The emergence of knowledge in organisations

R. Stacey

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This paper argues for a particular way of interpreting analogies from the complexity sciences as the basis for a perspective on knowledge creation in organizations called complex responsive processes of relating (Stacey, 2000; Stacey, Griffin & Shaw, 2001; Stacey, 2001). From this perspective, knowledge is continuously reproduced and potentially transformed processes of interaction between people. It follows that people cannot ‘share’ knowledge because one cannot share the actions of relating to others, only perform them. It also follows that knowledge as such is not stored anywhere. All that can be stored is reifications in the form of artifacts, or tools, which can only become knowledge when used in communicative interaction between people. It becomes impossible to talk about measuring knowledge as ‘intellectual capital’ because knowledge itself does not exist in measurable, or any other reified form. Indeed, putting the words ‘intellectual’ and ‘capital’ together makes little sense. The notion put forward by some (for example, Roos, Dragonetti & Edvinsson, 1997; Sveiby, 1997) that an organization can own ‘intellectual capital’, that is, can own the attitudes, competence and intellectual agility of individuals, becomes highly dubious since no one can own relationships. The conclusion is that while it is possible to nurture knowledge, it is impossible to ‘manage’ it, when ‘manage’ is understood in it conventional sense. This paper first highlights the central concepts of mainstream thinking about knowledge creation and management in organizations and then outlines the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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