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Knowledge, Knowledge Work and Organizations: An Overview and Interpretation

Knowledge, Knowledge Work and Organizations: An Overview and Interpretation There is current interest in the competitive advantage that knowledge may provide for organizations and in the significance of knowledge workers, organ izational competencies and knowledge-intensive firms. Yet the concept of knowledge is complex and its relevance to organization theory has been insuf ficiently developed. The paper offers a review and critique of current approaches, and outlines an alternative. First, common images of knowledge in the organizational literature as embodied, embedded, embrained, encultured and encoded are identified and, to summarize popular writings on knowledge work, a typology of organizations and knowledge types is constructed. How ever, traditional assumptions about knowledge, upon which most current speculation about organizational knowledge is based, offer a compartmental ized and static approach to the subject. Drawing from recent studies of the impact of new technologies and from debates in philosophy, linguistics, social theory and cognitive science, the second part of the paper introduces an altern ative. Knowledge (or, more appropriately, knowing) is analyzed as an active process that is mediated, situated, provisional, pragmatic and contested. Rather than documenting the types of knowledge that capitalism currently demands the approach suggests that attention should be focused on the (culturally located) systems through which people achieve their knowing, on the changes that are occurring within such systems, and on the processes through which new knowledge may be generated. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Organization Studies: An international multidisciplinary journal devoted to the Studies of organizations, organizing, and the organized in and between societies SAGE

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References (89)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
0170-8406
eISSN
1741-3044
DOI
10.1177/017084069501600605
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

There is current interest in the competitive advantage that knowledge may provide for organizations and in the significance of knowledge workers, organ izational competencies and knowledge-intensive firms. Yet the concept of knowledge is complex and its relevance to organization theory has been insuf ficiently developed. The paper offers a review and critique of current approaches, and outlines an alternative. First, common images of knowledge in the organizational literature as embodied, embedded, embrained, encultured and encoded are identified and, to summarize popular writings on knowledge work, a typology of organizations and knowledge types is constructed. How ever, traditional assumptions about knowledge, upon which most current speculation about organizational knowledge is based, offer a compartmental ized and static approach to the subject. Drawing from recent studies of the impact of new technologies and from debates in philosophy, linguistics, social theory and cognitive science, the second part of the paper introduces an altern ative. Knowledge (or, more appropriately, knowing) is analyzed as an active process that is mediated, situated, provisional, pragmatic and contested. Rather than documenting the types of knowledge that capitalism currently demands the approach suggests that attention should be focused on the (culturally located) systems through which people achieve their knowing, on the changes that are occurring within such systems, and on the processes through which new knowledge may be generated.

Journal

Organization Studies: An international multidisciplinary journal devoted to the Studies of organizations, organizing, and the organized in and between societiesSAGE

Published: Nov 1, 1995

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