Isa, Mhd Rudayn
Knowledge Management and Learning Organizations
Advocacy for Integration.
[Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]
This new era that we are living in now has enforced different rules for competition among organizations and across all industries. Competition is intensifying and the markets are changing in nature in a rising speed. All this is happening while the world is becoming flat day after day with the help of the major characteristic of this new era – the quick transmitting of information. This is why this new era was called the ‘Information age’.
With this change came the recognition of a different kind of production factors that all organizations should focus on instead of keeping the focus on more common factors that were acknowledged previously. This new resource is knowledge; be it the knowledge possessed by individuals working within the organization, the collective knowledge resulting from teams working together, or any external knowledge that can be of value to the organization. And like any other resource, knowledge cannot be left out to manage itself. Moreover, since we are saying that this resource is more related to the new age we are living in, and so being more critical, it requires better management practices than other resources; let alone being intangible in nature and what the implications of that on the requirements for it to be well managed. For all of that, the discipline of knowledge management has emerged as recently as the mid 1990s to help organizations in managing this critical resource in this competitive market. If an organization manages to implement this discipline successfully and maintains sound processes and procedures for this purpose it will achieve a competitive advantage over its rivals.
But as mentioned earlier, competition is not the only issue in this new age for markets themselves are of a different nature than before. Mainly, markets are becoming more fluid, connected, and change their characteristics quicker than ever. For this reason, organizations need to be able to face this change outside with an equal or greater learning inside; to quote Jack Welch of General Electric. This continuous learning inside will enable the organization to perceive what needs to be done differently every time a change occurs; whether it is a new opportunity or a new threat or simply a new rule of engagement in the market. But this learning would be mistakenly perceived if it was merely represented by the sum of the learning of the individuals within the organization. As per Senge (1990), “individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning”, and it is the organizational learning that matters here not only the individual. Therefore, certain competences are necessary and arguably essential to achieve this organizational learning that would help the organization to adapt quickly and as needed to face the ever changing market. These competences are from five different disciplines that are highly related and complement each other to form one discipline that has emerged one decade earlier than the knowledge management discipline.
Indeed, most organizations have adopted, and still adopting, either one of the above two mentioned disciplines recognizing their importance in facing the fierce competition and the challenging new markets. Some have even separately adopted both disciplines trying to strengthen their defences and increase their competitive capacity. Nevertheless, very few organizations have considered the two disciplines to be interrelated and the possibility that these disciplines actually complement each other. This can be returned back to the fact that academics have not done significant job investigating such a possibility; with an exception of just a handful of researchers and practitioners who have given this issue their high attention. Those who have explored these two disciplines and combined them together have reached very important conclusions that should impact both the way future researches would be performed in this area, and the way organizations adopt these disciplines. These conclusions consist of the complementary role each discipline plays when implemented in combination with the other discipline, and the possible synergies that would result from such integration.
This paper is an advocacy for the integration of the knowledge management and learning organizations disciplines. It covers the literature available around both disciplines separately and combined, presents a proposition of the benefits of such integration, explores this proposition in a case-based methodology consisting of three different case studies, and introduces finally the findings of this research. Among other recommendations made at the end of this paper is a recommendation for conducting all future researches in an integrative manner of both disciplines, and future work would include a development for the proposition of this paper into a hypothesis that can be further tested and proved to arrive finally at a new discipline that combines both disciplines of knowledge management and learning organizations.
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