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  Knowledge sharing as both managerial and participatory approach
   
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  Knowledge management/ knowledge sharing and creating a learning culture are key issues for European companies [R08]. 

Learning is related to both sides of knowledge: codified and tacit knowledge. The learning economy is characterised by continuous drives towards codification, due to the expansion of infrastructures and ICTs which allow effective and low-cost transmissions of knowledge. But tacitness appears as the real key element for effective exploitation of innovative opportunities and abilities [V12].

One of the trends at present is the growth of the knowledge society, which implies a wide sharing of knowledge. Another trend is the professionalisation of society: occupations are turning into professions which define their identity by their access to a special kind of knowledge, and the boundaries between different occupational groups are getting stronger all the time. We need to realise that knowledge is power and that knowledge is not going to be shared as easily as many people hope it will be [V11].

Studies on knowledge management across Europe have come up with the following points:

  • questioning whether organisations can really 'manage' knowledge, unless they accept the different learning strategies of individual employees, and accept the socially constructed nature of the learning process;
  • recognising the essential importance of equal attention to 'people processes' (especially culture change, training, education and facilitation) as well as technology for successful knowledge management [R17].
The concept of 'social shaping of technology and work' arising from German tradition includes the following features: a high degree of control by the workforce of the work environment ensures productivity and conditions of continuous learning; workers are developing 'work process knowledge'; the workers' role is strengthened by an occupational identity [R13].

The development of work process knowledge has been characterised as follows:

  • Work process knowledge is constructed in the workplace at the time of use. It may be generated by resolving contradictions between explicit work-related knowledge and the worker's direct experience of working conditions. 
  • Much work process knowledge in organisations is tacit, because it is embodied in personal experience and social networks. However, it can be identified, analysed and expressed in ways that can serve as cognitive tools for performing work and generating further knowledge in the workplace.
  • Much work process knowledge is held collectively, and can best be viewed as one aspect of the culture of the workplace. Thus in an important sense, it is owned by the workforce [E12a].
  • Several means of promoting work process knowledge have been identified, incl. self managing teams, participative work re-design, job splitting and 'design discourses' [E12b].
Knowledge which formerly belonged to the individual worker or a group of individuals is objectified in two ways: it is objectified through a process of generalising individual knowledge and it is objectified through artefacts, for instance this operation manual by which knowledge can be stored in a memory of the organisation [V24].

A methodology has been developed for the purpose of creating mutual gain through knowledge sharing (KALIF) [E06a]. Practice shows that knowledge sharing in organisations faces the challenge of profound change (removing boundaries of the organisational units by bringing about a real community of practice), the issue of trust (getting the credit for the input of knowledge made), and the challenge of measurement (evaluating the effects of the application) [E06b]. 

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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO