KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER AND LEARNING: PROBLEMS OF KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ASSOCIATED WITH TRYING TO SHORT-CIRCUIT THE LEARNING CYCLE

Sue Newell

Resumo


Knowledge is considered to be a key organizational resource in the 21st century and the knowledge management ‘movement’ has alerted organizations to the fact that they should more strategically exploit their knowledge assets. Companies are thus lured by the suggestion that they can gain competitive advantage by the more astute management of their knowledge base and in particular, by the transfer of knowledge across individuals, groups and organizational units, using IT to accomplish this. In this paper, we reflect on this common view of knowledge transfer. More specifically, we question an implication of this view - essentially the possibility of short-circuiting the learning cycle, so that individuals do not have to rely on their personal or shared experiences to identify better practices, but can learn from the codified lessons of others in IT systems. More importantly, we consider the characteristics of knowledge – that knowledge is distributed, ambiguous and disruptive – that makes its transfer highly problematic. Drawing on case research, we relate this to the learning cycle (Kolb 1984) and thereby identify barriers to knowledge transfer. We conclude by considering ways of overcoming these barriers by emphasizing the importance of social systems alongside technical systems.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4301/s1807-17752005000300003