The underpinning assumption is that knowledge exists somewhere out there as a ‘thing’ to be captured, what McElroy calls ‘the supply side of Knowledge Management’ (McElroy 2003) . But with a growing awareness of the complexity of organisations (Stacey 2001) in the last few years there has been a shift towards a new generation of knowledge management in which ‘..we grow beyond managing knowledge as a thing to also managing knowledge as a flow. To do this we will need to focus more on context and narrative, than on content’ (Snowden 2002)
The ‘social constructionist’ view I am advocating in this paper (sense making by individuals and sharing of stories), I suggest, has taken over from the Cartesian view of knowledge locked in individuals’ heads . In this world ‘knowledge is embedded in the ordinary everyday conversations between people’ (Stacey 2001:36). In such a context ‘ knowledge is not an ‘”it” but a process of action ‘ which, picking up where Habermas left off (Habermas 1987), Stacey calls ‘communicative interaction’
Picking up the same theme Wenger’s promotion of ‘communities of practice’ also promotes the idea of “knowing” as a matter of … action, engagement in the real world’ (Wenger 1998). Out of the active participation and engagement with others, he suggests, we arrive at our identity through a process of ‘negotiated meaning’. Savage puts forward a similar notion in his view of ‘work as dialogue’ (Savage 1996).
In the Appendix is a model I constructed some years back to try and make sense of how change takes place in organisations if we take a complexity and social constructionist view of the world. (Critten 2006 ) I tried to depict an organization as subject to change in two dimensions – top/ down and bottom/up ; outside/in and Inside/out. The right hand side of the model could be described as mainly in what Stacey calls ‘the legitimate zone’ responding to outside forces to shape its strategy and creating norms and procedures to ensure that top-down decisions are delivered from the bottom/up. The left hand side is more in what Stacey describes as the ‘shadow’ zone (See Appendix). In contrast to the ‘strategic view’ of organisations as shaped by ‘outside/in’ forces in this zone the organisation becomes the ‘formative’ creation of people from bottom/up – what I call the inside/out view of organizations.
It is in this zone where I suggest the kind of research described above can be carried out which in turn can have an impact to ‘transform’ the ‘legitimate’ zone of the organisation. In the next section I illustrate how the creation and validation of workbased learning programmes has given us the opportunity to bring about a ‘social reconstruction’ of one particular organisation
How Practice can become Theory
Over the past two years Middlesex University Business School has introduced two post-graduate work based learning programmes. One is an MA in Leadership and Management Practice and the other a Doctorate