Managing knowledge in hybrids

Few weeks ago, I had a presentation at 15th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning conference. My participation was made possible by the grant from Foundation for Economic Education. Many thanks to the foundation for supporting my work!

I have been around in knowledge management research for 15 years and this presentation aimed to shortly capture my view on knowledge management and some of the reasons that make it so difficult in the public sector.

What I see crucial is the alignment of knowledge management initiatives with organizations’ governance model.  Therefore, the paper discussed governance modes and described how various forms of hybridity increasingly challenge otherwise so clear and simple governance models.

I’m following Johanson and Vakkuri (2017) when approaching hybridity from the public administration viewpoint (this is of course due to the fact that these two professors are heading a HYPER research project which I’m currently working for). Indeed, looking hybrids from the public administration perspective means that the focus is on institutional settings where public and private actors operate according to public interest or where private firms take care of public service provision (Johanson and Vakkuri, 2017).

The purpose of my article was to connect hybridity to my own experiences in the knowledge management area.

I have seen many times in practice how difficult it is to agree with the purpose and means of knowledge management when multiple institutional levels (e.g. state, regional, local), organization types (e.g. public, private, third sector) and professional logics (e.g. administrative, health care, technology) comprise complex power and identity relationships.

What I tried to argue in my presentation and the underlying article was that there might be a need to step away from the dominant knowledge-based view and admit that knowledge management as a discipline may not be able to tackle all the management problems alone.

My argument is that sometimes knowledge management researchers are trying to solve problems with knowledge management toolbox although the problem would actually require the use of very different approach and equipment.

This may have different outcomes. The worst being that we lose our audience.

Why knowledge management is doing this? I think there are two main reasons for this.

First, we use those tools that we have in our hands. Those that we know something about and those that the customer is calling for. In a knowledge society, knowledge management is considered as a legitimate way of spending money.

Second, the reason may also be ignorance or even indifference. We think that we know, and are not ready to challenge our own thinking. We are not willing to admit that we don’t actually know how to solve the problem. Sadly, this is an increasing concern. We push our own model and there seems to be less and less time for considering whether it suites the situation at all.

Sometimes it is difficult to know whether it is ignorance or indifference.

So, what I’m suggesting and calling for is that knowledge management scholars and practitioners would pay more attention to the institutional context and in finding solutions to such questions that are actually relevant in the particular context.

In this paper, I’m referring to governance modes and my argument is that knowledge and knowledge management differ between governance modes. Moreover, I think this has been mostly ignored in knowledge management discussions. I was awaken by this observation when thinking how hybridity affects knowledge management. Personally, I think that there is a lot to study in this direction. I will tell you more about my own ideas next year.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!


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