Kai Pata is discussing the applicability of Cultural Transmission (CT) theory to explaining the use of artefacts in web communities. The key idea is that next to genes, culture is another mechanism for heredity and replication.
CT could be a useful framework for understanding the processes underpinning diffusion and adoption of innovations in education (eg innovative teaching practice). It is also interesting to explore the links with memetics and evolution of social systems.
Another classification of knowledge work that Davenport suggest (see previous post) is based on the type of knowledge activity – finding, creating, packaging, distributing of applying knowledge. In this classification:
Finding knowledge is concerned with “understanding knowledge requirement, searching for it among multiple sources, and passing it along to the requester or user. Examples: librarian, competetive intelligence analyst”. Creating knowledge refers to “creating new knowledge. Examples: researchers in a pharmaceutical company, book authors.” Packaging knowledge involves “putting together knowledge created by others. Examples: publishing, reporters, editors”. Distribution involves “creation of systems and processes to increase access to knowlege for others. Examples: those responsible for KM in organisations”. Finally, application includes “use and reuse of [existing]knowledge, without a lot of new knoweldge being created. Examples: accountants, nurses”.
This classification is perhaps a little bit too granular. Firstly, jobs based solely on “finding knowledge” type tasks are rare, instead this activity is integral to all other types (creating, applying, etc). So I think we can safely do away with this as a distinct category. Secondly, distribution too is problematic as a distintc type of knowledge work. As with finding type, jobs focused predominately on knowledge distribution are rare, plus the ease with which knowledge can be at present be shared and distributed over the web makes this category obsolete.
What we end up with then is three levels of knowledge work:
Level 1. Knowledge application
Level 2. Knowledge packaging/integration
Level 3. Knowledge creation
Thomas Davenport in his “Thinking for a Living” (Chapter 2) offers a set of classifications of the types of knowledge work.
The first one is a martix structured around complexity (C) of knoweldge work (ranging from routine to interpretation/judgement-based) and level of interdependence (I) requried (from individual cator-based to reliant on collaborative groups). It includes transaction model (low C, low I); integration model (low C, high I); collaboration model (high C, high I), and expert model (high C, low I).
I am wondering if within each of these general types of knowledge work, there are differences in the nature of tasks that novices and experts carry out. Take for example the collaboration model. Davenport claims that knowledge work of this type is characterised by being improvisational, highly reliant on deep expertise across functions, and dependent on fluid deployment in flexible teams. He uses investment banking as a typical example of this type of knowledge work. But how likley is a novice investment banker to have such deep cross-functional expertise? Novices will probably start off by doing more routine and process-reliant tasks (the key characteristics of transaction and integration model), which will increase in complexity and level of interaction as their skills and expertise develops. Davenport’s classification model doesn’t seem to reflect a developmental trajectory that exists within each type of work.
We are currently using this classification within a research study in a global multinational company. It would be interesting to see if the upcoming surveys in each of the specialist testbeds within this company will show any differences between novices and experts in relation to the nature and the types of the knowledge work.
***** UPDATE on Oct 2, 2011: This study has now been published in the Journal of Knowledge Management. The full reference is:
Margaryan, A., Milligan, C., & Littlejohn, A. (2011). Validation of Davenport’s Classification Structure of Knowledge-intensive Processes. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15(4), 568-581.