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The knowing organisation is concerned with how organisations use knowledge (Choo, 2006).
Organisations use information in three strategic modes: to make sense of the environment, to create new knowledge,
and to make decisions.
The Knowing organisation is well informed, mentally perceptive and enlightened, the information and knowledge that knowing organisations possess allow them to gain a competitive advantage which means they can "manoeuvre with intelligence, creativity and cunning" (Choo, 2006, P.ix).
"By sensing and understanding its environment the knowing organisation is able to anticipate and adapt early. By marshalling the skills and expertise of its members, the knowing organisation is able to learn and innovate. And finally by defining decision rules and values the knowing organisation is primed to take timely, purposive action"
(Choo, 2006, P.ix).
Knowing organisations interpret information about the environment in order to construct meaning about what is happening to the organisation and what the organisation is doing. The knowing organisation creates new knowledge by converting and combining the expertise and know-how of their members in order to learn and innovate. The knowing organisation processes and analyses information in order to select and commit to appropriate courses of action (Choo,
Epistemology, "is the philosophical investigation of human knowledge" (O'Leary, 2013).
The knowing organisation is concerned "with the human processes through which information is transformed into insight, knowledge and action" (O'Leary, 2013).
"At the heart of the knowing organisation is its management of the information process that underpin sensemaking,
knowledge building and decision making" (Choo, 2006, P.ix).
The knowing organisation framework suggests that people and groups work to accomplish three outcomes:
o Create an identity and shared context for action and reflection
Develop new knowledge and new capabilities
Make decisions that commit resources and capabilities to purposeful action
The knowing organisation presents an information based view of organisations and a model of how organisations use information to "adapt to external change and foster internal growth" (Choo, 2006, P.1).
Knowledge is the result of collective action and reflection rather than simply the acquisition of things and objects that somehow contain knowledge.
Studies of organisations emphasis three arenas in which the creation and use of information play a strategic role;
Sense Making - use information to make sense of changes in their environment. A crucial task of management is to discern the significant changes in an organisations environment interpret their meaning and develop an appropriate response. The short term goal of sense making is to "construct shared understandings that allow the organisation to continue to act and function" (Choo, 2006, P.2). The long term goal is to ensure the organisations adapts and continues to thrive in a dynamic environment. During sense making the "principal information process is the interpretation of cues and messages about the environment" (Choo, 2006, P.4).
o Members choose what information is significant and should be attended to
Form possible explanations from past experience
Exchange and negotiate views in an effort to collectively construct and interpretation
Knowledge Building - to generate new knowledge. Knowledge is dispersed in the organisation in many different forms.
Individuals develop informal knowledge which is derived from experience but cannot be expressed easily. This knowledge is a source of innovation and creativity so organisations are interested in it. There is also knowledge based on what the organisation believes about itself (identity, purpose) and about its capabilities and environments. "An organisation exists because of its abilities to integrate and channel these sets of knowledge into activities and outcomes that are meaningful and valuable". An organisation can only grow if it is able to refresh its knowledge and extend its capabilities. During knowledge creation the "main information process is the conversion of knowledge" (Choo, 2006,
Decision Making - organisations search for and evaluate information to make decisions. In theory this choice is made rationally based on probably outcomes, organisational goals and feasible alternatives etc. In practice decision making is made more complex by differing interests of stakeholders. During decision making the "key information activity is the processing of information about available alternatives in order to select one that can achieve desired objectives"
(Choo, 2006, P.4).
o Members are guided by premises, rules and routines that structure their information search
Members evaluate alternatives
All three modes of information use (interpretations, conversion and processing) are dynamic, social processes that continuously constitute and reconstitute meaning, knowledge and action. Choo puts forward the premise that although the three arenas of information use are often treated separately they are in fact highly interconnected processes. Information flows from the external environment ? Information about the organisations environment is sensed and meaning is constructed ? Provides the context for organisational activity and guides knowledge creation and decision making?????Understanding and knowledge forms the basis for action and organisational action changes the environment and produces new streams of experience for the organisation to adapt to - the cycle of learning is continuous.
An effective knowing organisation can manage information resources and information practice to;
o Sense and respond to a changing environment bit also shape and influence changes in the environment
Extend its base of knowledge and capabilities but also unlearn old assumptions
Make decisions that are sometimes rational and creative in order to meet complex challenges
Environmental Change ? Interpret equivocal messages by enacting interpretations ? Meaningful context for action ? Information is interpreted
Knowledge Gap ? Convert and combine tacit and explicit knowledge ? New capabilities, innovations etc. ?
Information is converted
Decision Situations ? Search and select alternatives guided by premises and rules ? Goal directed action ?
Information is evaluated
The Sense Making Model sees the organisation as trying to interpret an equivocal environment. Members look back on their actions and enact or construct their own perceptions of the environment. Sense making is retrospective and the outcomes of sense making are enacted environments of shared interpretations for organisational action.
The Knowledge Creation Model sees the organisation as continuously tapping its knowledge to solve tough problems.
Different forms of organisational knowledge are converted and combined in continuous cycles of innovation. The outcomes of the process include the development of new products as well as new capabilities.
The Decision Making Model sees the organisation as a rational and goal directed system. Decision makers search for alternatives, evaluate consequences and commit to a course of action. Because individuals are limited in their ability to search and process information in a completely rational manner, decision premises and rules reduce the uncertainty and complexity of the choice making process. The outcome of the decision making is the selection of courses of action that are intended to enable the organisation to achieve its goals.
Knowledge management is the culmination and implementation of methodologies and devices to effectively translate data into practical information for the company and individual (Randeree, 2006).
"Knowledge is often defined as a justified personal belief. There are many taxonomies that specify various kinds of knowledge" (King, 2009. P.3).
Easterby-Smith and Lyles (2003) consider OL to focus on the process, and KM to focus on the content, of the knowledge that an organization acquires, creates, processes and eventually uses. Another way to conceptualize the relationship between the two areas is to view OL as the goal of KM. By motivating the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge, KM initiatives pay off by helping the organization embed knowledge into organizational processes so that it can continuously improve its practices and behaviours and pursue the achievement of its goals. From this perspective,
organizational learning is one of the important ways in which the organization can sustainably improve its utilization of knowledge (King, 2009). SENSEMAKING
Nature & Process?????????
Sensemaking is concerned with managing ambiguity.
In Epistemology reliability is concerned with a suitable method, if properly followed, is perfectly reliable and never leads to false beliefs). Certainty is concerned with "a firm and reasonable persuasion that conforms to the truth"
(Rosmini, 1991, p. 4)
In sensemaking, justification is the important question too, but justification is based on plausibility rather than accuracy.
If we wait for absolute certainty before acting then we may never act.
The knowing organisation is concerned with making sense of changes and developments in the external environment.
These changes are ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations. The task of management is to discern the most significant changes, interpret their meaning and develop appropriate responses. The aim of sense making is to create a shared understanding of what the organisation is and what it is doing.
The main information process is the interpretation of news and messages about the environment. Members choose what information is significant and what should be attended to.
Weick (1979, 1995) was concerned with the questions of: What is happening out there? Why is this taking place? What does it mean?
Organisations are keenly aware that their ability to survive and evolve is determined by their capacity to make sense of or influence their environments and to constantly renew meaning and purpose in the light of new conditions.
The earliest research on organisational sensemaking came from Frost et al (1983). Sensemaking is the process whereby individuals engage "in ongoing processes through which they attempt to make their situations rationally accountable to themselves and others" (Frost et al, 1983, P.24).
The nature of sensemaking is:
o Retrospective - Cannot make sense of events until they have occurred.
o Enacted - People in organisations often produce part of the environment that they face
Social - Even when a person appears to be alone, his/her sensemaking will take into account the reactions of others
In addition to this sensemaking is also:
o Ongoing - It never stops or starts
Focused on Cues - Enacted cues are simple, familiar structures that are seeds from which people develop a larger sense of what may be occurring
Driven by plausibility rather than accuracy - It is pragmatic
In sense-making, the essential task is to create a coherent and plausible account of what is going on without ever really seeking a one true and final picture of how the world actually is (Chia & O'Leary, 2007).
Weick was a key researcher in the field of sensemaking. "Sensemaking in Organisations" (1995) and "Making Sense of the Organisation" (2001).
"We are linguistic beings who inhabit a reality in which it makes sense to make sense" (Batchelor, 1997, p. 39).
Sense making is induced by changes in the environment which generate streams of messages and cues. These are open to multiple interpretations.
The principal information activity is to resolve the equivocality of information about the organisations environment.
Sense making is done retrospectively as sense cannot be made of events and actions until they have occurred and people can look back to construct their meaning.
Current events are compared with past experience in order to construct their meanings; "The goal or organisations,
viewed as sense making systems, is to create and identify events that recur to stabilise their environments and make them more predictable. A sensible event is one that resembles something that has happened before" (Weick, 1995,
Weick suggests that an organisation makes sense of its environment through four interlocking processes (1979).
Ecological Change ? Enactment ? Selection ? RetentionEnactment - the process by which individuals in an organisation actively create the environments they face and which they then attend to.
o The enactment process begins as a result of noticing some change in the flow of experience (this stage is termed ecological change).
o Raw data about these changes form the input to the process. Individuals isolate these changes for closer inspection by bracketing and labelling portions of the experience.
o The output of enactment is a set of equivocal, uninterpreted raw data that supplies the base material for the other sense making processes.
o Enactment is guided by retained assumptions and routines, sense making is a conservative force that Weick
(2001) calls an "infrastructure of organisational inertia". Selection - the process by which people in an organisation generate answers to what is going on.
o The selection process chooses what the meanings can be that are imposed on the equivocal data from the enactment process.
o Possible meanings come from interpretations that have been sensible in the past as well as "patterns in explicit enactment themselves" (Weick, 1979).
o Past interpretations are used as templates, selection is necessary because many of the possible meanings would be inapplicable or inconsistent with the current scenario.
o "In sense making selection occurs when an enacted environment of plausible stories from the past sorts among variations in current accounts of enactments and retains those that best fit with prior understanding of plausibility" (Weick, 1979).
-Retention - the process by which the products of successful sense making are stored so that they may be retrieved on future occasions as possible meanings to be imposed on new situations.
o Retained meanings are stored as enacted environments that are "a punctuated and connected summary of a previously equivocal display" (Weick, 1979).
o Retained meanings become the source of organisational culture and strategy.
o A certain amount of ambiguity is preserved in these stored meanings.
o Signals about changes in the environment are filtered through enactment and selection so that some messages are overlooked.
o The residual ambiguity allows people, when enacting new changes to "notice some of what was previously overlooked, and overlook some of what was previously noticed" (Weick, 2001, P.305).
o This reconfigures the information space for new learning.
The results of the knowing organisation depend on how people in the organisations selectively notice, highlight and connect events, actions and outcomes. What they notice and how they make sense of it is driven by their beliefs and actions:
o Beliefs - about categories that are used to label events and actions as well as the cause and effect assumptions that are used to link events and outcomes.
o Actions - refer to the path of action the organisation is on and includes what the organisation has done in the past and what it is currently doing and what it wants to do in the future. Also refers to features that the organisation has enacted or created in the environment to help it understand developments.
The outcome of sense making is an on-going series of enacted interpretations about the organisation and its environment that constructs a shared context for action.
Effective decision making depends on sense making as you need to know what is going on and why before action can be taken.
In today's fast changing, complex environment, making sense of what is happening becomes a harder and more important challenge.
Sense making constructs a shared context for action as well as brings into focus problems and issues that the organisation needs to work on. When the problem is novel or unfamiliar, the organisation may find that it lacks the knowledge or capability to solve a problem or exploit an opportunity. It faces a knowledge gap so the organisation may embark on knowledge creation.
When the problem is sufficiently familiar the organisation may apply existing rules and protocols to search for alternatives and select an appropriate course of action.
Organisations are aware that their ability to survive and grow is determined by their capacity to make sense of or influence their environments.
Adaptability in a dynamic environment relies on organisations being skilled at moth sensing and making sense.
Organisations scan the environment broadly in order to be able to recognise trends and issues that will impact it. The core process of scanning is information management - casting a wide information net by involving as many participants as possible to act as sensors and gather information into a useable knowledge base.
Making sense and constructing meaning from what has been sensed can be problematic because information about the environment is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations.
Forming a plausible interpretation is hard because each person sees different parts as interesting, depending on the individual's values, position and experience.
Whereas sensing or scanning is gathering sufficient evidence to reduce environmental uncertainty, sense making involves choosing and agreeing on a set of meanings or interpretations to reduce ambiguity.
Unlike scanning, which can be designed as a systematic and structured activity, sense making is inherently a fluid, open,
disorderly social process.
Starbuck and Milliken (1988) observed that "sense making has many distinct aspects - comprehending,
understanding, explaining, attributing, extrapolating and predicting. What is common to these processes is that they involve placing stimuli into frameworks that make sense of the stimuli" (Starbuck & Milliken, 1988, P.51).????????????Weick (1995) identifies seven distinguishing factors of sense making as an organisational process;
o Grounded in identity construction - sense making is necessary for the individual to maintain a consistent selfconception. The environment is like a mirror into which people project themselves and observe the consequences in order to learn about their identities. People try to simultaneously shape and react to the environments they face.
o Retrospective - attending to events that have already taken place. Do so from a specific point in time. The individual has to rely on memory to recall the event which may not be accurate. The main problem is to select plausible meaning from several alternative meanings. The individual needs values and priorities to clarify what is important.
o Enactive of sensible environments - people in organisations often produce part of the environment that they face which is what Weick calls enactment. One way people enact is to break up experiences and label them into categories. From this people endow objects and events with cognitive value in their minds which provides raw material for sense making. Enactment implies that action is a precondition for sense making.
o Social - sense making is conducted in groups, even if this does not appear to be the case the reactions of others will at least be taken into account. Sense making occurs as people engage in conversation which causes social construction.
o On-going - sense making is continuous in the flow of activities and projects that constitute organisational life.
People isolate packets of experience for labelling and reflection. Interruptions in sense making invoke emotional responses which influence the process.
o Focused on and by extracted cues - these are "simple, familiar structures that are seeds from which people develop a larger sense of what may be occurring" (Weick, 1995, P.50). They provide points of reference from which ideas may be linked into networks of meaning. The interpretation of cues depends on the organisational context.
o Driven by plausibility rather than accuracy - people favour plausibility over accuracy when constructing accounts due to the fact that "in an equivocal, post-modern world, infused with the politics of interpretation and conflicting interests and inhabited by people with multiple shifting identities an obsession with accuracy seems fruitless, and not of much practical help either" (Weick, 1995, P.61).
Sense making is a continues, social process in which individuals look at elapsed events, bracket packets of experience and select particular points of reference to weave patterns of meaning. The result of sense making is an enacted or meaningful environment that is a reasonable and socially credible rendering of what is taking place.
The central problem in sense making is how to reduce or resolve ambiguity and how to develop shared meanings so that the organisation can act collectively.
Organisations need to be mindful of the bias to base both selection and enactment on past meanings; using interpretations that have worked before and acting in ways that have worked before.
Weick (2001) suggests that an alert, flexible use of retained knowledge occurs when past meanings guide either selection or enactment but not both.
The reduction of ambiguity lies at the heart of organisational sense making. When ambiguity is excessively high,
organisation members lack a clear and stable frame of reference within which their work and behaviour have meaning and purpose.
Each organisation finds its own balance between ambiguity and creativity and this locus depends on the business of the organisations, its operating environment, its relationships with stakeholders and the beliefs and values held by members.
Through the sense making process information is interpreted and negotiated so that members share some basic understandings upon which collective action can be taken.
During sense making information needs are unclear. The central issue is therefore the management of ambiguity.
o Whereas uncertainty refers to the lack of information about an issue, ambiguity refers to the equivocality of the information available, where the same information can support multiple and sometimes conflicting interpretations
The lack of information may be addressed by gathering more data that is relevant to an issue.
o The lack of clarity has to be met by constructing a plausible interpretation that makes sense of the noticed information.
o The initial attempt to reduce ambiguity is to try and fit the information with existing assumptions, beliefs and expectations.
Three related activities constitute the information seeking process in organisational sense making:
-Scanning - the sensing activity that precedes sense making and it involves looking at the external environment in order to see developments that could impact the organisation.
-Noticing - Specific events are noticed and information about them is isolated for closer scrutiny.
-Interpreting - Such information is equivocal so the main task becomes to interpret the meaning of these events. ?
During sense making information is processed to reduce situational ambiguity and to develop a consensus of shared meanings that enable organisational members to act.
o Both are partial objectives - ambiguity cannot and should not be completely removed, and consensus is rarely and need not be universal.
o People in organisations construct networks of meanings by starting from some existing beliefs or some sequence of actions that have been taken.
o People in organisations develop shared meanings by tapping into shared cognitive structures in order to establish some level of cognitive consensus that can be the foundation for collective action.
o Developing consensus is aided by communication behaviours that allow different interpretations to coexist or be reconciled. The nature and extent of the consensus depends on the properties of the organisational culture.
-The term 'enactment' is used to preserve the central point that when people act, they bring events and structures into existence and set them in motion. People who act in organizations often produce structures, constraints, and opportunities that were not there before they took action (Weick, 1988).
-Enactment involves both a process, enactment, and a product, an enacted environment:
o Enactment is the social process by which a "material and symbolic record of action" (Smircich and
Stubbart, 1985, P.726) is laid down. The process occurs in two steps. First, portions of the field of experience are bracketed and singled out for closer attention on the basis of preconceptions. Second,
people act within the context of these bracketed elements, under the guidance of preconceptions, and often shape these elements in the direction of preconceptions (Powers, 1973). Thus, action tends to confirm preconceptions.
o An enacted environment is the residuum of changes produced by enactment. The word residuum is preferred to the word 'residue' because residuum emphasizes that what is left after a process cannot be ignored or left out of account because it has potential significance. The product of enactment is not an accident, an afterthought, or a by-product. Instead, it is an orderly, material, social construction that is subject to multiple interpretations. Enacted environments contain real objects such as reactors, pipes and valves. The existence of these objects is not questioned, but their significance, meaning, and content is.
These objects are inconsequential until they are acted upon and then incorporated retrospectively into events, situations, and explanations.
-To learn more about how sensemaking can be decoupled from escalation, we focus on triggered events: "a specific event that is identifiable in time and place and traceable to specific man-made causes" (Shrivastava, 1987, p. 8).
Triggered events are places where interventions can have an effect, these events involve judgement which can deteriorate when pressure increases (Staw et al, 1981), and these events can escalate into a crisis.
Culture & Leadership?
The Mann Gulch disaster was a failure of leadership and was prominently referred to in Weick's (2001) work.
Leaders have a great deal of responsibility in regards to sensemaking:
o Social: People don't discover sense; they create it, which means they need conversations with others to move toward some shared idea of what meanings are possible. It is up to leaders to encourage these conversations.
o Identity: This can lock people in to overly limited options. It is the responsibility of leaders to help people solidify other identities such as sounding board, witness, source of resilience, information hub, story-teller,
companion, care-giver and historian, all of which are roles that help people build a context that aids explanation.
o Retrospect: Faced with the inexplicable, people often act their way out of their puzzlement by talking and looking at what they have said in order to discover what they may be thinking. Leaders should make it possible for people to talk their way from the superficial, through the complex, on to the profound. Help them talk their way into resilience.
o Ongoing: Sensemaking is dynamic and requires continuous updating and reaccomplishment. Therefore leaders need to ensure people do not sit back but instead modify sensemaking outcomes based on new inputs and new opportunities and new setbacks.
o Plausibility: We seek swift plausibility rather than slow accuracy in inexplicable times simply because we need an explanation, not the explanation. Leaders should help people reach an initial explanation and then assist with revising it, enriching it and replacing it where necessary.
o Enactment: In inexplicable times, people have to keep moving. Recovery lies not in thinking then doing, but in thinking while doing and in thinking by doing. As a leader, help people keep moving and keep paying attention.
When people are animated, their actions are small experiments that help make sense of perilous times. Wise leaders protect that process. Cues: People deal with the inexplicable by paying attention to a handful of cues that enable them to construct a larger story. They look for cues that confirm their analysis; and in doing so, they ignore a great deal. Leaders should help people expand the range and variety of cues they include.
Sensemaking creates a structure of shared meanings and understandings based on which concerted action can take place. To create shared meanings it is possible to tap into shared cognitive structures or collective knowledge bases which often arise as part of different cultures.
A network of shared meanings and interpretations provide the social order, continuity and clarity for members of an organisation to coordinate and relate their actions.
As a cognitive framework this presents criteria for selecting, valuing and processing information.
As a framework of meanings and norms it presents expectations for relating and evaluating actions and results and defines communal identity and commitment to purpose.
As much as order and stability, organisations need variation and diversity to ensure growth and development.
The basic structure of shared meanings needs to be sufficiently open and flexible to provide the space for new ideas to take hold and new responses to be enacted.
Two general strategies that organisations use to achieve an actionable level of consensus;
o Tapping into shared cognitive structures or collective knowledge bases that guide the process of information as well as the making of action
Engaging in the communication behaviours that establish agreement on action implications but at the same time retain a residual amount of ambiguity to accommodate differing interpretations.
Some researchers have suggested that organisations develop a certain level of cognitive consensuality that makes possible a reasonable degree of common understanding for collective action.
Consensuality in this case does not require complete agreement, but that "individuals have achieved a certain similarity in the way they process and evaluate information" (Gioia & Sims, 1986).
It does imply that there is a "reasonable amount of implicit agreement among organisations members as to the appropriate meaning of information or events. This leads to consensual cognitive scripts prescribing behaviour and action" (Finney & Mitroff, 1986, P.321)
Crisis & Disaster Sensemaking????
Stein (2004) conducted a great deal of research surrounding the period during which a disaster unfolds - the critical period (threat of major disruption, catastrophic change). The threat of sudden loss of meaning and the experience that one's view of the world has been violated. People's routines -as well as their customary thinking- are interrupted,
leading them to have little idea of how to proceed. Faced with the threat of the collapse of meaning, organisational members engage in sensemaking.
The critical period is the short period following the disaster's triggering event and a time of impending catastrophe.
Ignoring the information generated during the critical period almost inevitably leads to disaster
Sensemaking comes into play when there has been a loss of meaning or 'cosmology' episode. It requires stimuli to be placed into some sort of framework and is concerned with the ability to structure the unknown.
o In the case of 3 Mile Island there was a refusal to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty and an inclination to take guesses and seize conclusions that justified desired belief that there had only been minor problems. There was a refusal to consider the possibility that catastrophic processes were underway. Here sensemaking hindering rather than helping survival.
Stein (2004) also introduced the concept of anxiety within sensemaking. This is a state of expecting danger and preparing for it. Realistic anxiety heightens people's attention and releases energies that enable them to deal with the difficulties of the critical period. Balance between the absence of anxiety (denial) and excessive anxiety (panic). Realistic anxiety is a prerequisite for the attempts to address the problems of the critical period. Defences against anxiety involve protecting ourselves from acknowledging the dangers we face.
The inclination to experience and tolerate anxiety during the critical period is related to certain formal properties of the organization's socio-technical system which includes structures, systems, procedures and technology as well as worstcase planning. Where people are unable to experience realistic anxiety, one is likely to find defenses built into the organization that support the inclination to avoid such anxiety.
Organizational crises are described as low-probability and high-consequence events and are generally characterized by ambiguity (Pearson & Clair, 1998).
"Sense making involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action" (Taylor & Van Every, 2000, P.40).
The emotional responses to crisis, characteristics of a crisis itself (time pressure, limited information, required action and change) are precisely what contribute to the difficulty of decision making. In situations where we have ample time to respond and abundant access to information, for example, leaders will likely engage in sound decision making. In the absence of these things, physiological, emotional, and cognitive (Smith & Ellsworth, 1985) constraints converge to interfere with decision making.
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