The value of tacit knowledge sharing in the degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA) training

Ramanteba, Mooketsi (2008-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study concerns itself with two issues, (i) quality concerns about the MBA and (ii) increasing importance of knowledge management, especially tacit knowledge in the business world. The MBA course of study was established as a measure to prepare individuals aspiring to be managers for leadership positions and was originally targeted at the cream of employees. There are several expectations placed on employees when they are sent by their employers to do an MBA. Among these expectations are that employees are expected to tap into the experience of fellow students while on the program, improve their leadership and management skills, get exposure to knowledge on other fields and to acquire practical business solutions. It is said, though, that the MBA study programme is currently not meeting the desired expectations of the business world, which has, hence, led to the devaluation of this programme as a premier business education course. Conversely, knowledge management has gained significant importance in the recent past, owing to the subsequent empowerment of individuals and organisations to then create a competitive advantage over their rivals. In particular, it has been found that the increasing of tacit knowledge is most crucial for success in this regard. Tacit knowledge resides in the minds of individuals and is acquired after many years through both professional and general life experiences. This valuable knowledge, which is hard to capture, is lost whenever experienced employees leave an organisation, for anyone of various reasons, which may include retirement, change of jobs and/or restructuring . Organisations are, therefore, faced with the challenge of capturing tacit knowledge and then creating an environment where this is freely shared with others within that organisation, to reap the reward and beat any rivals. The objective of this study is to shed more light on tacit knowledge sharing within the MBA study programme and reveal how this action will address concerns relating to the quality of MBA training. In this regard, in this research study an attempt will be made to discover ways of harnessing the tacit knowledge found among the students, to then better the quality of the MBA and increase the value of this study programme. The results of this study did indicate that tacit knowledge is shared among the students in the MBA programme and that it is valuable to the students; that industry related knowledge and professional experience, closely followed by general life experiences, are the most valuable kinds of knowledge gained from fellow students. The sharing of such knowledge usually occurs during group/syndicate activities, with one's fellow students providing the greatest source of the knowledge that one gains. Tacit knowledge is shared equally across the different subject groupings in the MBA study programme, despite prior MBA tacit knowledge being most useful in LeadershiplHR and Strategy courses than in any other. The MBA environment is generally supportive of tacit knowledge sharing. However, a minority of students, mostly women, owing to other students' negative attitudes, find the environment intimidating. Students who participate in the MBA programme possess sufficient prior MBA work experience and higher education qualifications, indicating a wealth of tacit knowledge. The results suggest that business schools must continue to target students who are adequately experienced and who possess higher education qualifications as they are the individuals who possess a wealth of tacit knowledge, which proves to be valuable to all concerned . Additionally, after the value of tacit knowledge in the MBA has been recognised , activities that enhance its sharing are encouraged. The breadth of student experience is crucial to tacit knowledge sharing and, as such, calls for the student recruitment process at business schools to be adjusted accordingly. In addition there is need for the undesirable behaviour of certain students to be kept in check, that valuable tacit knowledge sharing is not missed as a result of intimidation. It is worthwhile noting that, through attraction of students with adequate prior work experience, a higher quality tacit knowledge would be tapped, thereby meeting part of the requirements of the business world for a high quality MBA study programme. In Chapter 1 a general presentation of this subject is presented, and the approach and rationale of the study are explained. In Chapters 2 & 3 an overview of literature relevant to the topic of tacit knowledge management, as well as that of MBA training , is presented. In Chapter 4 the methodology and data gathered are discussed. In Chapter 5 the summary and conclusions of this study are presented and suggestions for future research areas are made.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie handel oor twee sake, naamlik (i) vrae oor die gehalte van die MBA en (ii) die feit dat kennisbestuur al hoe belangriker word, veral ten opsigte van algemene kennis in die besigheidswereld. Die MBA-studiekursus het tot stand gekom om mense wat bestuurders wil wees voor te berei vir leierskapsposisies. Die kursus was oorspronklik gemik op net die beste werknemers. Daar was verskeie verwagtinge ten opsigte van werknemers wat deur hul werkgewers aangesê is om 'n MBA te loop. Daar was die verwagting dat werknemers tydens die kursus uit die ervaring van hul medestudente sou leer, dat hulle hul leierskaps- en bestuursvaardighede sou verbeter, dat hulle blootstelling aan kundigheid uit ander velde sou kry, en dat hulle praktiese oplossings vir besigheidsprobleme sou vind. Daar word beweer dat die MBA-studieprogram nie tans meer aan die verwagtinge uit die besigheidswerêld valdoen nie, en daartoe lei dat die program nie meer as een van die voorste besigheidsopleidingskursusse beskou word nie. Voorts is kennisbestuur deesdae baie belangriker, aangesien sekere persone onlangs bemagtig is, en maatskappye graag 'n mededingende voordeel oor hul konkurrente wil behou. Die feit dat algemene kennis aan die toeneem is, is veral ook belangrik vir suksesvolle kennisbestuur. Algemene kennis is kundigheid wat mense opdoen na baie jare se besigheids- en algemene lewenservaring. Die kennis is waardevol, maar dit is moeilik om vas te lê, en daarom gaan sulke kennis verlore wanneer ervare werknemers 'n maatskappy verlaat, ongeag of dit vanweë aftrede, bedanking of afdanking is. Maatskappye sukkel dus om algemene kennis te behou. Die uitdaging is om 'n omgewing te skep waarin sulke kennis vryelik met ander mense binne die maatskappy gedeel word. Dit is vir die maatskappy voordelig wanneer algemene kennis gedeel word, want dit gee die maatskappy 'n voorsprong oor sy konkurrente. Die doelwit van hierdie studie is om lig te werp op die manier waarop algemene kennis in die MBA-studieprogram gedeel word en te bepaal in watter mate kennisdeling mense se siening oor die gehalte van MBA-opleiding kan verbeter. Die doel van hierdie navorsingstudie is dus om maniere te vind waarop die algemene kennis wat studente het, te benut op 'n wyse wat die gehalte van die MBA verbeter en die waarde daarvan verhoog. Die uitslag van hierdie studie dui aan dat algemene kennis wel deur studente in die MBA-program met mekaar gedeel word en dat dit vir studente nuttig is, dat veral bedryfsverwante kennis en besigheidservaring, maar ook algemene lewenservaring, die waardevolste soort kennis is wat van medestudente verkry word . Sulke kennis word gewoonlik tydens groeps- of sindikeringsaktiwiteite gedeel, en die meeste kennis wat tydens so 'n sessie verkry word, kom trouens van medestudente. Dieselfde hoeveelheid algemene kennis word in al die MBA-studieprogram se vakgroeperings gedeel, hoewel algemene kennis oor die MBA self in die leierskaps-/mensehulpbron- en strategiekursusse belangriker is as in die ander. Die deling van algemene kennis word deur die MBA-omgewing aangehelp. 'n Klein groep studente, veral vroue, beleef die omgewing egter as intimiderend, as gevolg van ander studente se negatiewe houdings. Aangesien studente wat aan die MBA-program deelneem, voldoende MBA-verwante werkservaring en hoëronderwys-kwalifikasies het, kan 'n mens aanneem dat hulle oor heelwat algemene kennis beskik. Die uitslag dui daarop dat sakeskole steeds op studente moet fokus wat voldoende ervaring het en wat oor hoëronderwys-kwalifikasies beskik, aangesien hulle heelwat algemene kennis het, wat vir alle betrokkenes nuttig is. En wanneer sakeskole eers besef watter waarde algemene kennis vir die MBA het, moedig hulle gewoonlik aktiwiteite aan wat die deling van algemene kennis bevorder. As studente nie aan 'n verskeidenheid ervarings blootgestel word nie, sal die deling van algemene kennis daaronder ly, en dit moet in gedagte gehou word wanneer sakeskole oor die werwing van studente besluit. Die ongewenste gedrag van sekere studente moet ook in toom gehou word sodat intimidasie nie daartoe lei dat algemene kennis nie gedeel word nie. Wanneer sakeskole studente werf wat oor voldoende werkervaring beskik, word daar maar algemene kennis gedeel, en dit laat die program voldoen aan die vereistes wat die sakewereld stel vir 'n MBA-studieprogram van gehalte. In hoofstuk 1 word die onderwerp omskryf, en die redes en veronderstellings van die studie word uiteengesit. Hoofstuk 2 en 3 bevat 'n literatuuroorsig oor kennisbestuur van algemene kennis en oor MBA-opleiding. Hoofstuk 4 is 'n bespreking van die metodologie en data wat in die studie versamel is. Hoofstuk 5 beval 'n opsomming en gevolgtrekking van die studie, en voorstelle word gemaak vir toekomstige navorsing.

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