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Book part
Publication date: 10 December 2001

Anita D. Bhappu, Mary Zellmer-Bruhn and Vikas Anand

Work teams have gained increasing importance as businesses shift to knowledge-based organizational structures. At the same time, advances in information technology have…

Abstract

Work teams have gained increasing importance as businesses shift to knowledge-based organizational structures. At the same time, advances in information technology have facilitated this change by enabling virtual work environments. To add to this complexity, the increasing demographic diversity of workers is coinciding with the rise in virtual and knowledge-based work environments. Therefore, it is critical that we understand the impact of these changes as they coincide in organizations today.

One of the extolled virtues of work teams is their potential to combine the unique knowledge held by individual workers, integrating these knowledge resources to bear on productive tasks. To effectively utilize their distributed knowledge, work teams have to perform three basic knowledge-processing activities: (a) knowledge acquisition; (b) knowledge integration; and (c) knowledge creation. However, work teams often have difficulty processing their distributed knowledge. The ability of team members, or lack thereof, to work effectively with each other is usually the problem.

The increasing demographic diversity of workers presents similar challenges for organizations. Demographically diverse workers have more unique knowledge, leading to increased knowledge differentiation in work teams. A work team that has high knowledge differentiation is one whose members possess different expertise. The unique knowledge held by individual team members effectively enlarges a work team's pool of knowledge resources. However, the increasing demographic diversity of workers often results in work teams having more difficulty processing their distributed knowledge because team members are not able to work effectively with different others. That being the case, the potential for demographically diverse work teams to more effectively perform productive tasks is lost.

We realize that demographically diverse work teams are a special (and important) case of teams in that they are both high on differentiated knowledge and high on the potential for conflict and other process losses. However, with an increasingly global marketplace, this special case is quickly becoming commonplace. Therefore, it is critical that we find ways to help demographically diverse work teams limit their process losses and realize their full potential.

Virtual work environments only heighten the need for demographically diverse work teams to minimize their process losses. Team members are often separated by both geographic space and time, which makes it even more challenging for them to work effectively with each other. In such environments, team members are often isolated from one another and find it difficult to feel a part of their team. Interestingly, computer-mediated communication has been shown to enhance team performance by helping team members communicate more effectively with each other. In fact, empirical work by Bhappu, Griffith, and Northcraft (1997) suggests that computer-mediated communication can actually help demographically diverse work teams process their distributed knowledge more effectively.

In this chapter, we will discuss the effects of demographic diversity and virtual work environments on knowledge processing in teams. More specifically, we will describe when computer-mediated communication is likely to enhance knowledge processing in demographically diverse work teams and when it is not. In doing so, we hope to provide both workers and managers with a set of guidelines on how to best navigate these organizational changes.

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Virtual teams
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-76230-843-9

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Book part
Publication date: 25 July 2014

Barbara White, Greg Williams and Rebecca England

Technology provision and Next Generation Learning Spaces (NGLS) should respond to the active learning needs of twenty-first century learners and privilege multiple…

Abstract

Technology provision and Next Generation Learning Spaces (NGLS) should respond to the active learning needs of twenty-first century learners and privilege multiple ‘pictures of learning’ and associated knowledge work. In this sense it is important for NGLS to be pedagogically agnostic – agile enough to cater for a range of pedagogical approaches within the one physical space. In this chapter, the democratising and potentially disruptive power of new digital technologies to facilitate the privileging of these multiple pictures of learning is explored, recognising the significant rise in student ownership and academic use of mobile technologies. With their escalating ubiquity and their facilitation of active knowledge work, research around considerations for the implementation of mobile digital technologies is canvassed, highlighting a range of issues to be considered. This is part of the ‘hidden work’ of technology implementation. Without this hidden work, the potential of NGLS in facilitating and privileging active learning and multiple pictures of learning is diminished and the potential for reinforcing already powerful and potentially exclusionary modes of knowledge work increases. Finally to assist in articulating the hidden work of digitally enabled NGLS, a model is proposed to help understand how ease of use and confidence impacts on student and academic knowledge work.

Details

The Future of Learning and Teaching in Next Generation Learning Spaces
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-986-7

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Critical Capabilities and Competencies for Knowledge Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78973-767-7

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 2004

Suvi Nenonen

Social work space is emerging as a major avenue for sharing knowledge and the creation of social capital. Social space and physical space needs to be in balance. Virtual…

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2658

Abstract

Social work space is emerging as a major avenue for sharing knowledge and the creation of social capital. Social space and physical space needs to be in balance. Virtual space must also be included in this mix. The physical work environment can support the new sense of place and space in the knowledge work. This paper discusses how to use tangible assets to make intangible social space perform better. In this paper the problem is approached by analysing the balance between physical, social and virtual space. The method used is based on “type” analysis, which uses the structure of a four‐quadrant model based on twin axis for the knowledge production circle. The focus is on the space needed in different phases of creating knowledge. The results of the pilot test show that work environments tend to support explicit knowledge sharing but fail to support tacit knowledge exchange.

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Facilities, vol. 22 no. 9/10
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0263-2772

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Article
Publication date: 10 July 2017

Margaret Moussa, Mathew Bright and Maria Estela Varua

The purpose of this paper is to examine the suitability of job and work design theory for investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review is a response to…

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2337

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the suitability of job and work design theory for investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review is a response to recommendation and adoption of the motivational human resource management approach by a number of knowledge management researchers. The authors show that the existing literature on this topic overlooks key criticisms of HRM job and work design theory itself. The authors suggest modifications.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper proceeds by outlining knowledge management researchers’ arguments rejecting the application of traditional measurement approaches to investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review develops to examine the various arguments for adopting work design theory and considers the key contributions and critiques in this field. Drawing on the insights of key HRM work design critics, the paper concludes by offering suggestions for a model suitable for examining the drivers of knowledge work productivity in process.

Findings

The principle finding is that Morgeson and Humphrey’s (2006) Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ) stand as the most conceptually consistent and methodologically considered human resource management work design theory. However, this model must itself be modified to include a category of organizational contextual work characteristics. For application to the filed of knowledge management, WDQ must also be expanded to include knowledge sharing, role breadth self-efficacy and employee well-being as key work design mediators and outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

Greater consideration needs to be given to the distinction between knowledge sharing as a work design mediator and as a work design outcome. Morgeson and Humphrey themselves note that the “common method variance” problems arising in psychometric research have been reduced but not completely eliminated from their model.

Practical implications

Survey instruments based on the recommended model potentially provide a valuable means for understanding and enhancing productivity in a variety of knowledge intensive service industries. The pronounced benefit of this model is that it is applicable in cross-industry and cross-occupational contexts, unlike many existing knowledge worker productivity models. This is an advantage, given the centrality of the inter-connectivity of different types of activities and industries in knowledge work.

Social implications

Work design prioritizes employee motivation and support and links this to the quality of work and the well-being of clients. The benefits of well-designed knowledge work extend well beyond the generation of specific innovations and macroeconomic productivity improvements.

Originality/value

Job design and work design theory have been applied in the field of knowledge management. However, the applications have largely overlooked key critiques of the established models in the human resource management literature. The paper fills this gap. Its original suggestions for modifying Moregeson and Humphry’s (2006) WDQ reflect the authors’ in-depth analysis of the literature.

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International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, vol. 66 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-0401

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Article
Publication date: 12 October 2015

Giustina Secundo, Remy Magnier-Watanabe and Peter Heisig

This study aims to identify and compare the knowledge and information retrieval needs from past projects and for future work among Italian and Japanese engineers…

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1471

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to identify and compare the knowledge and information retrieval needs from past projects and for future work among Italian and Japanese engineers. Engineering work, which is knowledge-intensive, is all the more critical as it both uses and generates knowledge for product and process innovation.

Design/methodology/approach

This research uses data collected from engineers in Italy and Japan from an online survey using open-ended questions in their native language. Answers were then translated into English and coded into pre-determined categories; statistical analyses including factor analysis were conducted.

Findings

For knowledge to be retrieved from past work, both Italian and Japanese engineers identified mainly experiential and systemic knowledge assets. For knowledge to be captured for future work, both groups picked experiential as well as conceptual knowledge related to the competitive environment of the firm absent from knowledge needs from past work. Finally, this research uncovered almost twice as fewer meta-categories for knowledge needs to be captured for future work compared to knowledge to be retrieved from past projects, as the former are by nature speculative and, therefore, difficult to foresee.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to the engineering domain and to two countries. Further research should extend the scope beyond these two countries.

Practical implications

The study identified information and knowledge needs that could help inform the design of procedures to capture and document engineering work and the development of supporting information systems.

Originality/value

This research contributes to an increased understanding of the substance of information and knowledge needs in a knowledge-intensive environment such as engineering work and product/service development.

Details

Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 19 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1367-3270

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Article
Publication date: 23 October 2009

Petra M. Bosch‐Sijtsema, Virpi Ruohomäki and Matti Vartiainen

Knowledge work (KW) is a well‐researched topic. However, KW is difficult to measure and little consensus has been reached on elements that affect knowledge work

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5292

Abstract

Purpose

Knowledge work (KW) is a well‐researched topic. However, KW is difficult to measure and little consensus has been reached on elements that affect knowledge work productivity on a team level. The current theories neglect teams working in distributed geographical areas. The purpose of the paper is to integrate recent literature on knowledge work productivity (KWP) in distributed teams and give an overview of the elements affecting it.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents an overview of research performed in the field of knowledge work productivity. The authors integrate theories of different fields of management theory (knowledge management, intellectual capital and learning), and work and organizational psychology. This paper answers three questions: What is knowledge work? What is knowledge work productivity? Which elements hinder or enable knowledge work productivity in distributed teams of global technology companies?

Findings

The authors define the crucial elements that either hinder or enable KWP: team tasks, team structure and processes, the physical, virtual and social workspaces as well as organizational context. The paper presents an integrative model of KWP in distributed teams of global technology companies.

Practical implications

Distributed teams are common in global companies. By understanding the elements that affect KWP, companies can stimulate or decrease specific elements in order to improve productivity of their distributed knowledge workers.

Originality/value

This paper integrates theories from different disciplines in order to create an understanding about knowledge work and its productivity for further research.

Details

Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 13 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1367-3270

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Article
Publication date: 12 July 2018

Miikka Palvalin

Knowledge work productivity is a well-studied topic in the existing literature, but it has focussed mainly on two things. First, there are many theoretical models lacking…

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1373

Abstract

Purpose

Knowledge work productivity is a well-studied topic in the existing literature, but it has focussed mainly on two things. First, there are many theoretical models lacking empirical research, and second, there is a very specific research regarding how something impacts productivity. The purpose of this paper is to collect empirical data and test the conceptual model of knowledge work productivity in practice. The paper also provides information on how different drivers of knowledge work productivity have an impact on productivity.

Design/methodology/approach

Through the survey method, data were collected from 998 knowledge workers from Finland. Then, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to confirm the knowledge work productivity dimensions of the conceptual model. Later, regression analysis was used to analyse the impacts of knowledge factors on productivity.

Findings

This paper increases the understanding of what matters for knowledge work productivity, with statistical analysis. The conceptual model of knowledge work productivity consists of two major elements: the knowledge worker and the work environment. The study results showed that the knowledge worker has the biggest impact on productivity through his or her well-being and work practices. The social environment was also found to be a significant driver. The results could not confirm or refute the role of the physical or virtual environment in knowledge work productivity.

Practical implications

The practical value of the study lies in the analysis results. The information generated about the factors impacting productivity can be used to improve knowledge work productivity. In addition, the limited resources available for organisational development will have the greatest return if they are used to increase intangible assets, i.e., management and work practices.

Originality/value

While it is well known that many factors are essential for knowledge work productivity, relatively few studies have examined it from as many dimensions at the same time as this study. This study adds value to the literature by providing information on which factors have the greatest influence on productivity.

Details

Employee Relations, vol. 41 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0142-5455

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2009

Alexander Styhre and Pernilla Gluch

The purpose of this paper is to look into the knowledge‐intensive work that entangles the use of various visual representations such as drawings, CAD images, and scale

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to look into the knowledge‐intensive work that entangles the use of various visual representations such as drawings, CAD images, and scale models. Rather than assuming that knowledge is exclusively residing in the human cognitive capacities, most knowledge‐intensive work integrates a variety of perceptual skills and the use of language.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study of a Scandinavian architect bureau, including semi‐structured interviews with architects, design engineers and managers, was conducted.

Findings

The study shows that architects mobilize and use a variety of visual representations in their day‐to‐day work. Such visual representations serve a variety of roles and purposes but actually more generally enhance communication between colleagues and external stakeholders. The paper concludes that visuality and visual representations deserve a more adequate analysis in the knowledge management literature.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to an understanding of how visual representations are constitutive of knowledge and central to architect work. Rather than residing in language or being embodied, knowledge is developed through the use of a variety of tools and aids.

Details

VINE, vol. 39 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0305-5728

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Article
Publication date: 13 November 2007

Jennifer Adelstein

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the knowledge work discourse has been transformed from a celebration of those who create knowledge to one of leaden…

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1304

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the knowledge work discourse has been transformed from a celebration of those who create knowledge to one of leaden prescription to purposively separate the knowledge from the knower.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach takes the form of genealogical discourse analysis of the dominant and alternative knowledge work discourses.

Findings

From its earliest conceptions, knowledge work as a discourse was conceived as creating a new class of worker who was highly educated, motivated and financially aspirational. Through alignment with significant discourses from such fields of knowledge as economics, the law and technology, knowledge has become an organisational asset, to be secured by technology and protected by law even from those who created it. Discursive transformation shows that knowledge work and those who perform it – the knowledge workers – have become marginalised in the discourses until they have virtually disappeared altogether.

Research limitations/implications

As a conceptual paper, the analysis does not address an empirical research frame. However, the paper illustrates how power is implicated in all aspects of the knowledge work discourse.

Originality/value

The paper identifies how power relations are implicit in organisational discourses of knowledge work. Knowledge is seen to be central to studies of organisations, economics and globalisation, yet human beings as creators of knowledge have been marginalised in the knowledge discourses.

Details

Equal Opportunities International, vol. 26 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0261-0159

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