Knowledge Work and Organisational Learning

In this paper it is argued that the terms, knowledge work, knowledge workers, and knowledge intensive firms point to emerging social structures and processes in organisations. This focus allows us to analyse organisations in ways that differ from the notions involving less dynamic forms of organisational configurations. It is further argued that the emphasis on knowledge in organisations raises a fundamental question of learning, i. e. how knowledge workers acquire relevant competencies. However, the answer to this depends on how organisational life and work are understood and conceptualised. Three foci are suggested, organisations viewed through their use of technology, the division of labour, and the social interactions in organisations. These three foci relate to different understandings of learning, namely learning as cognition, as situated, and as the reconstruction of experiences. To illustrate both the emphasis on knowledge and the different perspectives on learning, a case study will be presented.

Introduction: Recently, there has been a growing interest in viewing organisations as places of knowledge creation (Nonaka 1994) and as knowledge systems (Pentland 1995). It has been argued that the term, knowledge management (Alavi & Leidner 1999,¬†Liebowitz and Wilcox 1997), has replaced the popular term, the learning organisation, when it comes to counting publications (Scarbrough, Swan & Preston 1999). The focus on knowledge in organisations can be traced, both on a societal and an organisational level, to the still more encompassing use of information and communication technologies (ICT) (Bell 1973, Zuboff 1988)…

Author: Bente Elkjær

Source: Copenhagen Business School

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