Monthly Archives: December 2005
I am interested in a very pragmatic perspective on learning. Like Schulz (2001), I am interested in how emergent organizations confront problems. This leads to a “pragmatic” perspective one learning in which I assume “…that org knowledge arises through learning from experiences with problems. In that view, knowledge consists of assumptions about problems and their solutions.” (Schulz 2001: 662). A further distinction that deserves attention is whether this pragmatic learning is exploration or exploitation. While this distinction ahs been discussed and studied (see refs), we still need a better idea of how properties of certain organizations facilitate or frustrate exploration or exploitation.
Routines have long been a focus of OL literature and research. Routines are the supra-individual unit of analysis for OL. Routines are the schema, procedures, rules, and norms that are the basis for taking action. In terms of exploration and exploitation, routines for problem-solving may be exploratory or exploitative. For example when facing a new challenge, a routine that calls for brainstorming in small groups is more exploratory than assigning a solution to one person who is instructed to look at past experience with similar problems. The link between routines and exploration-exploitation is multi-faceted and mediated through the structure of an organization’s social network, especially its subgroup articulation (non overlapping groups linked to each other by brokers). Routines matter for exploration and exploitation in two ways. First, an organization may have certain routines for problem-solving that promote exploration or exploitation. More subgroup articulation will facilitate exploratory routines because the knowledge produced by those routines will be more likely to develop and compete for adoption. Conversely, less subgroup articulation because of its greater efficiencies in knowledge transfer and retention, will tend to frustrate a specifically exploratory routine for problem solving. An organization may try to be more innovative or radical in its solutions (emerging from policy or organizational culture), but the effect of less sub group articulation will be to limit the creation and viability of that exploratory potential. Second, the amount of variation in problem solving routines will increase the amount of knowledge potential for the organization and hence exploration. This is a more indirect effect on exploration. However, it is also mediated by the relational property for subgroup articulation. More subgroups will tend to develop and nurture a greater variety of problem solving routines just as they foster and nurture a greater variety of ideas for solving problems.
The number of groups is very important to pursuing exploration because even specific individuals or routines that are focused on risk, innovation, creating new knowledge, or radical changes will see their efforts evaporate as the exploitative tendency of the denser network effectively (if unintentionally) limits the amount of requisite and viable possibilities. Hence, exploratory drive will suffocate under the weight of exploitation’s density and larger subgroups.
Two features of the interaction between networks and learning can influence exploratory or exploitative learning. One has to do with the creation of knowledge while the other has to do with the transfer of knowledge. To be more exploratory, an organization must have more ideas, more knowledge potential. More distinct subgroups will have more knowledge due to the insulating effect on knowledge and creativity of distinct subgroups. This first factor is requisite diversity of knowledge in the idea or knowledge stock available to guide company action. Higher requisite diversity leads to more exploration. The second has to do with knowledge transfer; specifically, whether the multiple relations of an organization’s social network are highly coupled or loosely coupled. Highly coupled relations will lead to more exploitation as knowledge has more conduits to spread and as actors will accord more legitimacy to knowledge that comes form a friend, work colleague, and trusted advisor than knowledge coming across only one of those relationships. Loosely coupled relations allow for the productive misfit of social networks.
Inspiration from Bruce Arena (US Men’s Coach) on drawing Italy, Czechs, and Ghana for World Cup in 2006. “it is what it is.” Indeedy.
For better or for worse, the black thoughts that plague me should just be left behind.
There is a certain troubled relationship with expertise I have. I seem to berate myself for not being more of an “expert.” Meanwhile, I jump from interest to interest so that my expertise doesn’t seem to accumulate that much in any one thing. But maybe my sense of expertise is off-target. Like, I think if I have to think about something, or do some reading, then I am not an expert. If the answer Is not on the tip of my tongue, then I am not an expert.
But maybe this is where I need a massive dose of “get over myself.” The very act of revisiting my own experience and knowledge, my own writings and musings, is what builds my expertise. It is not the internalization of all possible knowledge that makes me an expert. It is the ability to perform in a given context that makes me an expert, which is, of course, always a relative reference anyway. I am an expert compared to someone else.
So, having 60+pages of pre writing and free writing is a resource for being an expert, not evidence for the eternal prosecutor to use to make the case that I am a fraud. Having my e-journal spread over12 files with file names that are hash of indexing is not one more datum in the great “jordi-is-not-an-expert” database. They are what they are- the sinews and stitches of my thinking and doing.
Too much of the former, not enough of the later.
Hence, next post on the exploration and exploitation.
This may be a very bad idea. I am finishing a dissertation in management. I spend a lot of time journaling and pre-writing. Getting ideas down on screen so that I can build momentum and see how a thought looks once made concrete. Over tow years, this has accumulate into quite an amount of detritus of ideas, possibilities, and mental prospecting.
I have slowly learned that this actually may help me finish (I can be a slow learner).
I have not a lot of contact with my dissertation committee for many valid reasons that don’t need enumerating here.
Over time, I have assembled a loose collection of friends and contacts who have advised me about one aspect or another about this project.
As a peripheral observer and consumer of distributed information, web-based discourse, email-based discussions of a community of interest, and all the other fauna of the web-ecology, I have gained an appreciation for how this infoscape can facilitate writing and thinking.
So, I will try this weblog about my dissertation.
Some ground expectations…
I anticipate a small readership.
If you have comments or suggestions, feel free to add them.
I will avoid much of the personal ranting and neurosis dwelling that populates other pre-writing and journaling I have done.
The best way to start writing is to…start writing. Corollary: the best way to get out of a hole you have dug for yourself is to stop digging.
If you are a researcher or writer and you happen to like what you read here, cite away, but give credit too.