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Knowledge Buyers, Sellers and Brokers: The Political Economy of Knowledge

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  • Larry Prusak and Don Cohen present a theory that knowledge in the organization has the same attributes as a tangible asset and is therefore governed by similar market forces. The paper outlines both the market players: buyers, sellers and brokers, and the necessary conditions for the market to function: a pricing system, scarcity, trust and market signals. They also explore market inefficiencies and non-market benefits of knowledge. The authors recommend that once managers understand the market fundamentals, they can influence any of the functions in order to make the market more efficient and effective; they identify some of the ways to influence the market conditions. 

  • A few of the conditions for the knowledge market to function and means of influencing the market are explored in other CBI research. Trust is explored in greater detail in the paper Building the Knowledge-Based Organization: How Culture Drives Knowledge Behaviors. Market signals are related to research found in the paper Leveraging Knowledge for Business Value: Creating Living Knowledge Representations through the Power of Communities and in the presentation entitled Social Network Analysis as Part of a Larger Knowledge Management Initiative.
    Leveraging Knowledge for Business Value: Creating Living Knowledge Representations through the Power of Communities

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  • Research on knowledge management and knowledge based business has found considerable evidence that there is no silver bullet for this type of work. There are many different ways to achieve objectives for managing organizational knowledge, and many companies combine approaches to better align the work with their particular strategy. This paper puts forth the theory that knowledge representations provide greater value to the organization if they are linked to a community of practice. Rudy Ruggles and Tia Gierkink explore the attributes and values of both representations and communities of practice individually, then pose three theories for combining the two to enhance the overall benefits of the knowledge initiative. Looking at four cases, the authors are able to outline critical steps to successfully integrating the two approaches. 

  • There is coverage of a working session on this topic, featuring Chris Argyris, in Groundwork V.2 N.5. Susan Stucky of the Institute for Research on Learning discusses her work with communities of practice in both Groundwork V.2 N.3 and the Appendix to the February Learning Conference Work Product. A great discussion with Patricia Seemann on Hoffman-LaRoches experience in developing their knowledge representation can be found in Groundwork V.2 N.1.
    Social Network Analysis as Part of a Larger Knowledge Management Initiative

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  • Social networks are informal webs of individuals existing within an organization that are often critical to the completion of everyday work. Karen Stephenson is a researcher in social network analysis and believes that understanding these organizational linkages is an important way to study tacit knowledge that is used or exchanged in order to perform work most effectively. Eric Darr describes the KBB solution Teams use of social network analysis in an initiative to facilitate better knowledge sharing within and between a major OEM and its suppliers. He describes the context in which this tool was used, how the data was analyzed, and how the results led to three major areas of opportunity to impact the bottom line.  

  • For a further discussion on the topic of Social Networks, please read the February Learning Conference Work Product. Chris Meyer discusses general network attributes that relate to knowledge; Karen Stephenson introduces social networks with an overview of the attributes and the ways organizations can derive value from understanding how they work; and Erics presentation is covered in greater depth.
    Knowledge Representation

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  • Peter Novins puts forth his ideas regarding general knowledge representations to manage organizational knowledge and knowledge maps specifically as a major form of representing knowledge. He provides an overview of precursors to mapping knowledge and ways that such maps provide value. There are three major types of knowledge maps: pointer models, linkage models and solution models. Peter covers the characteristics and attributes of each, as well as their pros and cons, and includes company examples to provide context and situations in which they have proven successful. 

  • Hoffman LaRoche provides a good case in knowledge mapping. The case study version, Real-World Knowledge Management: Whats Working for Hoffman-LaRoche, explains how Roche created their map and what benefits they received, while a discussion with Patricia Seemann, architect of Roches project, provides further information. In Groundwork V.2 N.1, she talks about the difference between a process and product orientation and the relationship between the map and the people who use it. In the paper, Leveraging Knowledge for Business Value: Creating Living Knowledge Representations through the Power of Communities, CBI researchers explore the combination of knowledge maps and communities of practice.
    Improving Knowledge Work Processes

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  • This paper explores knowledge work from a process orientation, drawing from research that has been done in reengineering operational and administrative work. Tom Davenport observes that process improvement approaches and methods for knowledge work can be understood in terms of a continuumfrom a reengineering style on one end to a laissez-faire approach on the other. He identifies characteristics of the two ends of the continuum and lays out guidelines by which to determine the appropriate knowledge change strategy. A Sloan Management Review article features this research combined with research highlighted in the CBI working paper, Building Successful Knowledge Management Projects; this article outlines five orientations of knowledge in processes and prescribes strategies from the guidelines mentioned above. You can order a reprint of this article by calling the CBI directly at 617-761-4000. 

  • There is a related presentation entitled The Processes and Practices of Knowledge Management in which Tom Davenport reviews what he believes are the 7 factors for success in knowledge work. In Groundwork V.2 N.5, Tom Davenport discusses his research for his two most recent books, Information Ecology and Working Knowledge.
    The Processes and Practices of Knowledge Management

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  • Tom Davenport presented highlights from his research that contributed to two CBI working papers, Improving Knowledge Work Processes and The Processes and Practices of Knowledge Management. He reviews knowledge processes in relation to seven factors: what is knowledge, types of knowledge, how to manage knowledge, the role of processes, infrastructure, and incentives and motivators, and measures of success.  

  • For a further understanding of the topics put forth in this presentation, please read the working papers listed above. There is also an article in Groundwork V.2 N.5 in which Tom describes his research for his two most recent books, Information Ecology and Working Knowledge.
    Building Successful Knowledge Management Projects

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  • This paper examines the knowledge management project as a combination of people, technology, and knowledge content. The authors studied such projects in many organizations, as well as several projects within one organization. Their findings were that knowledge management projects could be grouped according to four main objectives; these groups actually led to later, more in-depth CBI research into areas such as knowledge representations, lessons learned and culture. The authors observe that firms often combine more than one objective in their projects; this suggests that although from a research standpoint it is useful to separate these groups, organizations likely realize greater value by integrating the objectives. They are able to identify common factors that lead to success.  

  • In a related article appearing in the Journal, Issue 1, different authors offer a prescription for categorizing organizational knowledge in order to help determine what is the best focus for a knowledge management project or initiative. This article is titled Choosing Your Spots for Knowledge Management. In Groundwork V.2 N.7, there is an excellent case description of a knowledge management project at R.W. Johnson PRI.
    Simulating the Impacts of Knowledge Policies

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  • Kai Shih provides a comprehensive introduction into agent-based simulations as a new tool for evaluating and understanding business issues. As is true of most business innovations, they are grounded first in scientific discoveries, followed by technological advances, then translated into use in business practice. Agent-based modeling is an example, which goes beyond evaluation based on aggregate averages to allow a model to account for heterogeneous individuals. Given the tacit nature of knowledge, such a model could be the best way to understand tradeoffs inherent in knowledge sharing policies. In this presentation, Kai discusses a few ways to use these models: he combines conditions required for learning to occur and external environmental conditions to estimate the impacts of implementing an intranet on both individual and organizational measures of success. 

  • For a more specific application of simulation to a knowledge management problem, please see the presentation entitled Learning and Churning: A Simulation. For an understanding of simulation in comparison to other knowledge management tools, please see the presentation entitled Tool Time: The Next Generation. 
    Learning and Churning: A Simulation

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  • As is laid out in the presentation Simulating the Impacts of Knowledge Policies, agent-based modeling is an important new way to look at issues that surround knowledge management. Chuck Sieloff of Hewlett-Packard and Kai Shih of Ernst & Young teamed up to create a model based on Hewlett-Packards interrelated hiring practices, human resource and organizational policies, and culture to better understand the impact these have on the firms knowledge growth and recruiting requirements. The question leading to this exploration is based on the idea of free agency as a model for high-tech company employees; HP is unique in the high-tech industry for its policy of hiring for loyalty in order to create and build knowledge internally. HP is interested in understanding both the costs and benefits of their policies and practices given certain conditions in the resource market and growth in the industry. 

  • As a supplement to this presentation and for a more detailed description of the issues they explored, please read the February 1998 Learning Conference Work Product section entitled Learning and Churning. For background on simulation as a tool in knowledge management, please see the presentation Simulating the Impacts of Knowledge Policies.
    Knowledge Tools: Using Technology to Manage Knowledge Better

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  • A major area of focus for many organizations is the installation of technology to help support many areas of business effectiveness, including knowledge management. This paper takes an in-depth look at the technological tools that can be used in the automation and augmentation of knowledge management at the organizational level. Rudy Ruggles lays out a definition of knowledge management tools, especially in contrast to data or information management tools and describes tools for the generation, codification, and transfer of organizational knowledge. He also gives examples of specific tools and how they are used. It is important to remember that technological tools must be implemented with certain goals in mind and aligned with cultural fundamentals to support knowledge activities 

  • In conjunction with this paper, Rudy developed a Bibliography of Knowledge Management Tools that represents a wide range of viewpoints on technologies and knowledge management and includes materials spanning more than 10 years. There is also a presentation on this topic entitled Tool Time: The Next Generation. Additionally, in Groundwork V.1 N.2, Wanda Orlikowski of the MIT Sloan School discusses her research into the interrelationships between technologies and organizational routines and practices. In Groundwork V.1 N.1, there is a description of Hewlett-Packards knowledge sharing experience using the grapeVINE technology. Also, Bob Bauer of Xerox PARC gave an overview of their work in using technologies for collaboration in Groundwork V.2 N.3. The case study on British Petroleums Virtual Teamwork Program is an excellent example of using a combination of tools to meet a large organizational goal.
    Tool Time: The Next Generation

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  • Rudy Ruggles gave a presentation on knowledge management tools as part of his research into technologies and knowledge. He covers tools as enablers of a larger knowledge management strategy and defines tools and their applications in knowledge management. He also gives an outlook into attributes of good and bad tools and perspectives from economics, sociology and politics that are relevant in understanding tools and how individuals use them. He includes company examples, broad techniques, specific technologies and software tools, and future trends and forward-looking applications in action. 

  • Other outputs of this research topic include a research paper, Knowledge Tools: Using Technology to Manage Knowledge Better, and a Bibliography on Knowledge Management Tools. Additionally, in Groundwork V.1 N.2, Wanda Orlikowski of the MIT Sloan School discusses her research into the interrelationships between technologies and organizational routines and practices. In Groundwork V.1 N.1, there is a description of Hewlett-Packards knowledge sharing experience using the grapeVINE technology. Also, Bob Bauer of Xerox PARC gave an overview of their work in using technologies for collaboration in Groundwork V.2 N.3. The case study on British Petroleums Virtual Teamwork Program is an excellent example of using a combination of tools to meet a larger organizational goal.
    Bibliography of Knowledge Management Tools

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      Rudy created a compilation of articles, books, papers, and world wide web sites while conducting his research. Practitioners interested in a further discussion on knowledge management and technology can consult this bibliography for guidance on leading thinkers and ideas in this area. The selections have been taken from relevant research disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, sociology, business, and information and library sciences. This bibliography is a subset of the larger A Bibliography of Knowledge in Organizations.