Tacit knowledge externalization among geographically distributed small groups
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Currently, organizations are shifting their activities and processes from information-based to knowledge-based as a result of the emergence of organizational knowledge as the main, if not the only, competitive advantage between rival organizations. Accordingly, the management of what an organization knows and the activities of knowledge externalization, which incorporates creation, articulation, capture, transformation, nurture, and retention, as well as knowledge measurement has become a field of serious research. Two main obstacles have emerged as a result. One is associated with the definition of knowledge, and the second is whether in fact knowledge in general and tacit knowledge in particular can be managed, externalized and measured. The literature does not provide a universal knowledge definition. Accordingly, knowledge is defined contextually by both researchers and organizations. As a result, researchers and organizations work to manage knowledge, externalize it and measure it dependent on how they define it or on available definitions. Fortunately, the majority of researchers agree that knowledge is a duality, namely, tacit and explicit, and that its management should encompass both. Explicit knowledge management proved to be easy and successful because of its information-like nature and also because it could be implemented using existing information-based concepts and tools. In contrast, work on managing tacit knowledge proved to be difficult and unsuccessful because of the illusive nature of this type of knowledge, and because its capture and transformation in its entirety is extremely difficult, if not impossible. In addition, the majority of the literary work on knowledge externalization and measurement is associated with face-to-face interactions between individuals. Similar work which addresses the externalization and measurement of tacit knowledge among geographically distributed individuals is very limited if not non-existent. This dissertation identifies the difficulties associated with managing tacit knowledge in its entirety among distributed individuals and proposes its categorization into types/kinds as a solution for its effective externalization and measurement. The categorization process implies the identification of those types or kinds of tacit knowledge which could be externalized and measured easier than others. This is in line with most researchers' beliefs; that there are parts of tacit knowledge which cannot be externalized and measured, such as intuitions, feelings, instincts, expertise and such. The parts which can be externalized and measured based on observations, learning, and experimentation are expertise, know-how and the like; while the parts which can be externalized and measured if articulated and nurtured are opinions, ideas and similar The thesis, drawing upon Hevner's design theory, develops an artifact for the effective capture and transformation of categorized types of tacit knowledge among distributed small groups. It proposes opinions and ideas as types of tacit knowledge which can easily be externalized and measured among distributed individuals. It introduces concepts regarding how to nurture articulated opinions and ideas among such individuals. It also proposes an externalization process, as an amendment of Nonaka and Takeouchi's 1995 face-to-face process, which identifies the stages of the externalization of the types in distributed environments. The dissertation is organized into two main tasks. Firstly, an elaborate literature review, which paves the ground for the introduced methodology, is undertaken. Secondly, an experiment was conducted on small groups of students who used a developed example tool for their distributed cooperation and opinions and ideas externalization. The dissertation's methodology identifies four essential steps for the externalization and measurement of tacit knowledge. The experiment, which was based on Sarker's (2004) experimental guidelines, encompasses the use of a developed example tool by the students.
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