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Knowledge Networks & Social Capital Expository Essay

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Updated: Jun 14th, 2019

Introduction

It can be said that the most important resource of the organization is the knowledge and skills that are possessed by the workforce. This knowledge keeps on increasing since the employees keep on learning new things everyday.

In this regard, it can be said that teamwork is preferred since it allows for the enhancement of the learning process among the employees. The teams or the social networks that are used to enhance the knowledge acquisition process of the employees are referred to as the knowledge networks (Ahmadi & Eskandari 2011).

There are two types of knowledge networks namely-communities of practice and communities of interest. According to Inkpen & Tsang (2005), community of practice refers to a group of individuals that have a desire for learning and share the same goals. The interactions of the members in the community of practice can be enhanced by making use of the technology.

Community of interest is considered to consist of more members than a community of practice and it is very instrumental in facilitating the learning process of the members. The outcome of the community of interest can be enhanced by putting in place discussion forums and by making use of technology. These will facilitate meaningful interactions between the members.

On the other hand, social capital refers to the institution’s norms or cultures that influence the extent of interactions in an organization. This is based on the premise that social interactions are very critical in enhancing the economic development of the society. It has been postulated that horizontal associations have a tendency for reducing the cost that is associated with doing a business in a particular place.

This can be attributed to the fact that social networks facilitate coordination and cooperation. However, it must be mentioned that social networks that are parochial have a tendency for working against the societal interests. For example, cartels can have the effect of impeding economic and social development.

Role of community of practice

According to Verburg & Andriessen (2011), a community of practice refers of group of people that are interested in the learning process and who share common goals. However, to enhance the efficiency of the community of practice, it is critical to have a moderator to provide guidance and support.

Community of practice allows for the unlocking of the knowledge that may be latent in the minds of the participants. This allows the organization to take advantage of that knowledge to improve on its processes.

Knowledge management

Linh-Chi (2012), argues that knowledge management refers to the process through which the organization promotes the learning process among its employees. This enables the sharing of skills and knowledge among the employees, which has a very great bearing on the performance of the employees and the productivity of the organization.

Most of the large organization set aside some resources to specifically cater for knowledge management. In fact, knowledge management is taken to be part and parcel of business strategy. In addition, the department of human resource management is charged with the responsibility of knowledge management.

Shannak et al. (2012) is of the view that the major purpose of knowledge management is to enhance the performance of the organization. Additionally, it can be used to provide the organization with the competitive advantage. More importantly, knowledge management is very essential in promoting innovation among the employees in the organization.

Some of the areas in which the knowledge in the organization can be used include: product development, new technologies, markets and customers. It must also be mentioned that knowledge is also concerned with processes and operations of the concerned organization.

Furthermore, knowledge and information are required for new business strategies, production and logistics. There are two types of knowledge that are found in an organization namely; tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is that type of information that cannot be codified, but which influences the manner in which the members of the organization carry out their duties. It must be appreciated that tacit knowledge can be found in the organizational values, practices and norms. On the other hand, explicit knowledge can be stored in the manner that is appropriate for the organization.

At the heart of knowledge management is the desire to manage the intangible knowledge assets in the organization. The reason for this is that knowledge is a very important element in an organization as it enhances its competitive advantage. For this reason, the organization would want its employees to learn new ways of doing things.

Additionally, most organizations are of the view that new knowledge facilitates product development, which in turn creates new business opportunities. This makes the organizations to be wary of any knowledge losses. To achieve this, the organization would want to minimize the risks that are associated with outsourcing, downsizing and resignations (Keh-Luh, Chi & Chiu-Mei 2012).

Furthermore, the organizations would also want to take advantage of the latent knowledge that can be realized from the organization and the employees. Some of the strategies that are employed to unearth that hidden knowledge include: enhancing the personnel information systems, developing mentoring services, and aligning the organization culture to be supportive of the learning process.

For this reason, it can be said that knowledge management is concerned with the unraveling of the necessary knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge throughout the organization. This knowledge is very important as it helps in activities such as problem solving, strategic planning, and decision making.

Others are of the opinion that knowledge management is concerned with the creation of new knowledge, sharing of that knowledge, and the strategies that are used to enhance the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge sharing is a term that is used to denote the sharing of knowledge, as well as the transference of knowledge between the individuals and the groups in an organization.

Some of the factors that enable knowledge sharing include the organization culture and values that tend to enhance the process of knowledge sharing.

These factors are instrumental in facilitating individual knowledge development as well as dealing with the obstacles that tends to impede the process of knowledge development. In addition to that, the factors also promote the sharing of the knowledge within the organization. This is the only way in which knowledge can be converted from individual knowledge to organizational knowledge.

Knowledge networking

According to Plum & Hassink (2011), knowledge networking has the potential to facilitate capacity development in an organization. In addition, it must be noted that knowledge networks promote the idea of learning together. This can have a tremendous influence on the performance of the entire team and that of the entire organization in general.

It has also been adduced that learning is very instrumental in influencing the performance of the organization. This is based on the premise that knowledge is very essential for any organization in this fast changing business environment. The major thrust of the knowledge networking is the human collaboration and not the technology that is used to enhance it.

Part of the reason as to why there has been this trend towards knowledge network is that there has been a diminished need to approach an expert to solve the organization’s challenges. In addition, there has been advancement in technology which has facilitated efficient communication.

This allows individuals to share ideas and knowledge. It can also be said that technology has also facilitated both informal and formal means of communication. The net effect of this is that there is a widened platform though which exchange of information can take place.

In the modern era it can be said that most of the networks are supported by technology. Moreover, the traditional form of networking such as alumni are being facilitated by the electronic platforms.

There are various types of networks that can be classified as small or large or even spontaneous or pre-determined. Nonetheless, the main aim of these networks is to facilitate the horizontal flow of information to the concerned parties.

According to some organizations there are two classes of networks that are used namely-delivery networks and enabling networks. It has been postulated that delivery networks are intent on delivering value to the organization (Lassen 2009). On the other hand, delivering networks are keen on enhancing the capacity of the employees to perform even better.

To ensure that those knowledge networks are effective, it is critical that they should have the driving force that will enhance the sustainability of the same. In addition, there are three aspects that are considered to be the hallmarks of effective knowledge networks namely- a community of people that co-operate, a shared topic, and organizational practices that are supportive of those networks.

It can also be said that a knowledge networks consists of people who interact with each other and are committed to the learning process in a bid to acquire more knowledge. They also agree on the methods that work best for them during the learning process. In addition, the members of the group decide on common approaches to issues that could be facing them.

Again, knowledge networks emphasizes on the need for sharing knowledge. The efficiency of the knowledge network hinges on the platform that is used as the medium of communication by the members of the team (Magnusson 2004).

Dimensions of knowledge network

It must be appreciated that a knowledge network consists of a group of people who interact with each other, learn together, and also build relationships that facilitate mutual commitment. Another aspect of the networks is that they are very dynamic, and for this reason they keep on changing in terms of membership from time to time.

Moreover, the external environment provides pressures on the network, which in turn influences the response of the network. There are some attributes that apply to all the networks namely-diversity, reciprocity and trust (Expósito-Langa & Molina-Morales 2010).

Diversity is a very key component of the network in that it enhances the diversity of the ideas that are availed to the network. However, it is important to realize that too much diversity can have the effect of affecting the operations of the network due to lack of shared values and principles.

Diversity also facilitates each member of the organization to aid in the exchange of information. Additionally, there is no one who is coerced to participate in the affairs of the network.

According to Huggins & Johnston (2009), the outcome of the network is heavily dependent on the level of trust of the members. If the members do not develop adequate level of trust, they are not likely to open up to each other. This might impede the process of development of knowledge. The level of trust can be enhanced by increasing the opportunities for interactions in the network.

It must also be appreciated that in situations in which the supervisor is present during deliberations, the members will be reluctant to open up to each other. This can be supported by the postulate that the flow of knowledge is likely to be better among peers. Reciprocity arises in situations in which all the members expect to be appreciated for their efforts in the network.

Towards this end, members make tremendous sacrifice in terms of time and resources in order to attain the goals of the network. One of the key pillars of any organization is its social capital, and its takes considerable amount of time to put up. However, this social capital can crumble due to inept management.

The contribution of the members of the organization is at its best when they feel as part and parcel of the network. This sense of belonging brings down any inhibition that may hold back the members from expressing themselves freely. Care should also be taken to ensure that the members are not held back from giving their ideas by some other members who have a tendency to dominate the discussions forums.

Additionally, the moderator for the discussion should ensure that the queries by the members are addressed in a timely fashion. This will tend to motivate the participants to express themselves freely. When the members of the networks work collaboratively, there is always a high chance that the solution will be found much faster than would be case for individuals working in isolation on the same issue.

How to enhance the outcome of knowledge networks

The topic that is being considered by the network should be such that it is not too broad and impenetrable (Carlsson 2003). This will enhance the possibility that all the members will work together to unravel the solution to the issue at hand, the earliest forms of networks arose among the craftsmen.

These were in form of guilds where members of a particular profession worked collaboratively so as to discover new and better ways of carrying out their trades. At the same time, they jealously guarded the knowledge acquired, but shared it freely among themselves. This had the effect of widening the knowledge base for the concerned vocations. The topic being studied should be such that it is focused on a particular issue.

Therefore, the members of the network have the duty of keeping track of the current stock of knowledge and also acting as the custodians of that knowledge.

In this regard, the members should keep both the tacit knowledge as well as the explicit knowledge, and to ensure that is passed on to the other members of the network. This acts as the base upon which the acquisition of future knowledge is founded. This ensures that the knowledge possessed by the members keeps on growing as time goes by.

Carlsson (2004) contends that the network must put in place measures that are meant to enhance knowledge sharing among the members. This will act as the catalyst for the development of knowledge. To enhance the outcome of the deliberations of the networks it is important to have the main themes that need to be tackled. This would in turn bring about finer themes that are meant to address specific issues that may arise.

Consequently, this would guide the members in determining the relevance of the solutions that they might proposed. It is also important for the members of the networks to identify those areas in which they are weak with a view to building capacity in those areas. To facilitate the identification of the areas in which the members of the network can build capacity, it is important o make use of self assessment framework.

Additionally, the use of self assessment framework also facilitates in the creation of the common focus and language that can be used in the discussions by the members of the network. Networks are also critical in the identification of the knowledge that is already known by its members.

This knowledge is also augmented by the collective experience of the members of the network. Since the members have both the tacit and the explicit knowledge coupled with the experience in its application, they are usually in a better position to determine whether the information should be shared or not.

Social capital

According to Felício, Couto & Caiado (2012), social capital is very essential in helping the company to innovate and retain its competitive edge. Social capital can be considered ass the set of skills and knowledge that are embedded in the relationships that are forged in the organizations. It has also been said that those individuals who perform well are invariably connected to others who also perform well.

For this reason, social capital is considered to be an asset in an organization. Members of a social group help each other in the acquisition of knowledge, and they are obligated to support each other in their endeavors.

It can also be noted that those organization that perform well are known for the manner in which they utilize the skills and knowledge that are inherent in their workforces. However, in order to take advantage of the networks in the organization, there is a need to eliminate structural holes.

This arises when individuals in different groups tends to concentrate on their activities without extending assistance to others that may belong to different groups. For this reason, these structural holes may have the effect of slowing down the dissemination of knowledge in the organization. This can be supported by the assertion that the people in different structural holes tend to disseminate different information.

Thus the structural holes should be viewed as the weak links in the organization, which hinder the free flow of information in the organization. Social capital is characterized by three dimensions namely- the structural dimension, the cognitive dimension and the relational dimension.

The structural dimension refers to the ties that exist in the network and which affects the ease with which members are able to bond with each other. On the other hand, cognitive dimension is concerned with the shared narratives and language that is used by the members in the group. The relational dimension refers to the values, norms and the roles that each member of the network is expected to play.

When all these dimensions come into play they help in the growth of the intellectual capital in the organization. There are different types of social capital that are appropriate for different goals. In this regard, there are three different characteristics that are associated with social capital. The first characteristic deals with the benefits of relevance, timeliness, and trustworthiness that are accrued by making use of the networks.

Secondly social capital facilitates the means through which the members in the network can be influenced and controlled, as well as freeing them up from that control. The other characteristic is the social solidarity. This arises when members of the group repetitively participate in the activities of the network. This brings about mutual trust and obligation.

Individual learning

Traditional human management practices emphasizes on individual learning as a means of enhancing the capacity of the organization. Due to the fact that knowledge is taken to be one of the important prerequisites of the success of the organization, it is important to adopt the right approaches to learning. Individual learning can also be considered as means of effecting organizational leaning.

Towards this end, it has been postulated that the individual learning should be continuous so as to enable the organization to respond to the changes in the environment. This is the only way in which the individual can remain relevant at the workplace (Aslam et al. 2011).

It can be said that individual learning takes into account the needs of the individual students. Individual learning usually takes place on a one-on-one basis, whereby the trainer takes an individual through a particular lesson.

Some of the factors that the trainer will need to take in consideration during training include: the learning environment, attitude, maturity, motivation, interests, and the pace of learning for the individual learners.

Some of the advantages that are associated with individual learning include the fact that the learning process can be customized to respond to the needs of the different learners. Additionally, the learners are allowed to learn at a pace that is convenient for them. The learners can also determine the method and the information that they can learn.

Organizational Learning

Organizational learning can be considered to be the hallmark of an organization that is continuously adapting to respond to changes in the environment (Wan, Compeau & Haggerty 2012). A learning organization is characterized by identification, storage and dissemination of knowledge throughout the organization. This learning is facilitated by the interactions that are forged in the organization.

However, the learning process should not be a by-product of the normal activities of the organization. Instead, it should be part of a deliberate process that is intended to widen the knowledge base of the organization.

Again, it must be realized that for the knowledge to benefit the entire organization, it must be stored in convenient manner and disseminated to the other members of the organization. In addition, knowledge will need to be transferred in a manner that is convenient and which enhances the understanding of the recipients.

Another very important feature of learning organizations is that they learn from their mistakes. The organization must continuously learn to be able to respond to the challenges that are presented by changes. Failure to embrace learning will have the effect of rendering an organization obsolete as time goes by.

Organization learning is a social process whereby interactions play a major role in the development of knowledge.

Towards this end, the organization must have a culture and a set of values that are supportive of these interactions. A major difference between organizational learning and individual learning is that individual learning is intended to empower individuals while organizational learning is intended to benefit the entire organization.

Organizational learning and adaptation from a systems perspective

According to Yanow (2000), the system approach advocates for cohesiveness and independency to permeate through out the structures of the organization. In such a scenario member of the organization will be in a position to work on common goals and achieve results by being committed.

In addition, during the process of working on the goals, the members will continuously monitor the efficiency of the approach adopted. Moreover, the learning process should embrace diversity in that everybody in the organization should be committed to the realization of the goals of the organization.

System approach investigates how our actions influence others and the learning process in general. This implies that human beings are interdependent on each other. Additional, the system approach has it that one should view the big picture in the problem solving process.

This is contrary to the conventional approach whereby the problem is broken down into smaller pieces to facilitate easier problem solving. Failure to look at the big picture could have the effect of implementing solutions that could have negative effects on others as well as on the entire organization.

KM related HR implications

According to Pastor, Santana & Sierra (2010), knowledge management is concerned with the identification, storage and the sharing of knowledge. On the other hand, human resource management is concerned with aspects such as recruitment training and hiring of employees. For this reason, knowledge management can have an impact on the training that is provided to the employees by the human resource department.

Additionally, knowledge management challenges human resources management in aspects such as intellectual property, unit boundaries and professional identity.

Consequently, the perception of the human resources on the issue of human resource development is shifted from that of capacity development to that of nurturing the necessary interactions within the organization, with a view to widening the knowledge base of the organization.

In addition, knowledge management helps the human resource management to organize training that is based on the identified areas in which the employees will need to be coached on.

According to the knowledge based view, knowledge is the most important resource for the organization. Therefore, knowledge influences the competitiveness of the organization relative to that of the other organizations in the same industry. Moreover, knowledge is a key resource as well as a major basis for the sustainability of the organization.

To ensure sustainability of the organization, there is need to adopt management practices that are sustainable. Therefore, it is apparent that knowledge management can play major role in enhancing the ability of the human resource management to adopt practices that are consistent with the sustainability issue.

It must also be acknowledged that knowledge is very essential in enhancing innovation and creativity in the organization. According to the human resource management practices, a lot of emphasis is placed on the identification of the facilitators and the inhibitors of innovation in the organization.

For this reason, some of the aspects that have been highlighted include: people, structure, organization size and the availability of resources. However, other approaches on the same issue have identified other factors that can influence the ability of the organization to innovate. Some of those other factors include: organizational environment, strategic type, and organizational climate and culture.

This has major impact on the strategies employed by the human resources management to promote innovation within the organization as knowledge management advocates for the use of networking in the organization.

Networking is very critical since it plays a major role in widening the knowledge base of the organization, which is very instrumental in enhancing the ability of the organization to innovate. Alternatively, the organization should encourage the employees to have differing perceptions of the challenges posed to the organization.

Conclusion

Knowledge can be viewed as a very important asset that can determine the success or failure of the organization. This is particularly acute for the organizations in this fast changing business environment. An organization that embraces new knowledge and uses it for its advantage will be in a position to succeed.

This implies that the right strategies need to be adopted to help in the accumulation and dissemination of the relevant knowledge. To facilitate the acquisition of knowledge the organization should encourage interactions among the members.

These interactions can be facilitated by the use of technology and the adoption of the right values within the organization. Additionally, the organization should encourage the strengthening of the networks since they are more efficient that working individually.

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