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Issue Sharing knowledge in organisations
Outline [YK:] 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.
Another 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 dismissed.
Debate [NB:] 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.
Recently 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. 
In 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. 
Unfortunately, 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.
My 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.
[YK:] 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.
[GL:] 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.
[YK:] This also shows how social constructs are embodied in local contexts and cultures.
Event E&T Cluster: Fiesole Oct 01
Descriptors D-KM  EP10          V11
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO