Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2008, page 25-39.
English resume

Knowing and the need for control in knowledge work

Claus Elmholdt

This article discusses the relationship between knowing and the need for control in knowledge work. The article takes empirical outset in the case study of a Danish software producing company’s (MediaSoft) more or less unsuccessful attempts at implementing knowledge management technologies: (1) “Knowledge-Center” – a technology for codifying and objectifying practical knowing as text and images in databases. (2) “Knowledge map” – a technology for supporting knowledge development and knowledge sharing through cultivating communities of practice. A concept of knowledge as knowing, giving due recognition to both bodily and situated aspects of knowledge, is applied in analysing the organization’s knowledge management technologies. The main question posed in the article is; how to understand the employees’ mistrust and resistance towards the organization’s knowledge management strategies? Firstly, a functionalist explanation is pursued, arguing that the employees’ mistrust and resistance towards the Knowledge-Center is shaped by a flawed concept of knowledge, which reduces practical knowing to a possession that can be stored and retrieved from databases. The “Knowledge-Center” focus on codifying, archiving, and creating global access to information seems in conflict with the knowledge-workers focus on seeking context rich information through collegial network. However, the “knowledge map” technology for cultivation of viable communities of practice and collegial networks did not solve the knowledge management problem either. In order to shed new light on this finding, a discursive perspective was pursued, arguing that both knowledge management strategies threaten to subjectify the employees as replaceable resources in a lifelong learning imperative. Finally, a radical interpretation of situated learning theory accentuating conflicts, oppositions and power is put forward, suggesting that communities of practice harbours feelings of security, identity, self-esteem and control, all of which are potentially threatened by the implemented knowledge management strategies. Taking this perspective, the mistrust and resistance may be seen as a safe-guard residing within communities of practice against the intense marked driven discipline towards flexibility and adaptability.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt