Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know

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"The hope of 'knowledge management' will remain unfulfilled unless organizations learn how to tap into not just their employees' facts and observations, but their hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. Nancy Dixon has studied the ways in which knowledge truly spreads, and she describes the practice in real-life detail, blending a keen feel for organizational design, in-depth research, practicality, and high spirits."
--Art Kleiner, Coauthor of The Dance of Change and Author of The ...
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Overview

"The hope of 'knowledge management' will remain unfulfilled unless organizations learn how to tap into not just their employees' facts and observations, but their hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. Nancy Dixon has studied the ways in which knowledge truly spreads, and she describes the practice in real-life detail, blending a keen feel for organizational design, in-depth research, practicality, and high spirits."
--Art Kleiner, Coauthor of The Dance of Change and Author of The Age of Heretics

"Common Knowledge is valuable to readers interested in understanding the practices by which knowledge is transferred. An important contribution to the knowledge management literature."
--Stephen Denning, Program Director, Knowledge Management, World Bank

"Nancy Dixon offers insightful case studies that identify the obstacles facing organizations that implement knowledge management practices, and outlines the techniques to overcome them. Her book reveals that by focusing on getting 'best demonstrated practices,' we can all improve and leverage what we already know in our organization."
--Jack W. Hugus, Ph.D, Vice President of Best Practices, Lockheed Martin Corporation

"Common Knowledge presents an elegant view of how knowledge is transferred and provides a simple framework to better understand the complexity of knowledge management."
--Gary Merriman, President, Exploration Production Americas, Conoco, Inc.

"Nancy Dixon brings her unique blend of insight and lucidity to the business of knowledge management. By pointing out the fundamental shifts that are taking place in our view of knowledge, she shows us why the knowledge management systems thatwork do work, and specifies the design principles that could make such systems work in your organization."
--Mike Pedler, Revans Professorial Fellow, Revans Centre for Action Learning & Research, University of Salford, UK

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780875849041
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
1. Introduction
2. Common Knowledge
3. Serial Transfer
4. Near Transfer
5. Far Transfer
6. Strategic Transfer
7. Expert Transfer
8. Changing How We Think about Knowledge
9. Building an Integrated System for Knowledge Transfer
Notes
Index
About the Author
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2001

    Insightful Review of Knowledge Sharing Practices

    Common Knowledge Written by Nancy M. Dixon Harvard Business School Press ¿If I share my knowledge, that is, give it away then we can both hold it in common- common knowledge that is known throughout the organization¿. Nancy M. Dixon This is a well-written and informative book about the collection, storage, usage, and dissemination of data within organizations. The transfer of knowledge depends on many factors, which can result in the success or failure of an organization¿s mission. There are several barriers to effective knowledge transfer. Companies often find that creating large database warehouses to which individuals are expected to contribute often fail. This failure being due to the lack of feedback associated with this type of data collection. Nancy Dixon states ¿most people are anxious to share information when a result can be seen and felt¿. Other prominent mistakes include relying on technology to replace face-to-face interaction and the creation of an aura of competitiveness within an organization. As a result of studying knowledge sharing practices of several companies, five types of knowledge transfer systems were found. The deciding factor for determining the success of an organization¿s project was the correct choice of the knowledge transfer system being used. The transfer systems were: serial, near, far, strategic and expert. The type of knowledge transfer system chosen depends on the similarity of task and context, nature of task (routine vs. nonroutine), the type of knowledge being transferred (tacit vs. explicit) and whether or not the knowledge will impact the whole organization. In serial transfer, the knowledge a team has gained from doing its task in one setting is transferred to the next time that same team does the task in a different setting. The nature of the task is frequent and non-routine with the type of knowledge transferred being tacit and/or explicit. The goal of the receiving team is to do a similar task in a new context. To facilitate knowledge transfer, brief meetings are held regularly in which everyone participates without fear of being reprimanded. Near transfer involves the transfer of explicit knowledge a team has gained from doing a frequent and routine task, which is being reused by other teams doing similar work. It differs from serial transfer in that this type of knowledge is disseminated electronically though supplemented with personal interaction. This system utilizes a targeted database, which pushes knowledge. ¿Pushed¿ knowledge limits time used in searching large databases with non-pertinent information. Near transfer also requires that the system be monitored. A receiving team utilizing the tacit knowledge of a source team gleaned from doing a frequent and non-routine task characterizes far transfer. The receiving and source teams may be in different geographic locations, using a different technology or be culturally different. Thus the knowledge being transferred has to be modified or translated before the source team can use it. Knowledge transfer is reciprocal with tacit knowledge being shared across the organization. In far transfer, the process by which knowledge is shared is given a name, which is easily recognizable, and without derogatory connotation (Peer Assist vs. Help Team). In strategic transfer, the collective knowledge (tacit and explicit) of the organization is needed to accomplish a strategic task that occurs infrequently and non-routine but is critical to the organization as a whole. This system utilizes knowledge specialists to collect and interpret knowledge. These knowledge specialists are not members of the team itself, which allows for the collection of non-biased information. They are also allowed to be present when the information they seek is actually taking place. The author also states that the interpretation of this knowledge must be presented in such a way

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