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Answer the questions and use the attached documents as material tools
1. Connect with what you learn before spring break regarding “learning”, what would you say about “unlearning”?
2. Find a story to explain why “unlearning” is somewhat as difficult as “learning”.
WEEK 9 – KM & ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
DR. XUETING JIANG
• This paper attempts to understand how the flow of information in knowledge
organizations can be maintained without obstacles.
• In what way the underlying constraints (if any) which might hinder organizational
knowledge growth can be reduced.
• The goal of this research is to address these problems in detail and, in particular, explore
theoretically to rein in obstacles to KM.
OL & KM PROCESS
• A knowledge manager’s role is
• centralize information scattered
across the organization
• control of labor
• develop conceptual framework to
manage the tacit knowledge stock
• deliberate means of codifying
various tacit forms of knowledge
• Middle managers take up the
responsibility to manage knowledge
in knowledge organizations
TACIT-EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE CYCLE
• The role of KM is to codify
(externalize) tacit knowledge into its
more explicit form.
• Codification involves several
mechanisms to capture, codify, and
transfer knowledge situated inside the
head (or embedded inside the brain)
to the outside.
• Capture thoughts and transform it
into coded commands
• Tacit form of knowledge is an intangible asset. Identification of intangible assets in knowledgebased
organizations helps to generate value to the organization’s business.
• Organizations are containers of knowledge, the content being the ‘learned information’ about
people, process, practice, and about everything beyond the projects, which is often considered
the most important aspect of business practice.
• Projects are everything, but to deal with projects and oversee that projects are managed
successfully require expertise building, and above all, knowledge.
• A sound KM framework helps to acquire new skills and realize the value of such skills
acquired when the knowledge is managed professionally (professional knowledge managers)
OBSTACLES TO KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
• Impaired cross-functional knowledge-sharing
• Lack of innovative training mechanisms,
underinvestment in IT infrastructure
• Bureaucratic interference
• Hoarding of knowledge by knowledge experts
• Wait for knowledge experts to train the
• Lack of autonomy in learning
• Vertical structure of Organizational Learning
• Inefficient systemic knowledge capture
• Lack of horizontal integration; e.g., between the
management, the workforce and the external
• Learning from project failures
• Lack of effective monitoring of employ curve, or
failure to oversee any difficulties in their
• Externalization of tacit knowledge is important since better decisions can be made with
new, explicit knowledge.
• The anticipation that more information will be available influences manager’s decisions.
• There is a cost factor to compensate for the lost knowledge-base
• Identify and remove barriers and obstacles to
learning and KM.
• Improve not just learning, but quality of learning as
• Capitalize on the Internet and intranet to associate
all departments with the knowledge process.
• Change the organizational structure from a more
vertically integrated to horizontally inclusive
• Develop KM approaches that can be replicated, i.e.,
codify tacit knowledge to increase knowledge base.
• Ensure communities of practice.
• Encourage learning and information sharing among
the employees and the management at all levels.
• Reorient knowledge experts to form
organizational ‘teaching groups’.
• Implement proactive KM strategies.
• Control chaos.
• Institutionalize KM.
• Develop knowledge leadership and knowledge
innovation strategies. / Collaborate and cooperate
• Managing knowledge and turning them into useful products of inventions and innovations
is important for firms engaged in high technology sectors.
• Effective KM practices require efficient knowledge managers.
• Knowledge managers should not only be experts, teachers or executives, but they should
also be able to monitor and manage the workforce and educate them whenever required,
in whatever manner deemed appropriate according to KM guidelines.
• It is also important to diagnose, identify and remove constraining factors that often prove
to be real obstacles to KM and which unconstructively affect firm level performances.
TSANG & ZAHRA 2008
• Organizational unlearning is widely considered an important condition for successful
adaptation to environmental changes, promoting organizational learning and enhancing a
• This article analyzes organizational unlearning, aiming to define and clarify its meaning,
articulate its dimensions, and discuss ways organizations can unlearn.
DEFINING ORGANIZATIONAL UNLEARNING
Organizational unlearning refers to the discarding of old routines to make way for new ones, if
any. (Organizational routines are repetitive patterns of interdependent actions carried out by
multiple organizational members involved in performing organizational tasks).
• Organizational unlearning as discarding of old routines indicates an intentional process.
• Organizational unlearning does not place a value judgment on those routines that are discarded
• Unlearning can be an isolated phenomenon; that is, the discarding of a routine may not be followed
by a replacement
• Unlearning incorporates both the behavioral and cognitive dimensions
INDIVIDUAL & ORGANIZATIONAL UNLEARNING
• ‘Learning’ is a ‘live metaphor’ that transfers information from the relatively familiar domain of
individual learning (the source domain) to a lesser known phenomenon in organizations (the
• Unlearning at the organizational level requires unlearning at the individual level. Unlearning at
the individual level refers to the case where a person becomes aware that certain items of
knowledge he or she possesses are no longer valid or useful.
• Within an organization, individual unlearning involves stopping the enactment of certain
routines by individual members. This often occurs when new members join the organization
with their pre-existing sets of skills, knowledge and world views.
ORGANIZATIONAL MEMORY & UNLEARNING
• Organizational memory refers to stored information from an organization’s history that may
affect its present and future interpretations of events and managerial decisions.
• Routines are recorded in organizational memory.
• Individual unlearning is often ‘a cumbersome and energy-consuming process’. At the individual
level, learning anxiety and survival anxiety may inhibit people from unlearning what they know
in order to learn something new.
• Age is a source of inertia inhibiting change and a barrier to organizational unlearning. an old
organization is more likely to have a significant number of individuals who revert to these old
routines that make institutionalization of the new ones difficult.
PROCESSES OF ORGANIZATIONAL UNLEARNING
• Continuous change: ongoing, evolving and cumulative organizational change. Unlearning in
this case is a gradual, continuous process that occurs simultaneously with learning.
• Continuous change involves operational issues, and often leads to improved efficiency
and superior financial performance.
• Episodic change: infrequent, discontinuous and intentional. It occurs in certain periods
during which pressures for change are precipitated by external events such as
technological discontinuities or internal events such as change in top management.
• Crisis is often the trigger of episodic change.
ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING & UNLEARNING
• Organizational learning and unlearning describe two distinct types of organizational
change processes – acquisition of new routines and discarding of existing routines.
• Organizational learning and unlearning are closely related but may not occur together.
• Organizational learning is often, but not always, accompanied by unlearning. If the learning
does not affect existing routines, unlearning may not be required.
• Organizational unlearning can be a stand-alone activity, not followed by learning, if the
firm eliminates but does not substitute a routine.
• Unlearning can be associated with relearning.
• Learning and unlearning are distinct concepts. The authors adopt a routine-based
approach to conceptualizing unlearning.
• Unlearning could involve various kinds of routines, ranging from relatively straightforward
practices to more complicated, high-level policies that govern the management of the
• Our knowledge about ways of facilitating or inhibiting organizational unlearning is limited.
• Organizational context in which unlearning occurs can play an important role such as
governance structure, age of the organization, institutional environment.