KM Forum Archives -- The Early Days

KM ForumBibliography & Reviews

This section of the Knowledge Forum Archive includes a knowledge management bibliography and reviews of KM related publications. As with most of the Archives, this page was last updated in mid 1996

Journals Books and articles Reviews

The KM Forum Bibliography

Journals of Interest:

The International Journal of Human-Computer Studies

The International Journal of Human-Computer Studies is a scholarly journal published monthly by Academic Press. IJHCS was founded as the International Journal of Man-Machine Studies (IJMMS) in 1968 by Barrie Chaplin, Brian Gaines and John Gedye at the University of Essex. It originally published 400 pages a year on a quarterly basis. It has grown over the years until today it publishes some 2,700 pages a year on a monthly basis. In 1989, IJMMS spun off a sister journal, Knowledge Acquisition, which published 6 annual volumes of some 400 pages a year. In 1994, IJMMS updated its name to become the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, and in 1995 it reabsorbed Knowledge Acquisition.

The Journal of Mind and Behavior

The Journal of Mind and Behavior (JMB) is dedicated to the interdisciplinary approach within psychology and related fields - building upon the assumption of a unified science. Mind and behavior position, interact, and causally relate to each other in multidirectional ways; JMB urges the exploration of these interrelationships. Contains a very good search engine for searching abstracts.

Books and Articles of Interest:

At the suggestion of Denham Gray, we will be updating this list with ISBN numbers as time permits.

Reviews of Knowledge Management Related Publications.

FutureWork: Putting Knowledge to Work in the Knowledge Economy

By Charles D. Winslow and William L. Bramer
Published by Andersen Consulting:The Free Press, 1994. 382 Pages including notes, glossary, and bibliography. Suggested retail price $26.95.

Note: This review was created within the framework of D. Bob Gowin's Vee Heuristic for knowledge development .

Initial Observations (data):
FutureWork focuses on Andersen Consulting's Integrated Performance Support (tm) (IPS) system. A general description of performance support systems is provided. The authors imply that performance support systems and IPS specifically can help make knowledge workers better equipped to provide high-quality customer service. The premise is supported that knowledge will become a capital asset. Considerable emphasis is placed on the importance of the "performance-centered enterprise." The authors support the differentiation between data, information, and knowledge. Several brief case studies have been included to illustrate points made.

Observations in Context (information):
This book provides, what I assume, is a good general introduction to Andersen Consulting's IPS system and the philosophies behind it. However, the single-minded focus on IPS as "the" breakthrough technology places the book closer to a very long sales brochure then a text on knowledge management. Other than a few brief "case studies," which we are led to assume were based on implementations of IPS, the book documents little theoretical or empirical work that furthers the field of knowledge management. Even as a text on IPS, the book only provides a general introduction to the technology and expected benefits. Considerable space is given over to quotes and references to the views of other writers. These references support the general notions that knowledge will be the capital of the future, that the role of workers will change to that of a "knowledge worker," and that technology supporting knowledge workers will need to differ from that provided by current transaction based IM systems. This is not new ground. While in the later chapters, the authors do provide some nice examples of the distinctions between data, information, and knowledge, several key elements of what I consider a well-balanced treatment of the topic are given only passing mention. These include such topics as the recognition of knowledge factors required to enable specific actions or decisions and the processes by which knowledge is developed and validated

Recommendations (Knowledge Claims and Value Claims):
Based on Andersen Consulting's name recognition, the book might be viewed by some as an authoritative source on the role of knowledge in the work place. This may be of value for those trying to interest upper management or clients in exploring knowledge management solutions, but, it could also cause problems. Due to the authors' bias toward the IPS solution and the lack of supporting theory it could foster either a tendency to see technology (even IPS) as the only viable solution or that knowledge management is another "silver bullet" with little substance behind it.

Reviewed by Brian (Bo) Newman, December 28, 1995. Your comments are welcomed.

Organizational Epistemology

By Georg von Krogh and Johan Roos.
New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1995, 214 pp., $49.95, cloth [ISBN: 0-312-12498-8].

Reviewed by Thomas Bertels, Fernuniversitt Hagen, Germany

Organizational learning and knowledge creation are fashionable topics in these days, and one should guess that the theoretical grounds of this field cannot offer something new as this has been discussed for quite a while now. Organizational Epistemology offers something new indeed: a thrilling new understanding of corporate knowledge creation by applying the concepts of autopoiesis and chaos theory to the question: "How do organizations create and develop their intellectual capital, their knowledge?"

The book starts with a detailed examination of how this subdiscipline of philosophy has been approached before. Epistemology tries to answer the question by which processes do individuals or social entities come to know of the world and what nature this knowledge has. The authors discuss the cognitivist and the connectionist epistemology from a philosophical point of view before introducing a general overview on autopoiesis, a theory derived from biology. The application of autopoiesis to the process of organizational knowledge creation, related to the four dimensions of autopoietic systems, (1) autonomy, (2) being simultaneously open and closed, (3) self-reference and (4) observation as the only mode to characterize an autopoietic system, implies a rather new understanding of organizations: they are no longer seen as objects in a stimulus-response-scheme with the focus of knowledge creation in presenting an objective, true picture of the outside world (cognitivistic point of view) but as self-producing units with an identity and a history which shapes the amount of new knowledge to be gained. The stress on history is important because it is the starting point for any development of the organization (a topic previously discussed in Scott-Morgan's book on the unwritten rules), therefore history is important but nevertheless often missed when discussing organizational change.

The most important feature of autopoietic systems is that they are living systems - this might sound trivial but every approach who does not understand organizations from a mechanistic point of view is an enrichment. Knowledge is created within the system and by the system itself: the outside world may have an impact but the authors stress the fact that every form of evolving knowledge is unique because it is part of the particular system which generated the knowledge. The process through which the autopoietical system and the world outside this system are connected - structural coupling - offers a complete new understanding of the fact that some organizations are more successful than others: the reasons are not the different inputs from an outside system but the different rules organizations have to manage the linkage with the outside world and to deal with these inputs.

The relation between organizational and individual knowledge creation is made by introducing an understanding of scaling which links individual and organizational knowledge. Scaling is the tool to conceptualize how an individual autopoietically produces new knowledge similar to the way a group or organization produces knowledge. At various scales of observation these systems (individual, group, organization) show autopoietical characteristics as mentioned above.

The authors understand the process of language as essential for creating socialized meaning and knowledge in organizations : "The world is brought forth in language" (p. 95). The importance of language for the process of knowledge creation and change in the organizational knowledge may be overestimated as the authors do not mention other settings in which organizational knowledge is created and developed as e. g. nonverbal behavior which very often has a stronger impact on the socialization of the organization's members. The authors discuss use of knowledge very detailed and offer an approach deeply rooted in philosophy. The central idea of socialized knowledge is to allow for rules and language that give way for effective action. Knowledge is created by playing language games according to certain rules. These games depend on the rules which provide the context to develop new rules and therefore new knowledge. When managers talk about the future they must use the present language and can only start from this to invent a new language which reflects new knowledge, and new rules in order to change the games. Therefore von Krogh and Roos introduce an observational scheme to distinguish types of different arguments in conversations - functional, temporal, value and intertwined arguments - and the logic of arguments used. An excellent section examines the different kinds of tacit warrants existing in organizations: "Hence, socialized knowledge allows for less to be said than what is known." (p. 119). The focus on the language reveals the amount of implicit assumptions and makes sensitive for the hidden world under the surface in everyday's organizational discussions. The authors show some conversation examples which exhibit the amount of meaning transported in everyday's conversations in organizations. The scheme introduced to examine the hidden warrants - distinguished as (1) definitional warrants who establish language, (2) propositional warrants who establish relations between cause and effects and (3) paradigmatic warrants who establish the overall purpose of the organizations - has a stringent logic, creates sensitivity towards concealed warrants and invites the reader to use this scheme to examine the beliefs in his corporation. Especially the notion of paradigmatic warrants and its effect on learning and paradigm-shift is interesting, the authors argue that no change has appeared until the new paradigm is fully implemented in everyday conversation and language.

The dynamic nature of language as a never-ending process to define the organization is analyzed and expressed. The question how much of the conversation and the arguments in these argumentations can be doubted without making the organization unmanageable is mentioned but not discussed in detail.

The importance of language as the medium to socialize knowledge is put further by taking the progression from oral-language statements to written statements, into account. Texts are produced in a self-referential manner, always linked to previous documents in order to maintain coherence with previous findings. Meaning changes because language changes and therefore written statements but change, but there is always the history which shapes the amount of new ideas expressed in the organization's statements.

A short section on the impediments to organizational knowledge as (1) the improbability to communicate, (2) barriers to agreement and (3) self-difference forms the theoretical finish of the discussion of language. Organizations need to have certain "truths" otherwise they are trapped in never ending discussions. Nevertheless these assumptions must be revised when they start to prevent the creation of new knowledge. The authors provide a framework of impediments but I lacked an approach how to help managers both being able to perform with an agreed mental map and nevertheless to challenge these maps when appropriate.

The last chapter offers the first glance of how this new epistemology may be related to the real world by introducing the SENCORP management model. The outlook given in this chapter is fascinating because it takes into account the organization's need to manage operations in order to earn the money which enables them to be able to support the development of the organization's knowledge. The structure presented reflects some of the ideas presented in the book and shows how it may be related to practice although the model does not explicit apply conversation as the medium to create new knowledge but asks for a solid organizational structure to provide a setting where directed learning can take place.

This chapter also offers a modern understanding of management as the art to make decisions regarding which options in terms of knowledge creation should be made and what output of this knowledge creation should be implemented. The ability to balance the resources between creating new knowledge and implementing the achievements seems to be the critical success factor.

The book is suitable for readers with a strong interest in gaining a new understanding of organizational studies. The authors succeed in showing the complex facets of organizational change without offering any normative rules. The focus on language is very strong and therefore limits the concept to one single source to create and enhance organizational knowledge. With the exception of the last two chapters the book focusses on developing a theory of organizational knowledge creation based on autopoiesis, and does so with a high level of expertise. The last chapters present a change as the whole theory ends with a practical example of a real corporation's efforts to manage knowledge. Here the reader gets a first hint how to apply these principles towards creating structures which supports knowledge creation.

The book is not intended to serve as a how-to book for organizational change practitioners but merely as a theoretical injection in order to shift the focus from cognitivistic and connectionist views of organizations to those influenced by autopoieis and chaos theory. This new perspective is fascinating although it leaves the reader with some confusion what to do because the stress on language as the medium to create knowledge does not offer any concrete idea how to implement change. For those who look for real world's examples and simpler words the work of Nonaka (1995), Senge (1990, 1995) and others may be more appealing than this book. Nevertheless the presented autopoietic perspective is an important step forward towards a correct, living understanding of organizations.



Thomas Bertels Ulrich-Jakobi-Wall-Str. 1A 59494 Soest Germany TB@KNIPP.DE PHONE: +49 292 115 726 FAX: +49 292 131 627

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