential to help managers in knowledge based organizations to discern appropriate social and technological interventions that may be needed for conducting dispersed knowledge work.
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Literature Review

The Knowledge-based View of the Firm: Since the seminal article by Nonaka (1994), researchers have differed in their definition and operationalization of ‘knowledge’ as a construct. Therefore, alternative thoughts exist as to what knowledge means. A review of the literature along the epistemological dimensions permits one to discern two broad perspectives3 into which most writing can be classed (Assudani, 2005). In the first perspective, knowledge is viewed as a resource that can be possessed (knowledge ‘of’) or even created (‘knowledge from’) by actors and/or the networks in which they participate.

In the second, knowledge is viewed as a process of doing- of leveraging and mediating the relationship between the possession and the creation dimension. Integral to the process perspective is the exchange4 of knowledge. Knowledge exchange is defined as the perceived acquisition or perceived contribution of knowledge (Faraj & Wasko, 2005). However, more recent research has started to question these positivist processes of knowledge exchange as the sole basis for new knowledge creation (Salomon & Martin, 2008), and instead propose that engagement of diffused knowledge is crucial for knowledge creation. Engagement is defined as an act whereby the receiver (individual or a team) of embedded information actively uses the information by applying it to specific tasks leading to effective action in the situation where knowledge is relevant (Thompson et al., 2001). Engaging is a by-product of socialization – e.g. talking, listening, telling stories and narrating experiences – to make sense of the information. Forums such as joint interpretive forums allow members to challenge and question each other to make their own perspectives and also to take the perspectives of others (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995). This enhances the capability of the team members to generate useful actionable knowledge (Mohrman et al., 2001).

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