Friday, August 06, 2004

Social Networks and Knowledge Management

From "The Network Paradigm in Organizational Research: A Review and Typology," by Stephen P. Borgatti and Pacey C. Foster, Journal of Management 2003 29(6) 991-1013:

"Knowledge Management:

"The term 'knowledge management' may soon disappear as practitioners rush to disassociate themselves from the relatively unsuccessful effort to use technological solutions to help organizations store, share and create new knowledge. The current mantra is that knowledge creation and utilization are fundamentally human and above all social processes (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Davenport & Prusak, 1998). One thread (which suffers from a lack of rigorous empirical research) is based on communities of practice (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Orr, 1996; Tyre & von Hippel, 1997; Wenger, 1998). The basic idea is that new practices and concepts emerge from the interaction of individuals engaged in a joint enterprise; the classic example is members of a functional department, such as claims processors in an insurance firm. The processes in community of practice theory resemble those of traditional social influence theory (Friedkin&Johnsen, 1999), which emphasizes homogeneity of beliefs, practices, and attitudes as an outcome. They also overlap with and would strongly benefit from revisiting classic social psychology work (Homans, 1950; Newcomb, 1961) on the processes connecting agreement, similarity and interaction in groups, not to mention network diffusion research (Rice & Aydin, 1991; Rogers, 1995).

"Another thread is based on transactive memory (Hollingshead, 1998; Moreland, Argote & Krishnan, 1996; Rulke & Galaskiewicz, 2000; Wegner, 1987). Here the notion is that knowledge is distributed in different minds, and to make use of it effectively, individuals need to know who knows what (see social cognition section, below). In addition, Borgatti and Cross (2003) suggest that individuals need to have certain kinds of relationships (e.g., mutual accessibility, low partner-specific transaction costs) in order to utilize each others’ knowledge. Transactive memory research contrasts with community of practice theory in its view of knowledge as remaining distributed even after being accessed, and in its lack of interest in how knowledge is generated in the first place."

References cited above:

Borgatti, S. P., & Cross, R. 2003. A relational view of information seeking and learning in social networks. Management Science, 49(4): 432–445.
Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. 1991. Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1): 40–57.
Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. 2000. The social life of information. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.
Davenport, T. H., & Prusak, L. 1998. Working knowledge. Cambridge: HBS Press.
Friedkin, N. E., & Johnsen, E. C. 1999. Social influence networks and opinion change. Advances in Group Processes, 16: 1–29.
Hollingshead, A. B. 1998. Communication, learning, and retrieval in transactive memory systems. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 34(5): 423–442.
Homans, G. 1950. The human group. NY: Harcourt, Brace and World.
Lave, J., &Wenger, E. 1991. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Moreland, R. L., Argote, L., & Krishnan, R. 1996. Socially shared cognition at work: Transactive memory and group performance. In J. L. Nye & A. M. Brower (Eds.), What’s social about social cognition? Research on socially shared cognition in small groups: 57–84. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Newcomb, T. 1961. The acquaintance process. New York: Holt, Rinehardt & Winston.
Orr, J. 1996. Talking about machines: An ethnography of a modern job. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Rice, R. E.,&Aydin, C. 1991. Attitudes toward new organizational technology: Network proximity as a mechanism for social information processing. Administrative Science Quarterly, 36: 219–244.
Rogers, E. M. 1995. Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Tyre, M. J.,&von Hippel, E. 1997. The situated nature of adaptive learning in organizations. Organization Science, 8(1): 71–84.
Rulke, D. L.,&Galaskiewicz, J. 2000. Distribution of knowledge, group network structure, and group performance. Management Science, 46(5): 612–626.
Wegner, D. M. 1987. Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind. In B. Mullen & G. R. Goethals (Eds.), Theories of group behavior: 185–208. New York: Springer.
Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


jordi comas said...

Why cite this study without comment?

Do you agree that KM is collapsing as a meaningful research area and area of practcie for orgs and managers? Or disagree?

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