Knowledge Management Implications of Articulable Tacit Knowledge: Case Studies on its Diffusion

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Knowledge Management Implications of
Articulable Tacit Knowledge:
Case Studies on its Diffusion












Peter Anthony Busch
B.A.(
Adel
.), M.A.(
Mon
.), Grad.Dip.Sc.(I.T.), B.Comp.(Hons.)(
Tas
.)




A dissertation submitted to Macquarie University
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in
the Department of Computing, Division of
Information and Communication Sciences

March 2004
In memoriam



Associate Professor C.N.G. ‘Kit’ Dampney
1943 – 2004




Page iii
Acknowledgments
First of all I must extend my thanks to my supervisors


[The late] Associate Professor C.N.G. ‘Kit’ Dampney and Dr. Lee Flax
Very special thanks must also go to my wife Dr. Debbie Richards
Amongst many others to be thanked are the technica
l staff in the Division of Information Systems at
Macquarie University who form the backbone in ma
ny ways to the Department of Computing and
other Departments in the Division


These staff include, first and foremost Mr. Rich
ard Miller, Mr. Ian Cowell, Mr. Les Catterall,
Mr. Lee Coady, Mr. Eddie Irvine, Mr. Gary
Crunkhorn, Mr. Rienzie Jayasekara, Mr. Suresh
Mulavineth, Mr. Andy Nguyen, Ms. Suhavna Ku
mar, Mr. David Chen and Mr. Stephen Lakic
Also to be thanked is


Mr. Josef Meyer for his invaluable help with programming fine points.
Other friends from Macquarie Computing include


Mr. Mark Mariathas, Mr. Frank Moisiadis
Also Professor Elizabeth More from the Macquari
e Graduate School of Ma
nagement for her initial
input
From the Macquarie University Centre for Flexible Learning


Mr. Ted Davies, Mr. Terry Finch, Mr. Ray Leon
g, Mr. Stephen Morrison, Mr. Gordon Quiller
My many roommates over the years:


Ms. Kate Krastev, Mr. Josef Meyer (again), Ms
. Gillian Miller, Mr. Wei Qiang Lin, Mr. Liyin
Xue, Mr. Ke-Bing Zhang, Ms. Fran Griffin,
Mr. Greg Baker, Mr. Yemin Huang, Mr. Van
Thuong To, Mr. Bruce Lee Liong
For the occasional mentoring, I must of course thank my long time friends:


Dr. Mark Werner and Dr. James Giesecke (both from my University of Adelaide days) and
Mr. Ken Sheridan, Mr. John Millar and Dr. Yan Ding (from my Monash University days), and
Mr. Chris Newton, Mr. Hsien Chuang ‘Sunny’ Jeng and Ms. Crystal Austin (from my
University of Tasmania days)
Other people and their respective institutions
I am indebted to, comprise the following:


The PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies
and Expertise) centre at Yale University,
New Haven, Connecticut: Professor Robert St
ernberg, Dr. John Antonakis, Dr. Anna T.
Cianciolo, Mr. Eric Goodrich


The New South Wales Department of Health: Mr
. Graham Pegler, Mr.
John Lewis, Mr. Meino
Schilling, Dr. David More


The Office of Information Technology (OIT) (N
SW Government): Dr. Ken Bullock, Ms. Kris
Corcoran


The University of Western Sydney: Dr. Vijay Khandelwal for some initial pointers




Page iv
Abstract
The effective management of knowle
dge has long been recognised as a key factor in the sustainability
and growth of an organisation.
Tacit knowledge has been one of the more difficult forms of
knowledge to deal with, given its soft nature and
the fact that it is typically not written down or
codified in any form. The sticky nature of informa
tion means that this information is not free–flowing,
and the competitive advantage that tacit knowledg
e brings to an organisation means that the
knowledge is unlikely to be transferred with ease.
The research presented here seeks to map diffusion
of tacit knowledge within the IT organisational domain.
The study begins with an interpretation of the
literature by means of grounded theory, and then th
e postulation of a number of formalisms, to better
understand the characteristics of tacit knowledge. Th
e focus of the research is narrowed to the
diffusion of that component of tacit knowledge that can be termed
articulable implicit managerial IT
knowledge
.
Understanding the diffusion of tacit knowledge requi
res first of all measurement of the phenomenon at
the level of the individual. A tacit knowledge inventor
y in the form of a questionnaire is created with
IT specific workplace practices in mind. Having asses
sed tacit knowledge ability in individuals we are
then able to determine how well individuals collabo
rate within the intra-organisational environment.
Through an analysis of an individual’s communica
tion patterns and their work surroundings we gain
some understanding of the likelihood for tacit
knowledge transfer or potential bottlenecking.
This research was conducted in three IT organisatio
ns, varying in size from one employing less than
twenty people to one employing in the thousands. The results would seem to indicate a number of
parameters play a part in the
successful diffusion of knowledge including organisational size, the type
of meetings the organisation conducts as well as the
extent to which the firm makes use of electronic
forms of media.
With tacit knowledge recognised as such a valuable
organisational resource, techniques that enable its
measurement and the degree to which it is flowin
g (or bottlenecked) within an organisation will
protect and ensure utilisation of this resource. T
echniques specifically designed for the IT industry are
essential, given the contractual nature and therefore transient nature of much IT employment. This
research questions such practices within the m
odern organisation and based on the case studies
suggests the characteristics of the optim
al firm for tacit knowledge diffusion.




Page v
Contributions to research
This thesis presents a number of original contributi
ons to research in the tacit knowledge area. First
the research incorporated a triangulated approach to
analysing tacit knowledge diffusion within an IT
domain. This was comprised of firstly a phenome
nological interpretation of tacit knowledge, secondly
the inclusion of tacit knowledge testing, and thirdly
the adoption of techniques to test for its transfer,
none of which in combination have been previously offered. Prior research has typically
discussed

tacit knowledge, or when actually taken a step furthe
r, merely performed tests at the level of the
individual. This research however
has actually examined aspects of
diffusion
of soft knowledge in IT
organisational settings.
Secondly a very substantial literature review was con
ducted with a view to incorporating this within a
grounded theory analysis of tacit knowledge. The resu
lts of this research can be seen in part B of
chapter 2. The conduct of grounded theory enabled
further research to commence with regard to
articulating the phenomenon of tacit knowledge as clearly as possible.
The third significant contribution in this thesis t
hus comprised the tacit knowledge formalisms. The
reader must remember that
whilst many definitions of tacit knowledge exist (Appendix B),
this

research represents the first attempt at formally
extrapolating the phe
nomenon of tacit knowledge.
The fourth original contribution to
research in the tacit knowledge area related to the creation of an IT
specific tacit knowledge inventory. This questionna
ire with its IT workplace scenarios represents a
research tool that has practical applications in th
e knowledge management domain. It is anticipated
that the inventory will be adopted by some organisa
tions (certain requests have already been made).
Similarly the Social Network Analysis specific co
mponent of the questionnaire has already been
requested by other organisations.
Fifthly, whereas it was noted the overwhelming majority of tacit knowledge research
is
descriptive,
that small component that is actually
empirical
typically resides within the domain of psychology. The
point being the research presented here is unique
insofar as it makes novel use of Formal Concept
Analysis as a means of interpreting tacit know
ledge related workplace scenarios. Indeed the
identification of expert non-experts was only
possible through the use of this technique.
And sixth, perhaps the most significant contribution
has been that the research
has taken place in the
‘real world’ with the involvement of three IT, but
nevertheless quite different organisations. All too
commonly a great deal of both academic scholarsh
ip and research is conducted for the sake of
logistical simplicity on captive undergraduate student
populations, the results of which are then
extrapolated onto the outside world. This resear
ch purposely sought to avoid this so that any
generalisations that did arise could be better placed
with regard to the organi
sational environments in
which they were discovered.




Page vi
Clarifications for the reader
There are a few points that need to be
clarified for the benefit of the reader.
Firstly one will note use is made of
both
the Harvard and footnote referencing styles. The Harvard
system is nevertheless the customary approach
utilised. When however th
e number of citations
becomes excessive or a particular point is emphasise
d, footnoting is utilised as an aid to maintaining
flow.
Secondly the reader will note that key words are often italicised.
Thirdly not
all
quotes cited throughout the text and citations
listed in the bibliography include page
numbers. The reasons being that these documents were
available electronically in html format, in
which page numbers do not appear. If the reader not
es a document that was in electronic format but
did
have page numbers, then this doc
ument was in pdf format instead.
Fourthly a number of appendices appear at
the end of the thesis. They are as follows:
Appendix A
: Publications produced in the course of this research
Appendix B
: Prior definitions of tacit knowledge
Appendix C
: Tacit knowledge maps created thr
ough a qualitative analysis of tacit
knowledge definitions
Appendix D
: The structure charts for Organisation X
Appendix E
: Social Network Analysis sociograms on overhead transparencies, should the
reader which to see an overlay of the diagrams from one to the next
Appendix F
: Extra Social Network Analysis supporting data
Appendix G
: The questionnaire u
sed in the research
Appendix H
: Glossary of common terms used in this thesis




Page vii
Certification
I hereby declare that this work has not been s
ubmitted for a higher degree at this or any other
university or institution



Peter Anthony Busch
March 2004




Page viii
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction: Aims and significance
..........................................................1
1.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
.................1
1.2 Tacit knowledge: An initial definition.....................................................................................
...2
1.3 Difficulties inherent in
tacit knowledge
research.......................................................................3
1.4 Primary reasons for undertaking tacit knowledge based research..............................................4
1.4.1 Knowledge management in the workpl
ace with a tacit knowledge perspective.................4
1.4.2 Improvement of work-team performance............................................................................5
1.4.3 The economic benefits of
‘capturing’ tacit knowledge.......................................................6
1.4.4 Attaining competitive advantage.........................................................................................7

1.5 Means of undertaking
tacit knowledge
research........................................................................8
1.6 Goals of the thesis........................................................................................................
...............9
1.7 Summary....................................................................................................................
...............10
1.8 Outline of the thesis......................................................................................................
............11

Chapter 2: Tacit knowledge defined
................................................................................13
2.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
..............13
2.2 The knowledge background...................................................................................................
..14
2.3 A general introducti
on to tacit knowledge...............................................................................17
2.3.1 Tacit knowledge vers
us articulate knowledge..................................................................17
2.3.2 The tacit knowledge conversion process..........................................................................17
2.3.3 Tacit knowledge
historically............................................................................................1
9
2.3.4 Tacit knowledge and culture............................................................................................21

2.3.5 The role of tacit knowledge in organisations...................................................................22
2.3.6 Tacit knowledge and
competitive advantage...................................................................24
2.3.7 The economics of tacit knowledge: The significance of geography................................25
2.3.8 Examples of tacit knowledge in action.............................................................................26
2.3.9 The importance
of the receiver.........................................................................................28

2.3.10 Metaphor and analogy....................................................................................................
29
2.3.11 Tacit knowledge and the IS domain...............................................................................31
2.3.12 A tacit knowledge model................................................................................................3
2
2.4 Definitions – A con
sensus by asso
ciation...............................................................................35
2.4.1 A working definition of tacit knowledge.........................................................................38
2.4.2 Two Approaches to Definition.........................................................................................39
2.5 Approach I: Interpretation.................................................................................................
......40
2.6 Approach II - Formal Representation......................................................................................43

2.6.1 Representation and Denotation........................................................................................44
2.6.2 Tacit knowledge
formalisation.........................................................................................44
2.6.3 Definition: The Tacit Components of Knowledge...........................................................46
2.6.4 Definition: Beyond Knowledge
- Choice and Intelligent Behaviour...............................46
2.6.5 Definition: Intelligent Behaviour with
Values and Commitment Leads to Wisdom.......47
2.6.6 Definition: Data, In
formation and Knowledge................................................................48
2.6.7 Properties as Constituents or Char
acterisations of Tacit Knowledge...............................49
2.7 Summary....................................................................................................................
..............51





Page ix
Chapter 3: The research issues
, directions and questions
....................................53
3.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
..............53
3.2 Research underpinnings.....................................................................................................
......53
3.3 The ontological and epistemological perspectives..................................................................54
3.4 The influence of organisational t
ype on tacit knowledge utilisation.......................................56
3.4.1 The entrepreneurial firm.................................................................................................
..56
3.4.2 The machine organisation................................................................................................5
7
3.4.3 The diversified company..................................................................................................
57
3.4.4 The professi
onal bureaucracy...........................................................................................57

3.4.5 The inn
ovative firm......................................................................................................
....57
3.4.6 The J-Form organisation..................................................................................................
58
3.5 Tacit knowledge management.................................................................................................
59
3.6 The effect of culture
on tacit knowledge flows.......................................................................60
3.7 Current approaches to tacit knowledge diffusion....................................................................61
3.8 The role of Information Technol
ogy in tacit knowledge transfer............................................61
3.9 Knowledge and human networks as
a means of knowledge diffusion....................................62
3.10 Relationship formality in the knowledge transfer process.....................................................64
3.11 The impact of strong and weak ties.......................................................................................6
5
3.12 Summary...................................................................................................................
.............66
3.13 Research goals............................................................................................................
...........67
3.14 Research questions........................................................................................................
........67
3.15 Research assumptions......................................................................................................
......68

Chapter 4: Theoretical foundations
.................................................................................69
4.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
..............69
4.2 A triangulated approach to tacit knowledge research..............................................................69
4.3 Tacit knowledge testing....................................................................................................
.......70
4.3.1 Approaches to tacit knowledge testing.............................................................................71
4.3.1.1 Larkin (1980)..........................................................................................................
..71
4.3.1.2 Scott (1992, 1990).....................................................................................................
71
4.3.1.3 Reed, Hock and Lockhead (1993)............................................................................72
4.3.1.4 Reber (1993); Reber (
1989); Reber and Lewis (1977).............................................72
4.3.1.5 Noh, Lee, Kim, Lee and Kim (2000)........................................................................73
4.3.1.6 Herbig, Büssing and Ewert (2001)............................................................................73
4.3.1.7 Sternberg (
et.al.
).......................................................................................................74
4.4 The Wilcoxon matched pairs signed rank test.........................................................................76
4.5 Formal Concept Analysis....................................................................................................
....77
4.5.1 Applying Formal Concept Analysis to
questionnaire data: A working example.............81
4.6 Social Network Analysis....................................................................................................
.....85
4.6.1 Social Network Underpinnings........................................................................................87
4.6.2 Whole network versus E
gocentric Network approach.....................................................88
4.6.3 Membership Rules.........................................................................................................
...88
4.6.4 Information elicitation..................................................................................................
....88
4.6.5 Soci
omatrices............................................................................................................
.......88
4.6.6 Symmetrising.............................................................................................................
......89
4.6.7 Degree...................................................................................................................
...........90




Page x
4.6.8 Centrality and prominence...............................................................................................9
1
4.6.9 Density and inclusiveness................................................................................................
91
4.6.10 Cliques and discrete networks........................................................................................92
4.6.11 Sociograms..............................................................................................................
.......93
4.6.12 Multi-Dimensional Scaling............................................................................................94
4.7 Summary....................................................................................................................
..............94

Chapter 5: Methodology
.......................................................................................................97
5.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
..............97
5.2 General methodological overview...........................................................................................9
7
5.3 Phase 1: Background research...............................................................................................
..99
5.3.1 Stage 1: Literature review...............................................................................................
.99
5.3.2 Stage 2: Qualitative analysis
of the tacit knowledge literature........................................99
5.4 Phase 2: Initial construction of
the tacit knowledge inventory..............................................102
5.4.1 Stage 3: Interviewing of domain experts........................................................................102
5.4.2 Stage 4: Creation of tacit knowledge inventory.............................................................103
5.4.3 Stage 5: Testing of the tacit
knowledge scenarios (pre-pilot study)..............................104
5.4.4 Stage 6: Incorporation of tacit k
nowledge inventory with
in questionnaire....................105
5.4.4.1 Section A: Biographical..........................................................................................105
5.4.4.2 Section B: Social Network Analysis.......................................................................107
5.4.4.3 Section C: Tacit
Knowledge Inventory...................................................................107
5.4.5 Stage 7: Ethics Committee Approval.............................................................................109
5.4.6 Stage 8: Selection of IT organisations............................................................................109
5.4.7 Stage 9: Programming of the questionnaire...................................................................110
5.4.8 Stage 10. Pilot testing..................................................................................................
...111
5.4.9 Stage 11: Processing of data...........................................................................................11
2
5.4.9.1 Stage 11a: Data preparation for Formal Concept Analysis.....................................112
5.4.9.2 Stage 11b: Data preparation for Social Network Analysis.....................................113
5.4.10 Stage 12: Modelling of the data...................................................................................113
5.4.11 Stage 13: Preparation of de-i
dentified report fo
r organisations...................................113
5.5 Phase 3: Major surveys.....................................................................................................
.....113
5.5.1 Stage 14: Modifications to the questionnaire.................................................................113
5.5.2 Stage 15. Live questionnaire..........................................................................................115

5.5.3 Stage 16: Modifications to Social Network Analysis processing..................................116
5.6 Phase 4 Analysis of data...................................................................................................
.....116
5.6.1 Stage 17: Interpretation of data......................................................................................116

5.7 Summary....................................................................................................................
............116

Chapter 6: Tacit know
ledge inventory results
.........................................................121
6.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
............121
6.2 Australian Computer Society levels......................................................................................121

6.3 The expert sample..........................................................................................................
........122
6.4 Backgrounds to the organisations..........................................................................................1
23
6.4.1 Large Organisation (X)..................................................................................................1
23
6.4.1.1 Organisation X summary........................................................................................132
6.4.2 Small Organisation (Y)..................................................................................................1
35




Page xi
6.4.2.1 Organisation Y summary........................................................................................139
6.4.3 Medium Organisation (Z)...............................................................................................140

6.4.3.1 Organisation Z summary.........................................................................................145
6.5 The tacit knowledge inventory..............................................................................................
146
6.6 Identification process of Expert Non-Experts.......................................................................148
6.7 The Wilcoxon test results..................................................................................................
....149
6.7.0.1 All three organisations combined...........................................................................149
6.7.0.2 Just organisation X (the
largest of our organisations).............................................150
6.7.1 Wilcoxon test............................................................................................................
.....150
6.7.1.1 Ethical values only..................................................................................................15
0
6.7.1.2 Realistic values only...............................................................................................150

6.7.1.3 Experts only...........................................................................................................
.151
6.7.1.4 Novices only...........................................................................................................
151
6.7.1.5 Differences within each of the groups (novices and experts).................................151
6.8 Usage of Formal Concept Analysis.......................................................................................152
6.9 Tacit knowledge scenarios:
differences and similarities.......................................................153
6.9.1 Variations between
experts and novices........................................................................153
6.9.2 Ethical and Realistic options with
no variation between experts and novices...............156
6.10 Overall differences between
expert and novice groups.......................................................158
6.11 Points of agreement.......................................................................................................
......163
6.12 Summarisation of contentious scenario/answer combinations............................................164
6.12.1 Significant ethical differences between the two groups...............................................166
6.12.2 Significant realistic diffe
rences between the two groups.............................................167
6.13 Summarisation of tabular results.........................................................................................1
69

Chapter 7: Relationship patterns and knowledge diffusion
..............................173
7.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
............173
7.2 A note to
the reader.......................................................................................................
........173
7.3 Large Organisation (X).....................................................................................................
.....174
7.3.1 Organisational X structure, e
xperts and expert
non-experts..........................................174
7.3.2 Organisation X metrics...................................................................................................
174
7.3.2.1 Organisation X Cliques...........................................................................................174
7.3.2.2 Degrees (Local centrality).......................................................................................177
7.3.2.3 Global centrality.....................................................................................................1
79
7.3.2.4 Information centrality.............................................................................................181
7.3.2.5 Density values.........................................................................................................
182
7.3.2.6 Physical organisati
onal location of experts.............................................................184
7.3.2.7 Expertise and placement with
in the organisational structure..................................184
7.3.3 Hard to find individuals.................................................................................................
.185
7.3.4 Graphical interpretation of data......................................................................................185

7.3.5 Contact frequency and
Organisation X personnel..........................................................186
7.3.5.1 Ethnicity and social networks.................................................................................193
7.3.5.2 Networking according to ‘front office’ or ‘back office’ roles................................195
7.3.5.3 Hierarchy and clique behaviour..............................................................................198
7.3.6 Person importance and Organisation X..........................................................................199
7.3.7 Meeting types usi
ng electronic mediums.......................................................................204




Page xii
7.3.8 Meeting type of
only face-to-face contact......................................................................204
7.3.9 Organisation X summary...............................................................................................210
7.4 Small Organisation (Y).....................................................................................................
.....211
7.4.1 Organisational Y structure, e
xperts and expert
non-experts..........................................211
7.4.2 Organisation Y metrics...................................................................................................
212
7.4.2.1 Degrees (Local centrality).......................................................................................212
7.4.2.2 Information centrality.............................................................................................213
7.4.2.3 Density................................................................................................................
....214
7.4.3 Difficult to locate individuals.........................................................................................2
14
7.4.4 Contact frequency and
Organisation X personnel..........................................................214
7.4.5 Person importance and Organisation Y..........................................................................218
7.4.6 Communication patterns: Mee
ting type and organisation Y..........................................221
7.4.7 Organisation Y summary...............................................................................................224
7.5 Medium Organisation (Z)....................................................................................................
..225
7.5.1 Organisational Z structure, e
xperts and expert
non-experts...........................................225
7.5.2 Organisation Z metrics...................................................................................................
226
7.5.2.1 Organisation Z Cliques...........................................................................................226
7.5.2.2 Degrees (local centrality)........................................................................................227
7.5.2.3 Global centrality.....................................................................................................2
28
7.5.2.4 Information and Organisation Z..............................................................................228
7.5.2.5 Density................................................................................................................
....229
7.5.3 Difficult to find individuals............................................................................................
230
7.5.4 Contact frequency and Organisation Z...........................................................................230
7.5.5 Person importance and Organisation Z..........................................................................235
7.5.6 Meeting types using and electronic medium..................................................................238
7.5.7 Meetings involving face-to-face contact........................................................................240
7.5.8 Organisation Z summary................................................................................................242

7.6 Summary....................................................................................................................
............244

Chapter 8: Discussion, conclusion and recommendations
.................................245
8.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................
............245
8.2 Tacit knowledge within the context of this research.............................................................245
8.3 Parameters in knowledge diffusion.......................................................................................246

8.4 Organisation X (large).....................................................................................................
......247
8.5 Organisation Y (small).....................................................................................................
.....248
8.6 Organisation Z (medium)....................................................................................................
..248
8.7 Optimal firm...............................................................................................................
...........249
8.8 Research questions.........................................................................................................
.......251
8.9 Recommendations for organisations......................................................................................253
8.10 Directions fo
r future research............................................................................................
..253
8.11 Original contributions....................................................................................................
......254
8.12 Finis.....................................................................................................................
................255

Bibliography
...............................................................................................................................
259





Page xiii
Appendix A:

Research publications
............................................................................................A1
Appendix B:

Tacit knowledge definitions
..................................................................................B1
Appendix C:

Tacit knowledge maps
...........................................................................................C1
Appendix D:

Organisation X structure charts
............................................................................D1
Appendix E:

Tacit knowledge map overlays
.............................................................................E1
Appendix F:

Extra social network analysis material
.................................................................F1
Appendix G:

Tacit knowledge questionnaire
.............................................................................G1
Appendix H:

Glossary
...................................................................................................................H1

Tables
Chapter 4: Theoretical foundations

Table 4.1: Application of FCA concepts.........................................................................................
78

Chapter 5: Methodology

Table 5.1: Codes >8 within the network maps..............................................................................100

Chapter 6: Tacit know
ledge inventory results

Table 6.1: ACS levels..........................................................................................................
..........122
Table 6.2: Demographic deta
ils for Organisation X......................................................................124
Table 6.3: Simplified language groups (LOE)...............................................................................131
Table 6.4: Demographic deta
ils for Organisation Y......................................................................136
Table 6.5: Demographic deta
ils for Organisation Z......................................................................141
Table 6.6: Sample of descriptive statistics from Scenario 3, answer 12........................................149
Table 6.7: Scenarios with little
variation (experts and novices)....................................................154
Table 6.8: Scenarios and answers no va
riation ethically and realistically.....................................156
Table 6.9: Significant (>1.0) difference ethically..........................................................................159

Table 6.10: Significant (>1.0)
differences realistically.................................................................160
Table 6.11: Agreement betw
een experts and novices....................................................................163
Table 6.12: Significant disagreement between groups...........................................................165-166
Table 6.13: Areas of contention ethically...............................................................................166-167

Table 6.14: Areas of conten
tion realistically..........................................................................168-169

Chapter 7: Relationship patterns and knowledge diffusion

Table 7.1: Different workgroups/physi
cal locations in Organisation X........................................175
Table 7.2: Different workgroups and phys
ical location of personnel in X....................................176
Table 7.3: Fifty-four cliques within Organisation X.....................................................................176
Table 7.4: Degrees for individuals.............................................................................................
....178
Table 7.5: Degrees for individuals who partic
ipated in relation to person importance.................178
Table 7.6: Values relating to global centr
ality for personnel in Organisation X...........................180
Table 7.7: Information centrality..............................................................................................
.....182
Table 7.8: Densities in Organisation X.........................................................................................
.183
Table 7.9: Physical lo
cations of experts.......................................................................................
.184
Table 7.10: Physical locations
of expert non-experts....................................................................185
Table 7.11: Roles identified by respondents in the questionnaire.................................................196
Table 7.12: Summarised values for SNA measures relating to Organisation Y............................212




Page xiv
Table 7.13: Information values for personnel in Organisation Y..................................................214
Table 7.14: Density values for Organisation
Y in descending order of actor density...................214
Table 7.15: Cliques and clique members.......................................................................................22
6
Table 7.16: Values for Organisation Z..........................................................................................
227
Table 7.17: Information values for personnel in Organisation Z...................................................229
Table 7.18: Densities in Organisation Z........................................................................................
229

Figures
Chapter 2: Tacit knowledge defined

Figure 2.1: An interpretation of
Data, Information
and Knowledge...............................................15
Figure 2.2: The knowledge hierarchy............................................................................................
..16
Figure 2.3: The role of tacit knowledge within the firm..................................................................16
Figure 2.4: The tacit knowledge codification cycle.........................................................................18
Figure 2.5: Schematic ATK model................................................................................................
..32
Figure 2.6: Satisfaction of
denotation constraints............................................................................4
6

Chapter 4: Theoretical foundations

Figure 4.1: Macro-methodology..................................................................................................
....69
Figure 4.2: Sample scenario....................................................................................................
........75
Figure 4.3: Crosstable in Anaconda.............................................................................................
....80
Figure 4.4: Concept lattice in Anaconda........................................................................................
.80
Figure 4.5: Li
kert scale.......................................................................................................
.............81
Figure 4.6: Crosstable for Likert Scale data...................................................................................
.82
Figure 4.7: Concept table from crosstable......................................................................................
.82
Figure 4.8: Concept lattice from the crosstale.................................................................................
83
Figure 4.9: Biographical question..............................................................................................
......83
Figure 4.10: Crosstable for the Highest Qualification obtained question........................................84
Figure 4.11: Concept lattice for highest formal qualification..........................................................85
Figure 4.12: Sociomatrix.......................................................................................................
..........89
Figure 4.13: Illustrating in and out-degree....................................................................................
..90
Figure 4.14: Clique of Cantonese speakers.....................................................................................9
3
Figure 4.15: Sociogram.........................................................................................................
..........94
Figure 4.16: Multi-dimensional scaling.........................................................................................
..95

Chapter 5: Methodology

Figure 5.1: Information mo
del (code groundedness).....................................................................101
Figure 5.2: Social Network Analysis
component of the questionnaire..........................................108
Figure 5.3: Scenario 3, answer 2
of IS tacit knowledge inventory................................................109
Figure 5.4: Question used to elicit feedback from respondents.....................................................112
Figure 5.5: Updated Social Network Anal
ysis component of the questionnaire...........................114
Figure 5.6: Individuals difficult to contact...................................................................................
.114
Figure 5.7: Proficient individuals.............................................................................................
.....115

Chapter 6: Tacit know
ledge inventory results

Figure 6.1: Gender * age.......................................................................................................
........126
Figure 6.2: Gender * ACS breakdown, numbers
of people (males left; females right).................126




Page xv
Figure 6.3: Highest qualification * ACS level (everyone)............................................................127
Figure 6.4: Highest qualification *
ACS level (experts specifically)............................................128
Figure 6.5: Computing specific qualifications (everyone)............................................................129
Figure 6.6: Computing specific qualifications (experts only).......................................................129
Figure 6.7: Language other than English.......................................................................................1
30
Figure 6.8: Language groups
(LOE) of Organisation X................................................................131
Figure 6.9: Job now (experts only).............................................................................................
...132
Figure 6.10: Occupation 3 years ago (experts)..............................................................................133
Figure 6.11: Structure chart of Organisation Y.............................................................................135
Figure 6.12: Highest qualification * ACS level.............................................................................137
Figure 6.13: Permanent vs. contract employee * years of IT experience......................................138
Figure 6.14: Occupation now, 3 years ago and 6 years ago..........................................................138
Figure 6.15: Age * current job title * years of IT experience * current ACS level.......................139
Figure 6.16: Structure chart for Organisation Z.............................................................................140

Figure 6.17: Age * ACS level...................................................................................................
.....142
Figure 6.18: Computing Specific Qualifications...........................................................................143
Figure 6.19: Occupation 6 years ago, 3 years ago and now..........................................................144
Figure 6.20: Language groups
(LOE) for organisation Z..............................................................145
Figure 6.21: Scenario 3 and answer 12..........................................................................................
148
Figure 6.22: Concept lattice for Scenario 3, answer 12.................................................................152
Figure 6.23: Scenario 10, answer 2.............................................................................................
...154
Figure 6.24: Answer 4 for scenario 10..........................................................................................
155
Figure 6.25: Scenario 6, with answer 1.........................................................................................
156
Figure 6.26: Scenario 1 with answer 3..........................................................................................
157
Figure 6.27: Scenario 1, with answer
3, realistic values * gender.................................................157
Figure 6.28: Scenario 15, with answer 7.......................................................................................1
58
Figure 6.29: Scenario 1, answer 8 significant difference (experts and novices)...........................160
Figure 6.30: Scenario 4, answer 6 significant difference (experts and novices)...........................161
Figure 6.31: Scenario 12, answer 7 significant difference (experts and novices).........................161
Figure 6.32: Scenario 13, answer 4 significant difference (experts and novices).........................162
Figure 6.33: Scenario 5, answer 5 insignificant difference (experts and novices)........................163
Figure 6.34: Scenario 16, answer 4 insignificant difference (experts and novices)......................164

Chapter 7: Relationship patterns and knowledge diffusion

Figure 7.1: Legend for contact frequency links between nodes....................................................186
Figure 7.2: Participan
ts in the research.......................................................................................
...187
Figure 7.3: Communication picture with
the removal of contractors............................................187
Figure 7.4: People who cont
act each other quarterly.....................................................................189
Figure 7.5: Bi-monthly contact between certain staff members....................................................189
Figure 7.6: Staff who contact each other Monthly........................................................................191
Figure 7.7: Staff who meet each other fortnightly.........................................................................191
Figure 7.8: Staff who meet each other weekly..............................................................................192
Figure 7.9: People who meet each other daily...............................................................................192
Figure 7.10: People who meet each other hourly..........................................................................193
Figure 7.11: Meeting clique
of Cantonese speakers......................................................................194
Figure 7.12: Specific area where
Cantonese clique is based.........................................................194




Page xvi
Figure 7.13a: Greek speakers meet hourly; Fi
gure 7.13b: Japanese speakers meet daily.............195
Figure 7.14: Serbian speakers in Organisation X..........................................................................195
Figure 7.15: Front office occupati
ons and how they network.......................................................197
Figure 7.16: Back office networking............................................................................................
.197
Figure 7.17: Highest ranking people............................................................................................
..198
Figure 7.18: People with 5 to 9 subordinates.................................................................................19
9
Figure 7.19: Key for person importance........................................................................................1
99
Figure 7.20: Everyone and the importance of the individual.........................................................200
Figure 7.21: People who try to avoid one another.........................................................................200
Figure 7.22: Can get by without seeing.........................................................................................
201
Figure 7.23: Moderately important to see the individual...............................................................202
Figure 7.24: Very important to see these individuals....................................................................202
Figure 7.25: Have to be seen...................................................................................................
......203
Figure 7.26: People who contact one another by phone................................................................205
Figure 7.27: People who contact
each other by email...................................................................205
Figure 7.28: Legend for face-to-face meetings..............................................................................206
Figure 7.29: People who conduct face-to-f
ace meetings with one another...................................207
Figure 7.30: Formal organisational meetings................................................................................207
Figure 7.31: Informal organisational meetings..............................................................................208
Figure 7.32: Meet outside of work..............................................................................................
...208
Figure 7.33: Lunch/morning/afternoon tea....................................................................................209

Figure 7.34: Bump into each other in the workplace.....................................................................209
Figure 7.35: Dendogram for Organisation Y.................................................................................211
Figure 6.11: Structure chart of Organisation Y.............................................................................211
Figure 7.36: Relationships by gender and
employment type for Organisation Y..........................215
Figure 7.37: Contractor removed................................................................................................
...216
Figure 7.38: Fortnightly meetings amongst Organisation Y members..........................................216
Figure 7.39: Weekly meetings amongst Organisation Y staff members.......................................217
Figure 7.40: Daily staff meetings am
ongst Organisation Y staff members...................................217
Figure 7.41: Hourly meetings in Organisation Y...........................................................................218
Figure 7.42: Can get by without seeing.........................................................................................
219
Figure 7.43: Moderately important people....................................................................................220

Figure 7.44: Very important people.............................................................................................
..220
Figure 7.45: People who just have to be seen................................................................................221

Figure 7.46: Key to communication patterns.................................................................................222
Figure 7.47: Organisation Y staff members who tend to just bump into each other.....................223
Figure 7.48: Our staff who participate in
informal yet pre-arranged meetings.............................223
Figure 7.49: Formal meetings that
take place between organisation Y.........................................224
Figure 6.16: Structure chart for Organisation Z.............................................................................225

Figure 7.50: Single link hierarchical clustering of cliques in Organisation Z...............................226
Figure 7.51: Contact frequency of everyone in Organisation Z....................................................231
Figure 7.52: Weekly meetings taking place in Organisation Z.....................................................231
Figure 7.53: Daily meetings taking pl
ace between Organisation Z people...................................232
Figure 7.54: Effects of 3340E being rem
oved from the communication picture..........................233
Figure 7.55: Hourly meetings taking place be
tween our personnel in Organisation Z..................233
Figure 7.56: Removal of 3339...................................................................................................
....234




Page xvii
Figure 7.57: Staff members who share a common language.........................................................234
Figure 7.58: Situations where 3342 tries to avoid other staff members........................................235
Figure 7.59: Can get by without seeing the individual..................................................................236
Figure 7.60: Moderately important..............................................................................................
..236
Figure 7.61: Very important....................................................................................................
......237
Figure 7.62: Individuals that simply have to seen in Organisation Z............................................238
Figure 7.63: Respondents communicating by way of telephone...................................................239
Figure 7.64: Email contact amongs
t Organisation Z respondents.................................................239
Figure 7.65: Organisation Z people who participate in face to face meetings...............................240
Figure 7.66: Formal organisational meetings................................................................................241
Figure 7.67: Informal but pre-arranged meetings..........................................................................241
Figure 7.68: Bump into one another.............................................................................................
.242

Chapter 1: Introduction: Aims and significance
At the dawn of a new century, the principal assets of many (perhaps most)
corporations are now held in the intangible form of intellectual capital. The
primary market value of Microsoft, for example, lies not in its buildings,
equipment, or receivables, but instead in the smarts of its people, software
development capacity, patents, copyrights
, and trademarks (Housel and Bell 2001
:xi).
1.1 Introduction
There is evidence to suggest that a sliding scale
exists between what we commonly ascribe as data,
information and knowledge. “
Data
consists of raw facts …
Information
is a collection of facts
organised in such a way that they have additiona
l value beyond the value of the facts themselves …
Knowledge
is the body of rules, guidelines, and procedures used to select, organise and manipulate
data to make it suitable for a specific task…” (Stair
et.al.
1998 :5 [italics added]).
Codified
knowledge
for Microsoft is the software that has been developed,
the patents, copyrights and trademarks that have
also arisen out of the software development process.
The ‘smarts’ that Housel and Bell (2001) refer
to, represents a far more important concept, namely that of the
tacit
knowledge that the employees
have within their heads and that
which is typically not written down.
Organisations to date have been generally success
ful at creating and maintaining their codified
knowledge stocks, but the tacit component is a phe
nomenon that is only just now starting to receive
serious attention. It has for example been shown
(Baumard 1999), that whilst codified knowledge has
always permitted managerial decisions to be
planned
, it was the tacit knowledge component that was
often called upon in emergency situat
ions to provide decisions in a fast changing situation. As an
aside, the structures of organisations (Mintzberg 19
91a-e) themselves may also affect transfer (Lam
2000).
An important factor in any knowledge discussion is that of its ‘stickiness’.
1
Stickiness refers to the
way in which knowledge adheres to particular indivi
duals or contexts. Codified knowledge tends to be
far less sticky than tacit knowledge, to which e
nd tacit knowledge almost always requires human
contact for transfer. The factors in
turn that affect knowledge transfer relate directly to the ability of
the receiver to receive knowledge, the years and more importantly the type of experience, that the
giver of knowledge may have, and th
e nature of the knowledge itself. The latter point in particular
relates to the competitive nature
of the knowledge in question, with
many organisations seeking to
retain whatever advantage in the form of
knowledge they may hold over their opposition.
Given that a large proportion of the information we
make use of is in the form of non – verbal
communication, with words in themselves comprising only some 20% of our communication


1
(Audretsch 1998; Lei 1997; Ramaprasad and Rai 1996; Hoskisson and Hitt 1994; von Hippel 1994; Wright
1994; Ghemawat 1991; Dosi 1988; Polanyi 1967)
Introduction: Aims and Significance Chapter 1




Page 2
(Raghuram 1996), we begin to understand the issue of
tacit knowledge, and in turn the importance of
tacit knowledge management. From an
organisational point of view, we need also to realise that some
50 to 90 percent of organisational kno
wledge is actually tacit, and th
at such knowledge is one of the
ten factors affecting the successful implementa
tion of knowledge mana
gement (Horak 2001).
Moreover what is recognised as
an issue is that whilst
information management
(which falls under the
purview of knowledge management), is consider
ed important by organisational researchers,
information systems
as a discipline has treated information management as the management of
information technology (Anand, Manz
and Glick 1998; Southon 1997).
Many of these concepts have
been summarised by Anand, Manz and Glick (1998) where
…. to achieve effective information ma
nagement, organizations will need to pay
greater attention to managing soft knowl
edge such as tacit knowledge, judgement
and intuitive abilities. The developm
ent of advanced information and
communication technologies h
as increased the n
eed for adopting an organization–
level approach to information manageme
nt. Consequently, efforts to implement
technically oriented management information systems can contribute to effective
information processing only when accompanied by an appropriate set of
organizational strategies (Anand, Manz
and Glick 1998 :797)… [Furthermore],
there is also increasing pressure for increas
ed externalization of soft knowledge
that may be required for constructing and
structuring problems in the face of
incomplete information (Daft & Weic
k 1984; Huber 1991 in Anand, Manz and
Glick 1998 :806).
1.2 Tacit knowledge: An initial definition
Tacit knowledge in itself is clearly the opposite of
codified knowledge. Codified knowledge exists in
print or electronic form and tends to be available to
some degree either freely or for sale, or perhaps in
the form of classified documentation. What we ofte
n refer to as codified
knowledge is however not
necessarily knowledge, but information. In ot
her words it does not become knowledge until the
receiver understands what it is they are receiving.
Technically speaking tacit knowledge on the other
hand
is
knowledge, not data or information, insofar as th
e term tends to be used to describe knowledge
that is far more heavily based on
personal understanding or experience.
Data are a [sic] formalised representation of information, making it possible to
process or communicate that information. Information is not the same as data. ….
… The concept of information is clo
se to the concepts of knowledge and
competence, but it also involves the con
cepts of interpreting and making ideas
explicit. To produce information, we ha
ve to interpret what we experience and
make explicit what we know…. Inform
ation comes in bits and pieces; knowledge
and competence do not. Information is
explicitly expressed in the paper, or
electronically lit pixels on a screen. In
contrast, knowledge and competence are
personal and intrinsically related to
each individual’s practice (Dahlbom and
Mathiassen 1999 :26 - 27).
Strictly speaking tacit knowledge cannot be codified,
2
rather what passes for tacit knowledge is
actually the implicit knowledge that we as individuals
all make use of to greater or lesser degrees of


2
Personal communication with Asso
ciate Professor Frada Burstein, M
onash University, December 2001.
Chapter 1 Introduction: Aims and Significance



Page 3
success. What is meant by implicit knowledge is
that component that is not necessarily written
anywhere, but we
tacitly
understand that using such knowledge is
likely to lead to greater personal
success. Stated another way, tacit knowledge is
“knowledge that usually is
not openly expressed or
taught … by our use of tacit in the present context
we do not wish to imply that this knowledge is
inaccessible to conscious awareness, unspeakable, or
unteachable, but merely th
at it is not taught
directly to most of us” (Wagner and Sternberg 198
5 :436, 439). Or as Baumard (1999) differentiates,
“on the one hand it is implicit knowledge, that is
something we might know, but we do not wish to
express. On the other hand, it is tacit knowledge, th
at is something that we know but cannot express”
(:2). For the purposes of this thesis the term chosen to
describe this implicit set of knowledge is that of
articulable Tacit Knowledge (aTK). Thus aTK m
eans the ‘articulable implicit managerial IT
knowledge’ made use of by to varying degrees
of success by IS organisational personnel.
1.3 Difficulties inherent in
tacit knowledge research
One of the major hurdles to tacit knowledge related
research stems from its soft nature which by its
very definition does not lend itself easily to artic
ulation and therefore to measurement. Sternberg
(1999;
et.al
. 1995; Wagner and Sternberg 1985) and his resear
ch team shows us that tacit knowledge
is able to be tested for, where
the majority of researchers seem typically to be content with discussing
its existence. Sternberg’s technique
is to take workplace related scenarios with answer options, and to
test a respondent’s approaches to dealing with th
ese workplace situations for which no clear answer
necessarily exists.
Alternatively Reber (1993; 1989), and
Lewis (1977) have shown us that alternative means of testing
for tacit knowledge do exist drawi
ng upon the research of others (Pe
rruchet and Pacteau 1990 in Reber
1993; Dulany 1984), although this r
esearch is along the lines of expecting control groups to undertake
various grammatical and memorisation tasks as a mean
s of later expecting the groups to explicate their
tacitly learned knowledge. For our intents and purpo
ses within the IS domain, we are constrained by
the fact that we do not necessarily have captive control groups on whom we are able to employ
grammatically based testing regimes, to which end
the Sternberg based approaches are more feasible,
especially as we seek to also map diffusion of su
ch knowledge within the organisational domain.
Eraut (2000) provides an interesting insight into t
acit knowledge elicitation problems chiefly those of
bias likely within the respondents to any testing approach:
1.

our series of encounters with another person are unlikely to provide a typical sample
of his or her behaviour: the reasons and ci
rcumstances for the meetings will largely
determine the nature of those encounters,
and our own presence is also likely to
affect what happens;
2.

we are most likely to remember events within those encounters that demand our
attention, i.e., those that are most ‘mem
orable’ rather than those which are most
common;
Introduction: Aims and Significance Chapter 1




Page 4
3.

preconceptions, created by earlier encounters, affect both parties’ behaviour on later
occasions, so the sample is not construc
ted from genuinely independent events;
4.

people develop personal cons
tructs (Kelly 1955), or ways of construing their
environment, as a result of their life expe
riences; and these affect their understanding
of, and hence behaviour towards, t
hose whom they meet (:121 – 122).
Nonetheless even given such criticisms, few alterna
tive approaches remain for attempting to explicate
and in some way measure this pervasive but all
too often underestimated intelligence source, other
than that proposed by Sternberg’s Yale Univer
sity research group. In order to combat the
predispositions of individuals to answering tacit
knowledge tests in a certain way, expert – novice
comparisons of results achieved should at least par
tially enable the above difficulties to be negated.
What is meant by this is comparing the results of
peer selected ‘experts’ to those of everyone else for
any one particular type of
tacit knowledge experiment.
1.4 Primary reasons for undertakin
g tacit knowledge based research
Reasons for undertaking tacit knowledge related
research are many an
d varied, but almost
overwhelmingly relate to the
organisation with a particular
emphasis on improved workplace
performance.
1.4.1 Knowledge management in the workpla
ce with a tacit know
ledge perspective
From the workplace point of view, a study of tacit knowledge is usually but not necessarily concerned
with the area that has come to be known as
Knowledge Management. The capturing of tacit
knowledge has been noted as being fundamental to
such management. Inde
ed it was noted that
“through 2001, more than 50 percent of the effort
to implement knowledge management will be spent
on cultural change and motivating knowledge shari
ng (0.8 probability)”, which Casonato and Harris
(1999) had envisaged as including the more
effective utilisation of tacit knowledge.
Furthermore Broadbent (1998) acknowledges knowle
dge management is a
bout managing two key
assets of the organisation. The first of these is
making maximum use of the knowledge assets an
organisation has internally available. The
second application of organisational assets rests upon
making use of the skills employees themselves bring to
bear on the organisation. The study of tacit
knowledge thus rests with the latter asset more so th
an the former. Effective management policies are
however needed to harvest the tacit knowledge
of employees. Generally speaking however,
knowledge management practices aim to dr
aw out the tacit knowledge people have,
what they carry around with them, what
they observe and learn from experience,
rather than what is usually explicitly stat
ed. In firms that appreciate the importance
of knowledge management, the organiza
tional responsibilities of staff are not
focused on the narrow confines of traditional job descriptions (Broadbent 1998
electronic)
Chapter 1 Introduction: Aims and Significance



Page 5
Knowledge capture in itself is a
ll very well, however Tuomi (1999/2000)
in relation to the Information
Technology environment has summed up one aspect of this process quite succinctly:
If the design principles and methodology cannot address the tacit component, it
cannot tell us where and how much we should invest in the explication of
knowledge. In general, it can be argued that
there has been too little emphasis on
the sense - making aspects of information systems. This is becoming an
increasingly important issue as informati
on systems are increasingly used for
collective meaning processing (:111).
Indeed the increasing sophistication of information sy
stems has been a major factor in a number of
organisational movements for example the migra
tion from technology management to human based
knowledge management. Another is the move from an
information based view to a knowledge based
one. A further example concerns the move from a hier
archical organisational view to a work activity
view, for example the use of people on short term
teams, based not upon their hierarchy in the
organisation but the skills they bring to the team.
One final example is that information systems are
now not just information processing machines, rather
they are now being geared towards providing a
means of knowledge transfer, as in th
e example of Lotus Notes systems.
3

1.4.2 Improvement of work-team performance
The relationship of tacit knowledge to the workplace
need not surprise us. Reasons for studying this
phenomenon include maximising usage of organisati
onal intellectual capital (Curtain 1998). Another
commonly cited reason relates to capturing the exper
tise of professionals, the most notable examples
occurring within the
sensu latu
medical domains.
4
The capturing of professional expertise usually
means articulating tacit knowledge in the form of ge
neralisable principles so that these principles may
then be transferred to others (Scott 1992). In ot
her words novices will ideally be in a position to gain
from a more experienced, yet perhaps not always present mentor. The expertise of a mentor often
permits knowledge to be formulated
and entered into an expert system
, or at the very least a Lotus
Notes system as for example at Roche (Broadbe
nt 1998). Granted such knowledge has been
explicated, but it was often tacit to begin with.
More practical reasons for examining tacit knowledge
have been noted to incorporate “improv[ing] the
quality of a person’s or a team’s performance, help
[ing] to communicate knowledge to another person,
keep[ing] one’s actions under critical control by
linking aspects of performance with more or less
desirable outcomes, [and] construt[ing] artefacts th
at can assist decision making or reasoning” (Eraut
2000 :134). All of the latter arguments for research
ing tacit knowledge point to intra-organisational
self improvement (Curtain 1998), with an emphasis
on the individual. It is notable that tacit
knowledge literature, especially w
ithin the knowledge management domain typically does focus on


3
(Anand, Manz and Glick 1998; Sveiby 1997; Raghuram 1996; Suchman 1995)
4
(Cimino 1999; Patel, Arocha and Kaufman 1999; Chambers 1998; Southon, Sauer and Dampney 1997;
Meerabeau 1992; Goldman 1990; Scott 1990)
Introduction: Aims and Significance Chapter 1




Page 6
the macro-organisational level.
5
Nevertheless a substantially sm
aller proportion of literature is
concerned with the actual
testing
of such knowledge focuses on the individual level.
6
Notably
however, those focused on tacit knowledge at the in
dividual level tend to be psychologists. Certainly
from a psychological perspective, one of the leadi
ng reasons for undertaking tacit knowledge research
is the improvement to intra-organisational welfare
that tacit knowledge tes
ting brings (Ramaprasad
and Rai 1996). For example, it has now become ve
ry popular for professional organisations to
implement practical knowledge tests (i.e. practic
e wisdom or clinical judgement (Sternberg
et.al.

1995; Scott 1992; Scott 1990)), which ask potential em
ployees questions in relation to soft knowledge
situations (Coates 2001). These tests are largely
along the lines of tacitly enquiring as to whether
employees are likely to fit into the
culture
of the organisation. They do not actually test for a
candidate’s knowledge of codified
information per se, bearing in mind the tests for tacit knowledge at
least in the Yale example, are not considered
to be intelligence tests in disguise (Sternberg
et.al
. 1995)
1.4.3 The economic benefits of ‘capturing’ tacit knowledge
One major factor encouraging the study of tacit
knowledge relates to the
overall economic benefit it
brings. The very issue of the economics of tacit know
ledge is debateable and researchers tend to differ
in their interpretations of tacit knowledge along
philosophical lines, from the holism of system
sciences to the methodological individualism adopted
by economists. For on the one hand, it is argued
that some tacit knowledge can never actually be
articulated (Langlois 2001; Leonard and Sensiper
1998). Others on the other hand argue that all t
acit knowledge by its very nature cannot be
articulated.
7
Strictly speaking this is correct. Neverthe
less it is interesting to note that economists
arguing in reductionist terms consider that “only co
st considerations prevent residual forms of tacit
knowledge [from being] codified” (Ancori, Bu
reth and Cohendet 2000 :281). A more extreme
economic interpretation is “that
tacit knowledge is just knowledge
not codified (but potentially
codifiable)” (Cowan, David a
nd Foray 2000 in Langlois 2001).
The ultimate value of any new knowledge, including
of course tacit knowledge, is that codification
leads to a greater return on investment, in
creased workplace efficiency and overall lower
organisational costs (Arora 1996; Nonaka 1991). Such
benefits are however all but defeated in an
organisation that employs a high proportion of cont
ract staff who upon termination walk out of the
door carrying their soft knowledge with them. In such
a situation retaining longer tenured staff would
indeed prove beneficial (Berry, Berry and Fost
er 1998). Either way the
economics of knowledge, and
particularly tacit knowledge mean that its transfer
ence tends to be limited by distance and means of
transfer (Audretsch 1998; Jones, Hesterly and Borgatti 1997).


5
(Donaldson 2001; Athanassiou and Nigh 2000; Cantwell and Santangelo 2000; Marcotte and Niosi 2000;
Thorburn 2000)
6
(Herbig, Büssing and Ewert 2001; Sternberg 1999; Colonia-Willner 1999; Reber 1993; Larkin 1980)
7
Personal communication with Asso
ciate Professor Frada Burstein, M
onash University, December 2001.
Chapter 1 Introduction: Aims and Significance



Page 7
1.4.4 Attaining competitive advantage
Whereas codified knowledge is usually available either
freely or through direct payment for patents or
intellectual property settlements, tacit knowledge tends
to be withheld from direct transfer. For the
latter knowledge plays a direct role in enabling an
organisation to attain a competitive advantage as the
knowledge is itself difficult to acquire (Johannessen, Olsen and Olaisen 1997; Lei 1997). Or as
Sternberg (
et.al
. 1995) would say, “is acquired [in the face
of] low environmental support”, meaning
we do not receive much help as individuals in ac
quiring this knowledge. If th
e knowledge is difficult
to acquire it is also difficult to transfer. Certai
nly a major proportion of tacit knowledge research is
focused on attempting to make tacit knowledge e
xplicit, a process that Nonaka, Takeuchi and
Umemoto (1995) refer to as externalisation. Broa
dly speaking however, tacit knowledge is gained
either through (a) personal expe
rience over time (and perhaps place),
8
or (b) by serving in an
apprenticeship fashion with someone who is senior a
nd able to pass the knowledge on to the ‘trainee’
(Goldman 1990). The important point to note is th
at tacit knowledge cannot by its very nature be
passed in written format, as at this stage the knowle
dge is no longer tacit, but explicit. Some of the
consequences of codification from an organisationa
l point of view have been summarised by Tuomi
(1999/2000):
When tacit knowledge is articulated and
data are created out of it, a lot of
flexibility in interpretation is lost. This ma
y lead to organizational rigidity. It may
look attractive, for example to create or
ganizationwide information systems where
the data repositories of data are used
in all organizational processes. Underlying
this view is sometimes an exceedingly empi
ristic and objectivistic belief that when
we get the semantics “right” the organization will be able to function as a perfect
machine. In some cases, one could argue
that, indeed, the organization has become
a perfect machine that is fixed in its op
eration by the information systems it has
implemented. Therefore a major challenge for the designer of organization
memory and knowledge management syst
ems is to understand, not only the
relationships between tacit and explicit stoc
ks of organizational
knowledge but also
the costs of changing their relationships when the world changes (:111-112).
It is the competitive nature of tacit knowledge as Colonia – Willner (1999) points out that leads
organisations to adopt competitive strategies from an
inter
-organisational or rather
extra
-
organisational point of view, meaning that firms are
likely to contain the tacit knowledge they hold to
the best of their abilities.
At the same time, from an
intra
-organisational perspective, research (Pierce
and Delbecq 1977 in Colonia – Willner 1999) ha
d shown that those workplaces high in intra-
organisational communication were more likely to i
nnovate with all of the respective benefits this
would bring. The primary such benefit however wa
s that of enabling experts to pass their knowledge
on to non – experts. The flow-on effect from such a
practice was noted to be “minimising [the] cost of
work, build[ing] adaptability to changing compe
titive market conditions, [which] as a result may
produce a fast return on investments, and a gain in
market share” (Colonia-Willner 1999 :609). To this
end, what can we determine from
intra-organisational relationships?


8
Personal communication with Dr. John Antonakis,
PACE centre, Yale University, October 2001.
Introduction: Aims and Significance Chapter 1




Page 8
1.5 Means of undertaking tacit knowledge research
Whereas many researchers in the knowledge mana
gement domain attempt to focus on the tacit
component,
9
few means actually exist to measure this
type of knowledge, among which Sternberg’s
(1999) Yale University based approach could be sai
d to be the most practical because of its more
applied nature. Other known approaches to tacit
knowledge measurement involve mental scanning
(Reed, Hock and Lockhead 1983), or grammatical
memorisation tasks (Reber 1993). The latter two
approaches tend to involve lengthy testing sessions
with captive subjects. The Yale based approach
alternatively tends to be more workplace oriented
and involves situational workplace inventories, for
which employees are asked to make decisions as to
how they would handle so
ft knowledge situations.
Furthermore, these same respondents are expected to
provide an answer for how they would deal with
workplace situations ethically
10
and realistically.
11

In order to determine if there is any likelihood of
knowledge being transfe
rred in the organisational
environment, other tools will need to be utilised. It
is the addition of Social Network Analysis that
provides us with a particularly good means of view
ing the social relationships between individuals
12
,
which in turn permits assumptions to be made
on the likelihood of knowledge transferral.
Alternatively Scott (1992; 1990), had used Par
ticipant Observation to provide a check on what
participants had stipulated in their questionnaires
in relation to tacit knowledge situations. She had
noted for example that what was stated in her t
acit knowledge questionnaire was not in agreement with
what she had later observed. The adoption of Par
ticipant Observation, or indeed the extremes of
Complete Observer and Complete Participant (L
eedy 1997), is considered impractical from an
Information Systems workplace point of view. The na
ture of IS work differs from the physical roles
carried out by nurses (Scott 1992; 1990), insofar as
the IS role tends to be more computer-monitor
centric.
In addition to providing descriptive statistics as a me
ans of viewing questionnaire results, use will also
be made of Formal Concept Analysis. This appro
ach permits results that respondents provide to be
viewed in a graphical lattice based way as a means of
visualising patterns, rather than merely looking
at numerical results. Such an approach is considered