|Knowledge management has been
"An approach to adding or
creating value by more actively leveraging the
know-how, experience, and judgement resident within and, in many cases,
of an organisation." (Ruggles, 1998)
The importance of knowledge to
organisations can hardly be
overestimated. Nonaka (1991) says: "In
an economy where the only certainty
is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is
What then, is "knowledge"? Davenport
Prusak (1998) have this to say: "Confusion
about what data, information
and knowledge are - how they differ, what those words mean - has
enormous expenditures on technology initiatives that rarely deliver..."
As Kelly (1955/1991) says in his
individuality corollary: "Persons
differ from each other in their
construction of events". So, it is a risky business to prescribe
meaning to the word "knowledge". The safest course is to find out how
is construed by those in the organisation concerned. And, we need to
that knowledge is not a static thing. Constructive alternativism,
philosophy that underpins Kelly's theory, must always be kept in mind
managing knowledge. There are always
different ways in which things, people and
knowledge, can be construed. As Kelly says, knowledge needs to be
something which is invented rather
than something which is discovered.
The development and use of creativity is a
vital aspect of the successful management of knowledge. Knowledge is
something to be acquired and stored. New ideas need to be applied to
to overcome obstacles and to develop new products and services. Kelly's
cycle of loosening
and tightening construing
will always need to be kept
in mind by the knowledge manager. As Kelly (1955/1991) says: "A person who
always uses tight constructions may be productive - that is, he may
turn out a
lot of things - but he cannot be creative; he cannot produce anything
not already been blueprinted. Creativity always arises out of
Making tacit knowledge explicit: Often,
key requirement in the management of knowledge will be putting thoughts
words – perhaps for the first time (see tacit construing for more
on this). Nonaka
(1991) has this to say: "Making
personal knowledge available to others is
the central activity of the knowledge-creating company", and, "Tacit
knowledge is highly personal. It is hard to formalise and, therefore,
to communicate to others."
The importance of putting things into
was specifically acknowledged by Kelly: "Language is one of the
gadgets ever invented by man to help him elaborate his constructs.
serves two functions: it serves as a paperweight to keep his ideas from
away while a man is busy with something else; and it serves, more or
less, as a
means of communicating with other persons, especially with those who
have a similar
outlook." (Kelly, 1955/1991)
Fortunately, PCP is exceptionally well
provided with methods to help elicit tacit knowledge. Construct elicitation
(Kelly, 1955/1991), laddering
(Hinkle, 1965) and pyramiding
(Landfield, 1971) are just some of the methods that have been used by
practitioners to make tacit knowledge explicit (e.g. Stewart and
How can people be helped to share
knowledge? People may not be so keen on sharing their knowledge as an
would like. Developments of Kelly's repertory grid methodology
such as "idiographic
research surveys" (see Brophy, Fransella & Reed, 2003) can be used
find how why members of an organisation are resisting changes required
company’s knowledge management strategy. Personal construct theory has
integrated theory of resistance
to change, which can be used to understand why
people are "stuck". Idiographic research surveys also enable data to be
gathered on such issues as: the construing of the knowledge transfer
infrastructure in the organisation and discovering what can be learnt
projects undertaken by the organisation – learning from the
history. Other grid techniques such as the resistance to change grid
see Fransella, Bell & Bannister, 2003 for a description) enable the
relative importance of knowledge constructs to be identified.
In the context of knowledge management,
reference should also be made to the work of Mildred Shaw, Brian Gaines
others (see e.g. Shaw & Gaines, 2003) on expert systems.
This article has tried to show that in
construct terms what is and is not 'knowledge', is very much in the eye
beholder. It has also attempted to demonstrate the utility of personal
methods in making abstract things, so often the subject of knowledge
concrete. We have also seen that PCP methods and theory addresses such
issues such as resistance to change, which will be an inevitable part
of an organisation's
knowledge management strategy.
- Brophy, S.,
Fransella, F. & Reed, N.
(2003) The power of a good theory. In Fransella, F. (ed.), International handbook
of personal construct psychology. Chichester: John
Wiley & Sons Ltd.
T.H. & Prusak, L. (1998) Working
knowledge: How organisations
manage what they know. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
- Fransella, F., Bell, R.
Bannister, D. (2003) A manual for
repertory grid technique. Chichester: John Wiley &
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The change of
constructs from the viewpoint of a theory of construct implications.
Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Ohio State University.
- Jankowicz, D.
(2001) Why does subjectivity
make us nervous? Making the tacit explicit. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 2,
- Kelly, G.A.
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in 1991 in London by Routledge.
- Landfield, A.
(1971) Personal construct
systems in psychotherapy. Chicago:
- Nonaka, I. (1991) The knowledge creating company.
Harvard Business Review,
November-December 1991. Reprint no: 91608.
- Ruggles, R. (1998)
The state of the notion:
knowledge management in practice. California
Management Review, 40(3), 80-89.
- Shaw, M. &
Gaines, B. (2003) Expert
Systems. In Fransella, F. (ed), International
handbook of personal construct
psychology. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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Stewart, A. (1981) Business applications of repertory grids.
Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Book Company (UK)