What is the role of knowledge creation and sharing in a healthy educational organization?
My broad definition of a healthy educational organization is one that has effective leadership, empowered team members, cohesive structure, and flexible processes to carry out its mission and achieve its stated moral purpose. Knowledge creation and sharing ensures that all those important pieces of the organization remain connected in meaningful ways and allows the organization as a whole to move forward and upward or in other words, make progress and demonstrate growth and improvement.
I feel the need to clarify that this concept of knowledge creation and sharing is very complex and at the risk of overgeneralizing what that looks like in a “healthy” educational organization, I think it’s worth the time to briefly glance at Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) description of how knowledge is created and shared (p. 62):
According to them, socialization involves sharing our experiences; externalization occurs when we can name our tacit knowledge, when we “attempt to conceptualize an image” (p. 64); combination refers to “combining different bodies of explicit knowledge” (p. 67), or bringing in information, knowledge, and experiences from a range of sources; and internalization, can be thought of as “learning by doing” and translating what is explicit into something tacit and “learned”. While Nonaka and Takeuchi’s study is focused on business models, the terms described above can easily be understood in the context of an educational organization.
Knowledge creation is valuable because it allows an organization to utilize the collective tacit knowledge of its members for a variety of purposes: to capture and enrich organizational memory, to identify, share, and improve upon best practices, and to share the responsibility for learning and include multiple perspectives. All of these purposes can lead an organization to be more effective, efficient, and productive, ultimately in achieving its moral purpose. Fullan (2014) points out that “Leaders in a culture of change realize that accessing tacit knowledge is crucial and that such access cannot be mandated. Effective leaders understand the value and role of knowledge creation, they make it a priority and set about establishing and reinforcing habits of knowledge exchange among organizational members. To do this they must create many mechanisms for people to engage in this new behavior and to learn to value it” (p. 87).
Organizational memory or knowledge can be somewhat tricky to capture. Formal and informal processes within an overall structure can gather internal and external information. However, sometimes educational organizations can become burdened with the task and responsibility of storing their memory – files, data, results, reports, etc. in order to be accountable for their work. Translating that memory and knowledge into something that can benefit the organization and its members is an important role for effective leaders.
On a broad scale, knowledge creation and sharing allows leaders and team members to identify, share, and improve upon best practices that enable them to achieve the educational organization’s moral purpose. “The goals of [knowledge management] are the leveraging and improvement of the organization’s knowledge assets to effectuate better knowledge practices, improved organizational behaviors, better decisions and improved organizational performance” (King, 2009, p. 4). This leveraging and improvement is very complex, because people are the ones that bring knowledge into the organization through prior knowledge and experiences.
The organization itself has a bank of knowledge captured through physical files and reports, the unique combination of individuals within the organization at a given time, the context and environment that the organization exists, the evolution of the organization’s purpose and structure over time, and the perception or identity (branding) that the organization holds with the outside world. In a healthy educational organization, this complex web of knowledge shared by the organization and its members is what drives the organization to success.
A shared responsibility for learning and including multiple perspectives is an integral component of a healthy educational organization; this also means, implies, or even assumes, that there is equity among the leaders and team members in sharing their knowledge. Propp (1999) writes about the status hierarchy of groups and make several important points about how knowledge sharing is impacted. Leaders or members with higher status in the organization usually have more opportunities than others to share knowledge, this is sometimes due to the nature of their role or the organizational structure and processes that assign more responsibility for leaders and higher status members to impart knowledge. These higher status members also tend to have their ideas and knowledge sharing more readily received, thereby increasing the perceived value of their knowledge shared and the likelihood that those ideas will then be accepted and used by the organization.
In a healthy educational organization, knowledge sharing should enable the voices and ideas of the members with “lesser” status to be heard and incorporated for the good of the organization. The various perspectives provided at all levels and branches of the educational organization are not just desired, but needed, in order for that organizational memory or knowledge and collective intelligence and experience to drive positive progress and growth.
Fullan, M. (2014). Leading in a Culture of Change. Somerset, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=46&docID=10842273&tm=1446361438665
King, W.R. (ed.). (2009). Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning. 3 Annals of Information Systems 4. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-0011-1_1. Retrieved from: http://www.uky.edu/~gmswan3/575/KM_and_OL.pdf
Nonoka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: How Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=B-qxrPaU1-MC&dq=sharing+knowledge+brings+multiple+perspectives&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Propp, K.M. (1999). Collective Information Processing. In Frey, Gouran, & Poole (Ed.), The Handbook of Group Communication Theory and Research (pp. 225-250). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=IRAxk7sn258C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false