Discussion Items

Exploring Common KnowLedge: An Interview with Nancy Dixon @ HighBeam Research

Information Outlook: Exploring Common KnowLedge: An Interview with N… @ HighBeam Research

One of the ways in which I think organizational culture is changing is a heightened respect for local knowledge, which is created in the task of doing one’s job. Local knowledge always competes with “sanctioned knowledge,” i.e., knowledge that the organization has declared as valid. Sanctioned knowledge may come from outside the organization, or it may come from internal experts or task forces.

Historically, managers have held very little regard for Local knowledge, and instead gave prominence to knowledge created by individuals not directly engaged in the task. However, disregarding the knowledge garnered through work creates disrespect between management and employees. Employees see managers as removed from real work, while managers see employees as resistant to sanctioned answers.

and further along…

Common Knowledge: Five Types of Transfer

In her book, Common Knowledge, Nancy Dixon presents five types of knowledge transfer. Below is a brief summary and example of each type.

Serial transfer–The knowledge a team has learned from doing its task in one setting that can be transferred to the next time that team does the task in a different setting. (Example: a power generator team replaces a generator in a chemical plant. The team uses that knowledge when replacing a generator in a refinery.

Near transfer–The explicit knowledge a team has learned from doing a frequent and repeated task that can be reused by other teams doing very similar work. (Example: a team in an Atlanta auto plant figures out how to install brakes in ten seconds. A team in Chicago uses that knowledge to reduce its time by fifteen seconds.)

Far transfer–The tacit knowledge a team has gained from doing a non-routine task that is made available to other teams doing similar work in another part of the organization. (Example: peers travel to assist a team dealing with a unique oil exploration site. The collaboration provides new approaches.)

Strategic transfer–The collective knowledge of the organization is needed to accomplish a strategic task that occurs infrequently but is critical to the whole organization. (Example: a company acquires ABC; six months later another team in a different location uses what was learned with ABC to acquire DFG.)

Expert transfer–A team facing a technical question beyond the scope of its own knowledge seeks the expertise of others in the organization. (Example: a technician e-mails the network asking how to increase the brightness on out-of-date monitors. Seven experts provide answers.)

Source: Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know by Nancy M. Dixon, Harvard Business School Press, 2000 (ISBN 0875849040).