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Complex acts of knowing: paradox and descriptive self‐awareness

David Snowden (David Snowden is a Director of IBM’s Institute for Knowledge and a Fellow of the Information Systems Research Unit at Warwick University, UK.)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 1 May 2002



We are reaching the end of the second generation of knowledge management, with its focus on tacit‐explicit knowledge conversion. Triggered by the SECI model of Nonaka, it replaced a first generation focus on timely information provision for decision support and in support of BPR initiatives. Like BPR it has substantially failed to deliver on its promised benefits. The third generation requires the clear separation of context, narrative and content management and challenges the orthodoxy of scientific management. Complex adaptive systems theory is used to create a sense‐making model that utilises self‐organising capabilities of the informal communities and identifies a natural flow model of knowledge creation, disruption and utilisation. However, the argument from nature of many complexity thinkers is rejected given the human capability to create order and predictability through collective and individual acts of freewill. Knowledge is seen paradoxically, as both a thing and a flow requiring diverse management approaches.



Snowden, D. (2002), "Complex acts of knowing: paradox and descriptive self‐awareness", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 100-111.




Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

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