Exploring the Foundations of Organisational Knowledge: An Emergent Synthesis Grounded in Thinking Related to Evolutionary Biology
actKM Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, October 23-24, 2007
22 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2011
Date Written: March 10, 2011
Prevailing views about what constitutes organisational knowledge need to be systematically evaluated at deep epistemological levels. We argue there is a need is to establish a new paradigm comprising of both a theoretical and an ontological foundation for thinking about knowledge epistemologies. We think, along with Bill McKelvey, (1997, 2002) that the “science of management” as it relates to organisations seems to be greatly wanting.
Our approach is based on an evolutionary theory of knowledge contained within Karl Popper’s later epistemological works beginning with his 1972 “Objective Knowledge – an evolutionary approach” and a framework of organisational theory based on Maturana and Varela's concept of self-producing complex systems ("autopoiesis"). We have drawn upon this combined approach in order to understand how best to integrate understandings of personal and objective knowledge and the notion of “living organisations” into a new paradigm of organisational knowledge.
A model that is congruent with this new paradigmatic approach is detailed and discussed. This model is designed to provide a general overview of the different types of knowledge that give rise to organisational knowledge.
Importantly, we highlight that all explicit knowledge held in organisations encoded in analogue or digital objects is in fact inert. Such knowledge cannot be regarded as “living knowledge” unless the filter of human interpretative intelligence is applied to generate meaning from these knowledge objects or, increasingly, unless such intelligence is built into dynamic processes and systems within the organisation. Therefore, we claim that the human aspects of managing knowledge are of fundamental and primary importance. We suggest that the metaphor of “organisational boundary as membrane” is an important element of organisational knowledge. This is because different types of flows and exchanges that cross the boundaries of organisations over periods of time are fundamental to how an organisation sustains its ability for self production and self-control. We claim, in conclusion, that these features of organisational knowledge have crucial implications for how different types of knowledge are best managed.
This paper relates to a power point presentation made at the actKM National Conference. The ideas presented form part of a wider project related to group of collaborators interested in knowledge management, organization theory, autopoiesis and Karl Popper's evolutionary epistemology.
Keywords: Organizational knowledge, evolutionary epistemology, Karl Popper, explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge, formal knowledge
JEL Classification: D21, D29, D83, L15, L23, 031
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation