Concept of organizational knowledge

To discuss whether presence may be regarded a prerequisite for knowledge sharing in work contexts, we must first clarify the concept of organizational knowledge.

Davenport and Prusak’s definition of knowledge, like many others, stresses that knowledge is essentially related to human action:
Knowledge is a flux mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, and norms. (1998: 5)[28]

This broad definition encompasses a widely accepted distinction between explicit knowledge (information, data) and tacit knowing (experiences, skills, values) in accordance with Polanyi’s theory.[29] It also allows us to relate Wittgenstein’s concept of rule-following to the context of organizational knowledge. While Polanyi has shown that knowing is personal, rule-following is not an individual accomplishment, but instead fundamentally based on collectively shared meanings (Wittgenstein 1953).[30] While some aspects of organizational knowledge are formal and explicit, these are put into action and given meaning by an organization’s members, such as office workers. Such a Wittgensteinian view is formulated by Barnes (1995: 202), who states that members ‘must be constituted as a collective able to sustain a shared sense of what rules imply and hence an agreement in their practice when they follow rules’. Much of this ‘shared sense’ is embedded and implicit in workplace design. Architecture and design, in effect, provide a means to represent a certain form of rule-following, which is why an architect will attempt to understand both explicit and formal aspects of organizational knowledge, as well as its underlying and implicit aspects.

Note 28: Cf. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995: 58ff); as well as the concept of distributed knowledge (Langlois 2003). Drawing on philosopher John Dewey’s concept of aesthetic experience (Dewey 1934), Bell’s definition of knowledge stresses the link between action and judgement: “judgement arises from the self-conscious use of the prefix re: the desire to re-order, to re-arrange, to re-design what one knows and thus create new angles of vision or new knowledge for scientific or aesthetic purposes” (Bell 1999: 9).
Note 29: There is, however, an ongoing scientific ‘codification debate’ regarding to what extent tacit knowing can be made explicit, codified and transferred using certain media; see e.g. (Balconi et al. 2007; Cowan et al. 2000; Johnson et al. 2002).
Note 30: See e.g. (Wittgenstein 1953: §202): “And hence also ‘obeying a rule’ is a practice. And to think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule. Hence it is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’: otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same as obeying it.”