Organizational knowledge : discrete manageable item or complex dynamic flow?

Kotze, Barend Frederik (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


We are in the final stages of a transition from the industrial era to the information era. Some may argue that we are already there. The impact of this transition is felt in all spheres of everyday life, it is present in shifting paradigms and it fuels constant waves of change. In attempting to master this changing world of the last few decades, academics and practitioners focused their attention on the management of knowledge in organisations. The concept of knowledge has been an elusive one for two thousand years and introducing the ideas of management and organisation to this already blurred notion brings about more distortion. This elusiveness is ever-present when organisational knowledge management is written about, presented or discussed. There always seems to be a duality in its nature – on the one end of the spectrum, the manageability of knowledge itemised as “thing” and on the other end the unmanageability of “flows” creating knowledge. There is a distinct discourse equating knowledge to information. These concepts are used interchangeably and there is a strong focus on the use of technology to manage knowledge stocks. In other treatises, we are constantly reminded about the inherent complexities of knowledge, humans, relationships and how people, individually and collectively, create meaning. This thesis sets out to determine whether knowledge should be seen as a manageable item or whether it is more complex, a flow, that might be guided and nurtured but never “managed”; or whether, it is in fact, both a “thing” and a “flow”. With neither theory testing nor theory development in mind, the thesis is a journey into the existing epistemological literature, investigating various views on and typologies of knowledge, aiming to add value through interpretation. As a comparative study, the thesis discusses the views of authors on knowledge management and sense making. Following the comparison of “thing” and “flow”, the thesis concludes by likening the research question to a similar paradox of light – knowledge should always be managed as a “thing” and a “flow” similar to light being both a particle and a wave.

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