Archive for the ‘industry’ Category


organizational responsiveness

May 14, 2010

An Intelligent learning extended organization (IntelLEO) constitutes a temporal alliance among different organisations (industrial, research, educational etc.) in order to share knowledge and competences through cross-border learning and knowledge building (LKB) activities. In one hand, the increasing specialization of useful knowledge for design, engineering, and manufacturing of products makes it difficult for industrial organizations to rely entirely on in-house learning processes. For the evolution of industry knowledge and product domains an alliance is needed across the organizational borders. Academic organizations, such as universities, on the other hand, work intensively with innovative ideas, but in general stay separated from the actual frontiers of production and have limited access to the dynamically developed work knowledge and competences. Both types of organizations arise to bring the process of education under socially standardized set of institutional categories, norms and visions. The mutual knowledge exchange between these organizations is needed for capturing emergent opportunities in research and development and meeting the changes in the economy and social sphere. Such knowledge exchange between different types of organizations is believed to create synergy, and make both organizations better adaptable to the challenging situations.

In the IntelLEO project the focus is on increasing organizational responsiveness, by supporting LKB processes in IntelLEO. It is hypothesized that IntelLEOs are more responsive that single organizations.

March (1981) assumes that organizational response to environmental events is broadly adaptive. The processes that guide response to the challenges in organization follow the models of selection (competition and survival aspects), experiental learning (trial and error, reusing best past experiences), politics (bargaining, confrontation, coalition aspects), contagion (spreading the knowledge), and regeneration (new competences may arise in organizations). The IntelLEO project focuses on technology enhanced learning issues, therefore, experiental learning, contagion and regeneration are these processes for adaptation that could be considered more relevant.

Daft and Weick (1984) developed a broad theoretical framework for understanding organizational adaptation to environmental change. They argued that organizational responsiveness to such changes is influenced by fundamental underlying processes involving the recognition and interpretation of those changes. Interpretation of environmental changes can play a more significant role than recognition in organizational responses to environmental demands (Goodstein, 1995). The process of recognition is specifically linked with the visibility and organizational exposure of issues. Milliken and colleagues noted that: “shared organizational values provide important reference points and lenses for interpreting the significance and interconnectedness of environmental changes (1990). In the IntelLEO type of organizations, the shared values may temporarily emerge across organizational borders, changing and influencing intra-organizational norms and visions According to Goodstein (1995), organizational responsiveness is not strictly determined by the nature of environmental changes, but rather is influenced by other organizational factors that can either foster or inhibit actions. To understand these factors, it is useful to analyze different definitions to organizational responsiveness.

Figure presents the conceptual relations of responsiveness in IntelLEO.

Conceptualizations of organizational responsiveness

Responsiveness is considered an ability of an organization to detect the extra-organizational changes and to take measures to adopt to the situation both by a) making changes internally at individual action and learning level or at organizational structures and policies, and b) developing active interferences to change something in the surroundings so that it was increasing this organization’s adaptiveness.

Further, it is assumed that organizations must constantly keep themselves in the agile state, have the ability and flexibility to couple loosely with other organizations for knowledge exchanges.

Organizational responsiveness represents the ability of an organization to respond to its external environment in an appropriate manner (Clippinger, 1999). A more radical definition assumes that responsiveness is the aggressiveness of an organization’s marketplace strategy (Gresov, Haveman, and Oliva, 1993).

Bray et al., 2007 examine organizational responsiveness in the context of inter individual knowledge exchanges that influence the ability of an organization to respond in an appropriate manner to a changing environment. They define organizational responsiveness as the ability of an organization to respond in an appropriate manner to mitigate negative threats or capitalize on positive opportunities generated by an organization’s environment. For knowledge-intensive enterprises confronting challenges, organizational responsiveness represents their ability to respond to emergent opportunities or concerns (Bray et al., 2007). Bray et al. 2007 posit that the presence of knowledge exchanges represents one necessary and central enabler influencing whether an organization takes advantage of its organizational responsiveness ability. Individual employees comprise organizations, and the aggregation of individual actions contributes ultimately to organizational performance. Hence, insomuch that (1) individuals become more “fit” to their environment through knowledge exchanges, (2) and understanding one’s environment enables knowledgeable interpretation of and response to environmental issues, it follows that an organization’s cumulative ability to respond to environmental changes depends on the presence of knowledge exchanges among employees (Weick and Roberts 1993). Knowledge exchanges also allow humans to become more “fit” to their environment (Clippinger 1999). These knowledge exchanges enable adaptation to changing environmental conditions. The degree to which employees within an organization can use knowledge to adapt their actions to appropriately fit environmental conditions embodies an organization’s cumulative responsiveness (Bray et al., 2007). In general, responsiveness is an element of corporate social performance. Organizational social responsiveness encourages employees’ collaboration and knowledge creation. Bray et al., 2007 found that knowledge exploration and knowledge exploitation influence positively organizational responsiveness.

Jacobs (2003) proposes that responsiveness as a socially constructed attribute refers to the perceptual, reflective and adaptive dimension of an organization. Responsiveness refers to the ability of an organization to increase the chances for reflective conversation.
According to Jacobs (2003) organizational responsiveness provides a conceptual lens at the macro-level to reflect on strategy and organizational development. At the micro-level of responsive practices, dialogue as a reflective form of conversation allows for processes through which such responses can be collaboratively developed. Responsiveness at macro level is grounded in the communicative acts that drive and shape the individuals’ perception of the organization.

From the experiments of Jacobs (2003), organizational stakeholders refer to the notion of responsiveness as a capacity that is attributed to both the local unit as well as the overall organization. They identified three areas related to the notion of responsiveness: the need to be listened to, the experience of being understood, and the experience of some satisfying response from the organization.

Kent et al (2003) use the term mediated responsiveness and explained that more dialogically oriented an organization “appears,” the more likely an organization is to actually respond to its stakeholders.

Various terms may be considered as synonyms of responsiveness: adaptation capacity, sensibility, flexibility, elasticity and agility. The dynamical aspects of changes in organizational responsiveness may be explained using the agility and flexibility concepts.

Organizational responsiveness is based on the concept of flexibility. The literature on organizational change considers flexibility to be one of the dynamic capabilities through which firms confront change (Wright and Snell, 1998; Zajac et al., 2000). Organizational flexibility is the main capability that enables companies to face environmental fluctuations, as it makes the organization more responsive to change. Internal flexibility is the capacity of organizations to adapt to the environment, while external flexibility refers to their capacity to influence the environment and thus to reduce their vulnerability (Ansoff and Brandenburg, 1971).

The term organizational flexibility refers to the overall flexibility of an organization as a system (structure) defined by a set of resources (technology, personnel, financial resources, knowledge, . . .), processes (operations, tasks, routines, . . .) and managerial functions (strategizing, organizing, planning, leading, directing, . . .).

Organizational flexibility in the broad sense includes different kinds of flexibility:
For Aaker and Mascarenhas (1984) strategic flexibility is the ability to adapt to environmental changes. Organizations should not only adapt to a changing environment but, simultaneously, have the ability to change that environment. Being flexible also means changing the organizational environment through actions like innovation, communication and advertisement.

Structural flexibility as managerial practice, belongs to human resources management and some managerial practices can affect structural flexibility, e.g. the system of authority, job design, training, work teams, participation, personnel selection and the compensation system (Walton and Susman, 1987; Rowe and Wright, 1997; Adler et al., 1999). Flexible structures tend to be less formalized (Cohn and Turyn, 1984) and more decentralized (Overholt, 1996). Some studies have pointed out that organizational responsiveness rests less on the hierarchical command structures than on structures of self-organisation and lateral coordination. The adoption of labour flexible practices can increase organizational responsiveness.

Operational flexibility involves the activation of generally reversible short-term changes in the organization, based on the organization’s structures, current objectives, and temporary changes in the activity level.

According to Verduę and Goęmez-Gras (2009) a gap between actual and required flexibility shows indirectly the organizational responsiveness. By analyzing this gap, the lacks and excesses that can be used to assess the changes needed inside the organization and the managerial direction required may be detected. When the gap is 0 or is close to 0, the firm is in a situation of fit and we can consider the organization to be relatively responsive to environmental evolution. This can be defined as organizational responsiveness.

Goldman & Nagel (1993) argue that organizations must be agile to survive in dynamically changing environments. Furthermore, they contend that these agile organizations actually “thrive” because they are proficient at predicting changes in demand, reconfiguring their processes, sharing information across organizational boundaries and, adopting new processes ahead of their competitors. Hoyt et al. (2007) have developed the enablers of organizational responsiveness for operationalizing responsiveness: (1) scanning; (2) formal planning; (3) informal planning; (4) dynamic manufacturing flexibility; (5) static manufacturing flexibility; (6) supply chain relationships for commodity products; (7) supply chain relationships for specialty products; and (8) multi-skilled employees.
For Hoyt and Troy (2002) the agile company is: one, which operates in a dynamically changing, uncertain environment and, is relatively more successful (in terms of financial performance) than its nonagile competitors. This dynamically changing environment exhibits: (1) a high level of collective exchange mechanisms between competitors, suppliers and customers; scarce re-sources and little opportunity for growth and a high demand for organizational responsiveness and product scope.

The process of continual technological change necessitates a responsiveness to change through openness in organizational form, adaptibility by employees, and in the most positive form of permanent beta, broad participation in design (Neff & Stark, 2003). Permanently beta is the state of responsiveness in organizational form and process that mirrors innovation in products and services. It is believed that responsiveness to users in the design of products has the power to change organizational form (ibid).

Brusoni et al (2001) assume that the basis of organizational response is distributed intelligence and dispersed learning processes carried out within different organizations. IntelLEO is a temporary and dynamically changing type of alliance between organizations with different LKB cultures. In IntelLEOs certain coupling has to take place between the organizations to perform LKB. Orton and Weick (1990: 205) used the interaction of specialization (i.e. distinctiveness) and integration (i.e. responsiveness) to determine the extent of coupling across organizational units and different organizations:

If there is neither responsiveness nor distinctiveness, the system is not really a system and it can be defined as a noncoupled system. If there is responsiveness without distinctiveness, the system is tightly coupled. If there is distinctiveness without responsiveness, the system is decoupled. If there is both distinctiveness and responsiveness, the system is loosely coupled. The IntelLEO project business cases represent those loosely coupled organizations.

The concept of loosely coupled organizations are led by systems integrators. Systems integration is based on loosely coupled networks and it includes the technological and organizational capabilities to integrate changes and improvements and maintaining knowledge and activities (Brusoni, Prencipe, & Pavitt, 2001).

Without sufficient motivation to exchange knowledge, organizational processes to exchange knowledge will fail to provide any benefit – no one will enact such processes (Bray et al., 2007). Bray et al. (2007) developed a model detailing how knowledge technologies, embodied in 5 intra-organizational information systems, provide opportunities that influence individual level human motivations to engage in knowledge exchange processes, thereby influencing organizational responsiveness. This model both explains and predicts the different contributions influencing organizational responsiveness, to include knowledge technologies, employee motivations, and processes to exchange knowledge.
They demonstrate in inter-organizational situation that the opportunities afforded by knowledge technologies, coupled with motivations and processes to exchange knowledge, impact organizational responsiveness. Specifically, improved collaboration opportunities, facilitated by knowledge technologies, improve individual perceptions of formal incentives to exchange knowledge, normative values to exchange knowledge, and competence-based trust among individuals. These improved individual perceptions regarding knowledge exchanges correlate to improved knowledge exploration and exploitation. Improved knowledge exploration and exploitation processes then correlate to improved organizational responsiveness (Bray et al., 2007).

For IntelLEO project the responsiveness of an IntelLEO is corporate performance in which individuals are motivated to proactively learn and construct knowledge across organizational borders.

What allows IntelLEOs to be responsive?

Analyzing the factors that may influence organizational reponsiveness IntelLEO project assumes that it is necessary to rationalize the LKB processes involved in IntelLEOs to maximize the chances that both organizations can better respond to the challenging situations. The responsiveness may be achieved by different means by effectively combining learning and knowledge management approaches and systems for supporting sharing across the organisations’ borders, e.g. enabling cross border networking and collaboration with an extended offer of (high quality) learning content from different organizations, assuring better harmonisation of the individuals’ (employees/members of the organisations) learning objectives with the different organization’s LKB objectives, providing for individuals more intra- or interorganizational learning path descriptions directed to the organisations’ strategic objectives which could be used by individuals for self-directed learning in workplaces. Such responsiveness is difficult to achieve without technological support to the processes.

Intelleo project assumes that IntelLEO responsiveness can be increased by creating synergy between technological services that support participating in collaborative LKB activities across vertical and horizontal boundaries of the IntelLEO, and the harmonization of personal objectives of learning and creativity with the organizational LKB objectives of different IntelLEO counterparts.
It is assumed that synergy of collaborative LKB and harmonisation services makes their application in IntelLEO more user-friendly and may considerably enhance the motivation of learners to do LKB activities and therefore responsiveness of the IntelLEO increases.

The main issue is to enable an effective measurement/observation of the synergistic effects between the services from the perspective of the IntelLEO responsiveness. Responsiveness in IntelLEO is defined through increased motivation to proactively learn and construct knowledge in an IntelLEO. We rely on the findings that in intra-organizational conditions opportunities afforded by knowledge technologies, coupled with motivations and processes to exchange knowledge, impacted organizational responsiveness (Bray et al., 2007).

From the literature review presented above, we have extracted the following aspects that might increase responsiveness:
1. The presence of knowledge exchanges among employees
a. Improved collaboration opportunities
b. Knowledge exploration and knowledge exploitation processes among employees
c. Possibility for socially and collaboratively constructing responsiveness in organizations
d. Increased chances for reflective conversation and dialogues
2. Distributed intelligence and dispersed learning processes carried out within loosely coupled different organizations
3. The opportunity for employees within an organization to use knowledge to adapt their actions to appropriately fit environmental conditions

The last aspect interrelates organizational learning with self-directed learning and self-reflections.


Obstacles in implementing SECI model in organizations

January 14, 2010

The SECI model in extended organizations

Socialisation of tacit knowledge happens when individuals are prompted to accumulate knowledge through physical proximity and interaction with colleagues from different organisations in the apprenticeship manner. Individuals usually talk and share information during work processes without pre-defined shared goals, but they follow their own personal agendas. The main aims of socialisation phase are participating in social networks across various borders, talking about, sharing, shaping and taking ownership of institutional norms and visions. In this mode the organisational objectives, norms and standards should be accessible for individuals from different organizations and shareable between them in electronic format to understand the work situations and task contexts. In organizations with different cultures various official restrictions and individual preferences of sharing knowledge might hinder this cross-border networking. The biggest problem might be the missing culture of building and using personal networks and participating in cross-border communities.

Externalisation of tacit knowledge into explicit should happen when individuals are prompted to create and articulate tacit concepts through abductive thinking, the use of metaphors for concept creation, the use of models, diagrams or prototypes. For example, they could write down their plans and reflect about the activities, but they need to consider the organisational norms and expectations as guidelines in their reflections. This would make the documented individual tacit knowledge explicit, searchable for other people and usable as knowledge objects. Two simultaneous aims are important in the externalisation process: a) workers at industry and university staff need to individually reflect why, how and what they do in their professional practice, and simultaneously harmonise that knowledge with organisational visions, norms, and expected competences (e.g. accepted professional competence scales, accepted theories, etc.); b) They must be provided with the access to documents from different organisational repositories that convey information about such visions, norms and organisational expectations, and in the documentation process some commonly created ontology and mutually meaningful workflow scheme should be used to write down their experience. In the extended organisations, it would mean that individuals should plan their professional competence development (in internalization phase) considering simultaneously norms and objectives from two organisations, using ontologies that are usable across organisational borders etc. This would also mean the cross-border access to the organisational normative documents and knowledge objects created by individuals. However, it is problematic how to motivate people planning their professional development in work situations, harmonising their plans with different organisations’ expectations, externalising their tacit knowledge regularly, and sharing it publicly or semi-publicly with colleagues and supreme members of organisations.

Combination activities of explicit knowledge are primarily group-based and can be supported by organising collaborative group discussions in extended organisation, presentations and meetings, where individuals with different perspectives can ground and negotiate upon the externalised concepts and knowledge objects. The aim of the combination phase is to keep the organisational knowledge, rules and objectives updated with the real work processes and develop new norms and visions for organizations. In the combination phase of extended organisations simultaneously the individual-organisation and organisation-organisation exchange should take place. This would increase the cross-border translation possibilities and enhance the uptake of knowledge into new situations. In this mode individuals may look for collaborators and form various communities or groups that have shared goals. They should discuss about externalised knowledge objects, modify them and finalise as new knowledge object, which could in the future guide organisation’s shared practice. The problems here stand in the formation of cross-unit and cross-organisation communities, forming novel community practices in which the shared identity is formed across organisational borders.

Internalisation phase is mainly an individual planning and learning process. Two aspects are important in internalisation: a) It contains planning and externally reflecting what competencies and goals thay want to achieve, and simultaneously harmonising their plans with organisational visions, norms and expected competencies (e.g nationally accepted professional competence scales, accepted learning theories, etc.); b) planning the professional development suggest learning from other professionals’ experiences and combining it with academic knowledge it with academic knowledge. In the internalisation phase the resources created in the externalisation phase could be accessed and used for planning personal learning flows. The plans created in this phase will be realised in professional practice, discussed in the socialisation phase and the achievements would be reflected in the externalisation phase. Such interpretation of internalisation phase differs from the original SECI model, described by Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995). However, the personal planning as part of self-directed learning (Knowles, 1975) would be more effective if such plans were recorded and constantly used as scaffolds during the professional practice. The challenge in this phase is related with the application of such learning pattern schemas and search ontologies that are acknowledged in both organisations and would enable to find and learn from from others’ professional competence with least obtrusive way. The privacy of documented personal professional knowledge, of the failures and successes in the learning process, must be adobe, while enabling the reuse of the professional knowledge.

Obstacles in temporarily extended professional communities to use SECI model

There is one interesting aspect, the model is usable both for “organizations” and “communities”, however in the latter case, the border of the community is not so clearly defined. Interesting ideas are for example in Lotman’s Culture and explosion.


Professionally aimless: No wish and ability to plan appropriate paths of competence development and no habit of self-direction of professional development

Inexpressive: Not documenting professional development in self-reflective manner
(e.g. not documenting the success and failure of lesson plans, use of learning objects)

Consumerism: Habit of being provided with learning objects and teaching methodologies and not actively searching for knowledge and developing themselves learning objects and learning paths


Digitally walled: No habit of organizing automatic access to digital learning objects in community-sharable manner.

Private ownership: Missing habit of sharing knowledge with different colleagues in the fear of professional competition

Self-autonomy: Missing habit of sharing knowledge with different colleagues because of willingness to be autonomous as a teacher and pride into the uniqueness of personal competences.

Non-systematized knowledge: No habit of annotating knowledge for personal and community purposes.

Unawareness of the community: No habit of social retrieval and community browsing for professional purposes.

Not belonging: Not perceiving their role in the organization(s) (school, teachers’ community, learning sciences community) and in changing the organizational knowledge

Not aligning: Not considering official norms (competence standards), organizational ideals and expectations in planning personal professional development


Individualism: Not knowing how to find, and not wanting to find people with certain competences to socialize knowledge and work together 
in a professional community

Professional individualism: No habit of collaborating for shared goals with networking partners, with partners from different communities (such as supervison in teacher training context).

Overconfident: No habit of valuing others’ professional experiences, learning from others, trusting of others’ experiences in personal competence development.

Unconfident: Not valuing own personal professional experiences as the learning resources for others.

Feeling insecure: Fear to demonstrate one’s lack of competences to the colleagues and supreme people in organization.

Non-cooperative: no awareness of colleagues professional development, willingness to scaffold their advancements (such as commenting, sharing ideas and resources).

Group-related aspects in collaboration:
….. to be added


Closure: Missing networking culture and habit of building personal networks to socialize knowledge and work together across organizational borders
(teachers’ community such as teaching domain communities and community of learning sciences such as didactical centers, teacher-training units).

Narrow identity: Difficulty in perceiving simultaneously alignment to two communities, and no sense of the shared community identity across organizational borders (for example pre-service students do not feel as part of teachers’ community, teachers do not feel as part of learning sciences community of the university specialists).

Constrained alignment: Not considering contributing simultaneously to two communities (teachers’ community such as teaching domain communities and community of learning sciences such as didactical centers, teacher-training units).

The technological solutions to overcome barriers of SECI implementations in extended organization


Firstly, SECI knowledge management model is based on the idea of increasing individuals’ intrinsic motivation to actively learn in work context by enabling them in self-directed way to carry out their own personal learning goals within the organizational environment. Externalizing individual knowledge as digital KOs is personally meaningful because it enables to utilize and reuse own previous work experiences in new situations, and enables to monitor personal development. The motivation to create and share KOs would be increased if the amount of energy contributed on making, annotating, seeking and reusing KOs was reduced using technological support systems and services. Content/Knowledge provision services would enable to store and search for KOs. The Ontology framework would provide base for annotating KOs with metadata. In the organizational viewpoint, if published work experiences of colleagues could be accessed and searched while planning personal learning, the learner could be scaffolded indirectly by their experiences, and might be more efficient in personal learning. The motivation might rise if each individual recognized how he is contributing to the common good and gaining from the organizational knowledge. For example, the technologically supported guidance mechanisms for social retrieval such as community browsing and semantic navigation might enhance motivation. However, it is important that the services that provide content would enable individuals themselves to decide the access rights to their KOs. Tools that support planning and reflecting about work experiences, such as Learning Path creator, and User monitoring service would help to keep track of personal learning process and receive individualized suggestions. For example, user would need to sort personal or community KOs according to task relevance, personally suitable networking/collaboration partners. The users should be able to create narratives by combining various types of KOs (eg. assignments with the evidences of available human and used/developed KOs, evaluations and certificates).


Secondly, the organizational knowledge base, ideals, norms and objectives should serve as the mould for individual KO creation. The organizational policy tool should indicate organizational expectations and objectives depending of in which role is individual in an extended organization. One option to consider is instead of direct assignments, to give people freedom to choose from the organizationally expected assignments those that are personally relevant (e.g. assignment tickets). In organizations, people may be motivated to reuse more the KOs that they trust such as the KO’s suggested by organization with the Organizational Policy tool (certain learning paths, norms, official objectives, strategies, practices etc.). On the other hand, people may be motivated to reuse the KOs suggested by (recognized) organization members such as experts (e.g. documents validated and acknowledged as appropriate and useful by the community members). Using the personalized search based on User monitoring service data KOs might be automatically pulled or searched from the repositories. The possibility of annotating KOs with the organizationally accepted metadata using ontology frameworks such as Competence ontology, Activity ontology or Domain ontology enables to bring dual access points of searching these KOs across organizations independent of using organization-specific ontologies and mapping similar ontologies in temporarily connected extended organizations. The simultaneous possibility of user-determined annotation with tags enables the evolution of community-favored tagclouds, that could be in certain moments integrated to the official community ontologies. The last aspect might increase the feeling of reciprocity between individual and organization.


Thirdly, the individual networking with various organization members in an extended organization, and goal directed group collaboration with them for both organizations’ purpose serves as the intrinsic motivational trigger in IntelLEO knowledge management model. Gaining from the learning partners in both organizations’ parts, and being involved in contributing to the organizations’ knowledge change is considered intrinsically motivating. These activities could be aided with the User monitoring and collaboration traceability service in one hand, that keeps track of learner’s preferences, and the Human resource discovery service on the other hand that gives suggestions about available learning partners to network individually or to combine knowledge based on various criteria. For example, in brainstorming situations where creativity arises from translation across various domain borders the Human resource discovery service can provide access to people with different expertise necessary for mutual fertilization and synergy. In learning situations it might connect novices with those who can provide expert knowledge, allowing the emergence of scaffolding situations where the more experienced colleague can suggest certain objectives and activities to arrive the best solutions. In task situations the likeminded people in two organizations could be connected, that might increase effective teamwork. In order to constrain the search options and depending of the administratively planned role of individuals in organizations depending on their competences, an Organizational policy tool may suggest access to certain people within organizations. Trusting colleagues as experts may be higher if each networking relation or collaboration event was validated afterwards. The personal recognition in organization and visibility as an expert in certain area might provide intrinsic motivation, creating positive reputation, however the negative rating may also disencourage people to actively socialize and collaborate with other people in organizations. One important aspect in organizations may be the temporal nature of is experts’ availability to networking and collaboration events. The Human resource discovery should enable to indicate the periods of availability in relation to certain roles (e.g. as expert in scaffolding situations, as brainstorming partner). It is important to consider that enjoyment to help others in organization is dependent of time-constraints and task-relevance.


Launching IntelLEO an Extended Intelligent Learning Organization

February 18, 2009

Next three years of my work will be partly related with European IST 7th Framework Project IntelLEO. IntelLEO is an acronym for extended intelligent learning organization model – a hybrid knowledge-management model between two institutions.
I will be responsible of the Pedagogical tasks of IntelLEO.

In IntelLEO three business cases will be tested:
- Collaborative learning and knowledge-building strategy within large industrial enterprise (Volkswagen – Strak – the Computer Aided Styling of automobiles) and university
- Harmonising organisational objectives with learning and knowledge-buiding activities between business network (INI d.o.o.), university and customers
- Harmonisation of individual & organisational objectives within in-service teachers and university

In one of the conference talks i have already presented the model:

The objective of the project is to explore how the responsiveness of the learning and knowledge-building environments in an IntelLEO can be radically enhanced by advanced technology, exploiting, in an innovative way, a synergy between:

(a) services for efficient management of collaborative learning and knowledge-building activities and access to and supply of shared content, and

(b) services for harmonisation of individual and organisational objectives.

Three hypotheses of the research are:

The responsiveness of an IntelLEO is corporate performance in which individuals are motivated to proactively learn and construct knowledge.

This responsiveness can be increased:

- if individuals are technologically supported to participate in collaborative learning and knowledge-building activities across vertical and horizontal boundaries of the IntelLEO, and

- if their personal objectives of learning and creativity are dynamically harmonized with the organisational learning and knowledge-building objectives of different IntelLEO counterparts.

2. The effectiveness of the technological support that will be developed in the project to increase the responsiveness of an IntelLEO is achieved by the synergy of the two kinds of services mentioned above ((a) and (b)).

3. Learning and harmonisation of individual and organisational objectives happen at different temporal collaborative knowledge-building and learning groups of an IntelLEO.

Partners in IntelLEO project:

Institut fuer angewandte Systemtechnik Bremen GmbH
Volkswagen AG, Strak
Tallinn University, Centre of Educational Technology
Estonian Teachers’ Association
Zentrum fuer Soziale Innovation, Austria
ATOS Origin
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Organisational Sciences
INI d.o.o.
Athabasca University – School of Computing and Information SystemsAU CA

The launch of the project takes place in Bremen this week.


Information Technology and Organisations, viewing affordances

January 3, 2008

I was reading a paper that super-fits to the task what i have in hand, elaborating some pedagogical IT aspects for extended organizations formed by cross-border interactions of universities and industries. Plus, it is well in accordance with my affordance-affinity and ecological aspects of affordances:

At its core, an affordance perspective recognizes that a technological object has some recognized functionality but needs to be recognized as a social object. As a social object, its influence on organizational functioning and performance cannot be separated from expertise, jobs, processes, or structures.

Authors raise the question: How do novel combinations of IT and organizational features create new affordances and how affordances impact on organizations’ boundaries.

The article is from the special issue dealing the interrelations of technology and industries.

Zammuto, RE, Griffith, TL, et al.
Information technology and the changing fabric of organization
ORGAN SCI 18 (5): 749-762 SEP-OCT 2007

Organizing no longer needs to take place around hierarchy and the collection, storage, and distribution of information as was the case with “command and control” bureaucracies in the past. The adoption of innovations in information technology and organizational practices since the 1990s now make it possible to organize around what can be done with information. These changes are not the result of information technologies per se, but of the combination of their features with organizational arrangements and practices that support their use.

Earlier theories:Common to these models is the underlying premise that the structural forms of organization (e.g., functional, divisional, matrix) are defined by hierarchies because they specify authority relationships, determine information flows, and serve as the primary mechanism for the coordination and control of activities. Hierarchy was the original thread from which the fabric of organization was woven.

* Increasing technological complexity requires greater structural complexity for effective performance (Woodward, 1958,1965).
Woodward, J. 1958. Management and Technology. H. M. S. O., London, UK.
Woodward, J. 1965. Industrial Organization” Theory and Practice. Oxford University Press, New York.

*The number of exceptions in a work flow and the extent to which exceptions were analyzable would impact the location of discretion and power within an organization, the interdependence of work groups, and how they were coordinated (Perrow, 1967, 1970).
Perrow, C. 1967. A framework for the comparative analysis of organizations. Amer. Sociol. Rev. 32 194–208.
Perrow, C. 1970. Organizational Analysis: A Sociological View. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.

* Decision-making uncertainty could be reduced by decreasing the amount of information required through the provision of slack resources, by buffering, or by increasing an organization’s capacity to process information. Increasing information capacity could be accomplished using formal hierarchical information processes and through lateral integrating mechanisms. Galbraith (1973, 1977) saw information technology as a tool to enhance vertical information processing whereas horizontal information processing could be increased by creating linkages between people who possessed part of the information required for a specific decision-making activity.
Galbraith, J. 1973. Designing Complex Organizations. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
Galbraith, J. R. 1977. Organization Design. Addison-Wesley, Reading,MA.

The contingency theory debate about the relative merit of technology versus size and environment as determinants of organizational structure in the 1960s and 1970s.

Institutional theory (Meyer and Rowan 1977), population ecology (Hannan and Freeman, 1977), and resource dependence theory (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978).

By the mid-1990s, technology had virtually died out as a theme in the study of organizational form and function within the organization science literature.

Technology’s relationship to organizational form and function.
1996-2005 13 articles examined the relationship between IT and organizational phenomena such as communications, teams, learning, the nature of work, and interorganizational relations.

While the field’s interest in the relationship between technology and organization declined, IT’s penetration
of everyday life and the world of organizations increased dramatically.

Manufacturing resource planning (MRP) systems during the 1980s
In 1980s IT was primarily used to automate existing operations and to increase the speed of
Automation within organizational functions meant that routine information collection and storage tasks were taken over by IT, replacing paper and people with electrons, without fundamentally changing the way work was done. Managers relied on upward flows of information to surface problems with the ongoing operations and downward flows of instructions for making adjustments. Zuboff’s (1988) seminal research demonstrated, automation increased managers’ sense of certainty and control over both production and organizational functions, thereby reinforcing hierarchy.
*Productivity paradox suggested that information technology was not significantly affecting organizational form and function as reflected by outcomes.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems during the early 1990s
In 1990s research began to report a positive relationship between IT investment and productivity in industries and firms. Greater investment in IT is associated with greater productivity growth (Dedrick et al., 2003). IT as enabler of organisational changes – the wide range of performance of IT investments among different organizations can be explained by complementary investments in organizational capital such as decentralized decision making systems, job training, and business process redesign.

ERP incorporated supply chain management systems during the late 1990s, which allowed integration to occur across organizational boundaries.
These systems reduced the need to use hierarchy to manage information flowsand coordinate activities. As a result, these enterprise systems decreased the need to move information through a hierarchy, allowing people to organize around the work itself and what could be done with the information.

Process-oriented IT integration
In addition to automating work, activities, events, and objects are translated into and made visible by information (Zuboff (1988).
Opportunities for emergent patterns of interaction or, in other words, new forms of organizing. Everyone could “see” and understand the whole work flow.
Horizontal communities of work
These communities of practice organize work not through static vertical slices, but through emergent horizontal flows of work around core processes (Brown and Duguid 1991).

As IT takes over many coordination and control responsibilities from hierarchy, traditional hierarchical
views of organizational form become incomplete.
A conceptual shift—from “organizational form” to “forms of organizing”
Alternative forms of organisation:
- the adhocracy (Mintzberg 1983)
- the heterarchy (Hedlund 1986)
- the shamrock (Handy 1989)
- the boundaryless organization (Devanna and Tichy 1990),
- the hypertext organization (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995)
- the edge-of-chaos organization (Brown and Eisenhardt 1998)

We try to capture the interplay between IT and organization using the term “affordances” in the sense that new combinations of technology and organizational features continually create possibilities that affect organizational form and function.

Affordances are the result of the confluence or intertwining of IT and organizational features.
Using an affordance lens suggests that although IT and organization features may exist independently of each other, their value for explaining organizational form and function comes from how they are enacted together.
At its core, an affordance perspective recognizes that a technological object has some recognized functionality but needs to be recognized as a social object. As a social object, its influence on organizational functioning and performance cannot be separated from expertise, jobs, processes, or structures.

We describe five possible affordances—1) visualizing entire work processes, 2) real-time/flexible product and service innovation, 3) virtual collaboration, 4) mass collaboration, and 5) simulation/synthetic reality.

1. Visualizing entire work processes affordance is the ability to observe the entire work process in action from “end to end,” representing it through language, imagery, or physical artifacts to make decisions about next steps when alternative actions can be taken.
This affordance is enabled by the symbiosis of technology and organizational features. Visualization enables the collective sensemaking. This affordance makes the organizing process emergent and mutable.This affordance can make organizational boundaries more permeable yet able to be monitored.

2. Real-Time/Flexible Product and Service Creation affordance is the ability to create software-enhanced products and services by quickly recombining components in new and innovative ways. Several enabling technology features make possible the integration of components in innovative ways including web-based service-oriented architectures, standardized component designs, and open source software.Creation of a “common ground” of social action that enables people from diverse backgrounds and expertise to come together easily is needed to trigger this affordance.
Transactive memory systems is one example of shared understanding that must be able to allow for emergent cognitive structures as problem definitions and solutions dynamically evolve (Lewis et al. 2005, Majchrzak et al. 2007). Structures are needed to facilitate crossing thought world boundaries such as boundary objects that accommodate the kinds of knowledge being codeveloped among the groups (Carlile 2004), and boundary spanners of varying types to gather up information, scout out opportunities, or ward off unnecessary interference (Ancona and Caldwell 1992). These roles, coupled with help from intermediaries such as brokers, opportunity recognizers, and translators (Markus et al. 2002, Majchrzak et al. 2004), facilitate more creative mixing of the components.

3. Collaborating virtually affordance refers to the ability to share and integrate others’ knowledge when that knowledge is primarily conveyed through virtual media. Virtual collaboration can broaden participation in an organization’s work processes and decision making by including people located at its periphery.Virtual collaboration increases the potential for bringing people from different organizations and disciplines together dynamically for short periods of time.Virtual collaboration provides the opportunity to capture decision rationales and work processes as work is done, enabling future actors to reuse or learn from past work. Virtual collaboration enhances the potential for organizations to extend their boundaries.

4. The mass collaboration affordance is defined as the process by which people interact on a many-to-many basis via the Internet as opposed to a one-to-one basis (e.g., instant messaging), or a one-to-many basis (e.g., list servers) creating new unexpected content. Maintaining norms of reciprocity are critical (this is in accordance with Nonaka’s ideas of managing ba!).
A major implication of the mass collaboration affordance (like using wikis in organisation) for organizing is that it creates the potential for quickly developing temporary organizations.It affords the possibility of unbounded networks.

5. The simulation/synthetic representation affordance is defined as the capability to conduct what-if scenarios.Simulation can affect how people actually go about their work by giving them multiple simultaneous personas to play, e.g., a person may play an avatar at Toyota and a real marketing person at Toyota.


knowledge management in organisations

December 30, 2007

Was reading the book
Knowledge Creation and Management
edited by
Kazuo Ichijo
Ikuijoro Nonaka
Oxoford University Press, 2007

In 1492-1800, at globalization 1.0 period, enterprises were entering to the global markets. 1800-2000 was the period of globalization 2.0 with global competition of enterprises. Starting from year 2000 globalization 3.0 has started with newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally through knowledge work.

Why do firms differ. The theory of the knowledge-creating firm
by I.Nonaka & R.Toyama
Theories explain that differences between firms originate from imperfections of profit-maximizing like blocked barriers (cannot get certain confidential resources or mobility problems); high cost (too costly to acquire resources, high transaction costs); limited capabilities of managers (firms fall into path dependencies and are ecologically dying out).
Firms differ also because of their management vision (values, commitment of employees) differs, they envision different futures (maximizing profit versus making a good car).

It has been claimed (Teece, 2003) that firms are passive entities in the environment, that take information and produce products and services, but they merely adapt to the environment and never try to shape it. Nonaka and Toyama view firms as dynamic knowledge-creating entities that interact with the environment (an ecosystem of knowledge) reshaping the environment and even itself by creating and intaking knowledge assets and the environment as an ecoystem of knowledge and multilayered ba, through knowledge creation.

The knowledge-based theory of the firm rests on two elements:

1) basic view of human beings (human subjectivity in the company’s information-processing machine is not a noise)
The difference in human subjectivity (how we view the world) in companies helps to create new knowledge. Humans are not replaceable parts of machines. An individual transcends himself/herself through knowledge creation (Nonaka, Toyama, Konno, 2000). In organisational knowledge-creation process, individuals interact with each other to transcend their own boundaries and, as a result change themselves, others, the organisation, and the environment.

2) process of organisational knowledge creation (where knowledge includes values and ideals).
Knowledge-creation theory treats knowledge as fallible and influenced by subjective factors. However, in organisational knowledge-creation this subjective tacit knolwledge, held by individuals, is externalized into objective explicit knowledge to be shared and synthesized within and beyond organisations, and newly created knowledge is, in turn, embodied by individuals to enrich their subjective tacit knowledge. Organisational knowledge-creation is an ongoing social process of validating truth in which knowledge keeps expanding (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995).

The firm’s knowledge vision (Why do we exist and do what we do?) inspires organisation members so that they are encouraged to create knowledge and defines a consistent value system to evaluate and justify the created knowledge within the organisation. Firms need the concept/goal/action standard as a driving objective of knowledge-creating process that helps to realize the vision.

Knowledge creation is guided through the synthesis of contradictions (Nonaka & Toyama, 2003) – accepting dualities and synthesizing them through dialectical thinking and action in dialogues. Contradictions that cannot be solved through objective analysis alone can be solved by synthesizing subjective views and intuitions that have accumulated through practice.

A foundation for knowledge-creating activity is baa shared context in motion at certain time and space.At ba one can be open to the others by losing oneself, seeing itself in relation to the others, accepting their views and values. The boundary of ba must be permeable so that it can accept new contexts. Ba needs the participation of multiple perspectives.

The ecosystem of knowledge consists of multilayered ba, which exists across organisational boundaries and is continuously evolving. A knowledge-creating firm needs to manage a multilayered ba, which stretches across organisational bondaries. At the same time firm needs to protect its knowledge assets as sources of competitive advantage.

Knowledge assets are not knowledge just created but it also includes social capital that is shared in the organisations. One of the most important knowledge asset is firm-specific kata, a pattern or way of doing things in dialogues and practices. Three steps of kata, creative routines, are: shu (learn), ha (break) and ri (create).

Leadership of knowledge-creating firm requires active commitment from all members of the organisation, not just from elite members using the middle-up-down mechanisms.Middle managers break down the vision or driving objectives, create ba and lead dialogues and practices. Knowledge is the source of power that exist outside the hierarchy of organisation. Leaders provide visions, develop and promote sharing of knowledge assets, energize and connect ba, protect ba from outside contexts so that it can develop in its own contexts according to organisation vision, enable the spiral knowledge creation.

Knowledge in organisational settings.
L.Prusak & L.Weiss
Early knowledge management initiatives collected individual knowledge assets without contextualizing them in team contexts. New view of knowledge management has increased attention to the adding context to content and the group knowledge (opposite to individual knowledge) is made easier to access, secondly the social networks must be made viewable making it easier to find knowledge workers with whom to establish relationships.

Knowledge creation and Transfer. From teams to the whole organisation.
B. Büchel
There are two key measures of social networks that indicate the organisational capabilities and use of social capital: density of networks within teams, and number of external contacts. Performance is more effective if density of networks in group creates cohesive understandings, however, too cohesive groups with stabile perpectives lose effectiveness and are unable to integrate diverse perspectives from external contacts.

Knowledge transfer within organisations
D. Leonard
Transfer is always two-way.
Knowledge assets must be replicated to hold stability within firm, but understanding the core knowledge and practices these assets hold is essential to apply them in situational contexts.
Knowledge assets must be evaluated and changed through reuse in different situations.
Initiating creative fusions to cooperate at multiple levels.
Types of knowledge to be transferred: know-what, know-why, know-how, know-who.
Barriers of knowledge transfer: too rigid or too vague knowledge assets, culturally sticky knowledge (difficult to separate from source), the gap between the initial source and the receiver of knowledge assets.
Transfer is aided if knowledge is made explicit and if there is physical proximity of the knowledge source and the receiver.

Bringing the outside in
M. Mazevski & N. Athanassiou
Knowledge is personal – social networks and social capital.
Relationships may be:
strong/weak: stong relationships are built with the kind of interaction necessary for establishment of shared tacit knowledge, they are characterised by trust
flexible: participants share many areas of knowledge and expertise, they have willingness to share and learn
transferable: transferable relationships can be given to someone else, people are reluctant to transfer strong relationships unless they are aware that new contact is worthy
power: power is the access to resources that are important and scare, powerful relationships provide access to such resources.
satisfying: if needs are fulfilled reciprocally

Human resources management and knowledge creation
M. Osterloch
Creating synergies constitutes collective good that can be used by people who have not contributed their share to its production.
In contrast to manual teamwork, pure knowledge teamwork raises productivity of the team if different knowledge is dispersed among different people (Hayek, 1945).
The result of knowledge teamwork is at least in part new explicit knowledge that can be used by others outside the team.
Knowledge workers in teams have more bargaining power than manual workers do, the people cannot be easily replaced.
Motivation is the key of knowledge work:
- enjoyment based intrinsic motivation: the individual acts as homo ludens (Huizinga, 1986), pleasure is derived from activity itself and not from compensation, flow experience
- prosocial intrinsic motivation takes into account the well-being of others, the welfare of the community, people want to contribute to common good of their community or company
extra-role behaviour: willingness to cooperate, willingness to keep organisational citizenship behaviour (protecting other members if rules are violated)
How to increase intrinsic motivation:
The perception of autonomy decreases if people perceive that their self-determination is reduced when doing intrinsically interesting activity. They feel that they are not the origins of their behaviour.
Feeling of competence grows if individuals understand what they are doing and when they feel responsible for outcome. If people feel that they are competent, they make greater contributions to the community (Kollock, 1998). But individuals must get positive feedback about the outcome of their contributions that does not eclipse their feeling of autonomy. Feedback must be perceived as supporting not controlling. Second, individuals must believe that their participation is important for the provision of the community good. Feedback, whether other members have received and used the contributions, and training possibilities are important. Providing opportunities to personal contacts increases motivation.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.