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Organizational Knowledge Equivalent Individuals in Organizations

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Is organizational knowledge basically equivalent to the knowledge possessed by the individuals in the organization? Or is there maybe something rather different involved? Are there aspects of managing organizational knowledge that go beyond -- and maybe even sometimes conflict with -- managing individuals who embody that knowledge?

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Update 6/15/2011: With this answer now being 2 years old, it has come to my attention that the first link provided is no longer functional. For information on organizational knowledge try this one: http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/managing-organizational-knowledge/ instead.

View this powerpoint: www.stcatlanta.org/handouts/org_knowledge.ppt

That's a very well-done ppt I found that describes exactly what organizational knowledge is. The quick answer to what they said is: ...

Solution Summary

The solution starts off with a link that details exactly what organizational knowledge is and is not. Once that is addressed, the solution looks at each question posed by the student and provides some hypothetical instances that cause the student to think critically about the questions posed.

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Management: Organizational Structure

1- Some scholars argue that organizational structure was in the past, and is today, the primary determinant of behavior in organizations. What is your opinion about this assertion? How the organizational structure can support employees' innovative behavior?

2- The most obvious model introduced by thinking about organizations as "organisms" is the "life cycle" -- new organizations come into being, mature, age, and die, just live all living things from amoebas to people. But it's a lot harder for us to tell the "organic age" of an organization than it is that of a person (the same could be said for our telling the age of an amoeba, I suppose, but presumably other amoebas manage to do so). It's even harder when you're dealing with an organization which doesn't have clear formal transition points. For example, the US military has been around for some 200+ years, and isn't likely to pass away anytime soon. Ditto a lot of big companies. The "life cycle" model that's quite informative when applied to Silicon Valley start-ups or online universities doesn't help much, on the overall level.

BUT -- there's no question that WITHIN any large more-or-less permanent organization there's a lot of coming and going -- some parts are on the rise, some are going down. Virtually all of you have moved around between units, and I suspect that it hasn't taken you long to tell the difference between an operation that's "young" and one that's "old".

So here's the question: how do you tell the difference? And to what degree do the ways we tell the difference between an organization or organizational component that's in the earlier stages of its "life cycle" and one that's in the later stages resemble the ways we assess the life stages of individuals?

Are there organizational analogues to gray hair and wrinkles? Are there transitions or clear changes that tell us our organization is aging? And finally, are we as individuals affected by the "age" of our organization, and if so, what do we do about it?

3- The brain metaphor is most useful in helping us to think about the idea of "knowledge" and how organizations create, maintain, and communicate data, information, and knowledge. Useful on some large levels -- but it breaks down pretty quickly when we start to think about "units of knowledge" and the mechanics of transfer. In the organism, all its knowledge is the property of all parts of the system, with some minor qualifications. Your liver isn't going to accept a better offer from your friend and go off to join him, taking with it all your knowledge about how to turn blood toxins into bile. But in the organization, knowledge is generally pretty clearly compartmentalized into human-sized chunks that move around individually, don't always mesh well with each other, and often get very proprietary. Brains don't have any internal issues of "intellectual property" -- but organizations certainly do!

So here's the question: Is organizational knowledge basically equivalent to the knowledge possessed by the individuals in the organization? Or is there maybe something rather different involved? Are there aspects of managing organizational knowledge that go beyond -- and maybe even sometimes conflict with -- managing individuals who embody that knowledge? If you have any stories about these problems, it might be helpful to share them if you can.

Is this metaphor perhaps dangerous? We can't really go too far wrong using the machine or organism metaphors -- the worst that can happen is that they're incomplete and leave stuff unaccounted for. But might not thinking of an organization as a "brain" lead us to some really misleading conclusions about organizational information and knowledge? Or am I just blowing this out of proportion?

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