Situated Knowledge and Learning in Dispersed Teams

18 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2003

See all articles by Deborah L. Soule

Deborah L. Soule

MIT Sloan School of Management

Amy C. Edmondson

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit

Abstract

This qualitative field study explores how geographically dispersed teams learn and accomplish challenging work by drawing on knowledge situated in the multiple physical locales they span. We propose the construct of situated knowledge as important for understanding the learning process in dispersed teams. Data collected on seven development projects, each spanning multiple sites, reveal that situated knowledge is at the same time a valuable resource and a source of communication difficulty for dispersed teams. We find that, because their members understand and participate in locale-specific practices, dispersed teams can easily access and use unique locale-specific knowledge resources to resolve problems that arise in those same locales. However, when dispersed teams need knowledge situated at a site other than where the problem occurred, they must first recognize and adjust for locale-specific practices within which that knowledge is embedded before they can use it. The paper reports on analyses of 44 learning episodes that involved identifying and engaging situated knowledge, and draws from these data to identify implications for research and practice.

Suggested Citation

Soule, Deborah L. and Edmondson, Amy C., Situated Knowledge and Learning in Dispersed Teams. British Journal of Management, Vol. 13, pp. S17-S34, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=333867

Deborah L. Soule (Contact Author)

MIT Sloan School of Management ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States
617-324-9620 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/ide/

Amy C. Edmondson

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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