knowledge in organisations
People need to link their knowledge to the working condition. If the company
really wants knowledge-based tactics then they need to take this into account.
You cannot manage learning if the persons are not allowed to have their
critically reflective, their interactive relations at work. We have been
looking into knowledge-intensive R&D units. The employees said that
the most crucial factor for problem solving was the possibility for action
and interaction and the informal learning environment.
issue is the process of understanding and knowledge handling. There are
different professional identities: the economist, the technical person,
the designer... A lot of problems arise in interacting and understanding
each other. Various people come up with ideas and suggestions, they want
to be creative. The companies have to govern the means and relate these
ideas. In our investigation it was discovered that the short time frame
of innovation in the company didn't allow to take ideas on board. This
was despite all the efforts from the management to create instruments which
focus on knowledge. So the people felt that their ideas were unrightfully
I would like to pick up on the theme of sharing knowledge and the need
to create understanding between different disciplines and professions.
I have been studying this situation in the health care sector. Hospitals
are run by different professions: there are doctors, nurses, paramedics
- in fact about 12 or 13 major professions. Each of these defines its identity
on the basis of possessing some specialist knowledge, and there is a very
real need to improve inter-professional understanding.
I completed a study of errors in hospitals in the north of England. For
12 months we collected data on all the human errors that occurred – medical
accidents affecting patients or ‘near misses’ that threatened patient safety.
We analysed the causes of these accidents. Among the commonest causes were
failures of understanding between the different professions. So this is
a really big problem.
the UK there have been several initiatives to try and improve the situation,
and these tend to focus on what they call inter-professional education.
Members of different professions go on courses together, they share their
knowledge and receive a common core education, so that (for example) the
ambulance driver understands the principles of diagnosis and therefore
understands what the doctor is doing. Huge sums of money have been spent
on these courses, and the government is very keen to put a lot of pressure
behind these courses.
my assessment of the situation is that they are having very little effect
on the existing poor levels of inter-professional understanding, because
if you analyse the situation what you find is a very powerful political
force working against this. Each of the professions defines its identity
on the basis of possessing knowledge of a distinctive kind. As a
matter of fact, situations can be found in which the doctors are unwilling
to share their knowledge with the nurses, and similarly the nurses are
unwilling to share their knowledge with the health case assistants.
point is this: One of the trends that is occurring at the moment is the
growth of the knowledge society, which implies a wide sharing of knowledge.
But there is another trend going on at the same time, and this is sometimes
called 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. Initiatives such as inter-professional
education seem to me relatively unlikely to have much effect on this structural
change in society. So I think that in this cluster we need to look at one
of the things that has already been mentioned, which is that knowledge
is power and that knowledge is not going to be shared as easily as many
people hope it will be.
I agree very much, and therefore we should not be trapped with this modernistic
model where we have this underlying consensus perspective that everyone
is in the same boat.
A British colleague told me about a company which has quite a turnover
of employees in order to get new knowledge through the newly employed people.
Often we have companies which keep their people in order to deepen the
knowledge and accumulate it all the time. So companies seem to look at
knowledge and knowledge sharing in different ways.
This also shows how social constructs are embodied in local contexts and
Cluster: Fiesole Oct 01