This session continued from the last session’s discourse on McDermott’s six characteristics of knowledge. There was a broad agreement with concepts like knowing is a human act, that knowledge is a residue of thinking and that knowledge belongs to the present moment.
But there were contentious issues raised on the point that knowledge belongs to communities. Knowledge might belong to communities but the importance of communities in knowledge generation is debatable. Communities help disseminate knowledge but to be a knowledge producer needs more than to be a member of communities of practice. A true genius who produces knowledge needs an ability to consume existing knowledge and then brood over it, connect the dots and generate new insights to come out with a radically different thought process.
Being a member of communities can also be a distraction as it opens one to different viewpoints and can cause confusion. To produce knowledge it is important to remain focussed and on course. If Einstein, instead of sitting and brooding in his small patent office room would have been a professor in university or a petty manager in an organisation, would he been able to postulate theory of relativity? It is quite a possibility that being an active member of community Einstein might have had enough distractions and would not been in position to think and deliberate over the existing knowledge which is a prerequisite for knowledge creation.
Next the case studies for the session were discussed.
Kirkpatrick’s article on Groupware was adjudged to be a PR brochure for Price Waterhouse and was found to be full of triumphant rhetorical claims about the efficiency and core competency of PWC in using these groupware solutions. The article claims that PWC is a competent user of Groupware technologies and can help it’s clients become more efficient with the usage of such technologies. This article presents an example where Groupware usage has been a presented as a success story.
Kirkpatrick – Groupware goes boom.pdf (1.154 MB)
Kirkpatrick, D. (1993), “Groupware goes boom”, in Fortune, Vol. 128
The next article from Orlikowski presents a case where Groupware implementation was a failure. Seamus in-fact claimed that the implementer in the article actually was PWC though it is not explicitly mentioned in the article. So these two articles represents two cases at opposite spectrums highlighting both success as well as failure of groupware implementations.
Orlikowski – Learning from Notes.pdf (3.338 MB)
Orlikowski, W. J. (1993). “Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation.” The Information Society 9: 237-250
Seamus then gave a background on the next article which was written by Seamus himself. It represented a case where groupware was implemented in a firm with radically different outcomes in different locations within the same firm. In most locations the implementation was a failure but in one particular location it was a success and it was due to the fact that the leader there had already invested in community building and was ready to take on responsibility for any adverse consequences with the usage of this new technology.
An interesting point raised by Seamus was around the theory of Gift giving and how it is related to the community building within an organisation. Inside an organisation people help each other, in fact they gift their or their teams expertise to other teams. There is a sense of obligation in these exchanges and that makes different teams help each other in different circumstances. But most of the groupware systems built for organisations ignore this concept of obligation and does not represent reality.
Another concept is the disconnect between management and workforce. The management wants to implement groupware as it wants to gain insight into the functions of the workforce but what is there in it for the workforce to input those details into the groupware systems.
Also to build successful communities of practice it is important that there is a core group of experts who exchange as well as enjoy information & knowledge sharing among themselves. And then and only then there will be something for junior members in the knowledge sharing process.
Kelly & Jones
Kelly, S. and Jones, M. (2001), “Groupware and the social infrastructure of communication”, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 44, No. 12, pp. 77-79.
The articles from Walsham & Hofman were discussed briefly as these just reiterated the concepts already raised in previous articles.
Hayes & Walsham
Hayes, N. and G. Walsham (2001). “Participation in groupware-mediated communities of practice: a socio-political analysis of knowledge working.” Information and Organization 11(4): 263-288.
Orlikowski & Hofman
Orlikowski, W. J. and J. D. Hofman (1997). “An improvisational model for change management: The case of groupware technologies.” Sloan Management Review(Winter): 11-21.
The Boeing article was discussed in detail as it represented a successful implementation of collaborative practices in a group with Boeing that helped with an extremely successful outcome. But article was debatable as it claimed 3 KSFs for successful collaboration within an organisation
- Strategy-Setting: Establishing an umbrella agreement in advance of team formation
- Technology Use: Using collaborative technology not only to collaborate but also to manage knowledge
- Work Restructuring: Restructure work processes without changing the core creative
needs of the team
But most of the collaborative teams uses in some degree these three success factors but still they fail dramatically. So there is something beyond these KSFs, perhaps how well these KSFs were used within the team and what is missing in the article is this insight on how they managed to use these KSFs so well to achieve the successful outcome.
Also during the deep dive it was concluded that the principles behind these 3 KSFs are just representation of Agile methodology and team was using Agile processes without explicitly knowing it.
Malhotra et al
Malhotra et al – boeing rocketdyne case misq.pdf (366.835 KB)
Malhotra, A., Majchrzak, A., Carman, R. and Lott, V. (2001), “Radical innovation without collocation: a case study at Boeing-Rocketdyne”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 229-249.