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Knowledge economy within an organisation


Knowledge and cultural capital play a crucial role in the organisation's resilience, and its ability to adapt to the unalienable constant of change, reinvent itself, and overcome its peculiar challenges; what constitutes the knowledge capital of a technology organisation, including its people skillset and expertise, how efficiently ideas and information flows, as well as its (first party) intellectual property, is highly indicative of its true value, making it an essential nurturing for its thriving

Knowledge economy?

The concept of a knowledge economy may seem a bit abstract, but it is becoming increasingly relevant in today's world. We all have an innate desire for truth and knowledge, and the “economy” of it may feel like a dirty association at times, however, conceptualising knowledge as a traded good (which it already is in many cases) traded not lucratively, but only to trigger its particular exchange specificities is what is meant here

Idriss J. Aberkane, in his thesis on Nooconomics - the economics of knowledge, describes three simple transfer laws that differentiate between material and non-material, knowledge economics. These laws are:

  1. Knowledge exchanges are flows, and thus time-dependent, unlike property exchanges.
  2. Knowledge exchanges are positive sum, unlike material exchanges.
  3. Combinations of knowledge are non-linear.

When put into practice, knowledge exchanges, unlike property exchanges, are positive sum operations, and the combination of knowledge is non-linear. For instance, when someone teaches you how to bake a hummingbird cake, you won't lose the recipe as part of the transaction (positive sum), but your understanding and application of baking this cake could differ from theirs, based on your set of skills and creativity (non-linear combinations).

The open-source paradigm, particularly the project forking of open-source programs, is an excellent demonstration of knowledge economy at scale. It is the result of a “humming” knowledge economy in this context (…), leading to a constant augmentation of free software capabilities, fostering innovation across numerous fields and providing a safe haven for developers to thrive.

Influences in knowledge economy

Investing in knowledge sharing practices is highly beneficial for organisations. It leads to higher organisational performance, innovation, skill development, and creates a fulfilling work environment where members feel valued and motivated. The scientific community is both maturing and relatively unanimous on the subject (Meta-analysis 1, 2, 3). This extensive study describes the peculiar characteristics of knowledge within the org

Organisations are like seas of knowledge, and there is no limit to the amount of knowledge that an organisation has. However, when it comes to knowledge sharing, it is crucial that employees share their job-related knowledge with each other to perform better, leading to higher organisational performance.

Faizuniah Pangil et al. Knowledge and the Importance of Knowledge Sharing in Organizations

There are three key advantages of creating a fluid and ongoing flow of knowledge in a company.

  • Innovation - knowledge exchange is a positive sum operation, and the combination of knowledge is non-linear, leading to the generation of new ideas, which in turn have the potential for creating new knowledge.
  • Competence - new accessible and relatable knowledge can help individuals skill up, and sustained and systemic knowledge sharing causes staff to build information repositories on top of each other, leading to the diffusion of democratically accepted best practices throughout the org
  • Motivation - the thriving knowledge economy relies on its participants to share their experiences and personal interpretation of information to be successful. With such an emphasis on the individual, being an integrant part of this system to work, individuals can self-actualise and build trust in themselves and others through the organisation.

The impact of cultural context on knowledge transfer has also been studied in length, the meta-analysis Meta-analytic comparison on the influencing factors of knowledge transfer in different cultural contexts states

The results of the meta-analysis of the influencing factors of knowledge transfer are consistent with the results obtained in most previous studies, indicating a maturation of research in this area.

Meta-analytic comparison on the influencing factors of knowledge transfer in different cultural contexts

In conclusion - Organisation nurturing culture and knowledge capital put their people first, and are two pieces of the same puzzle

“We’re a business, not a school.”

There may be resistance to preaching the benefits and potential of a knowledge-sharing culture in the organisation, or at least not making it pass as a time waste amongts more explicit needs. However, there is plenty of research supporting the benefits of knowledge sharing/economy on organisational performance made in the past five years to bring hope and propose measures to most counter-arguments (this research I’ve found particularly tasty as addressing both positive/negative impacts)

As an engineering leader, I believe that any attempt to incentivise new paradigms as such, processes, or new ways of working must be done with measurability, pragmatism and reversibility as basic design components.

In the context of knowledge sharing, identifying what channels and knowlege flows currently exist and the absence of ones that are most felt and proposing a strategy that will first address pain points while measuring impact through surveying channel participants is usually a good start to build trust in such a project.

Last words

There’s plenty to tell and talk about this subject, and for various personal reasons, it has deep connection with my values and what I believe in - the concept of knowledge economy as a system creating positive outlooks for anyone involved (in contrario to current macro economy standards) is something I really enjoy thinking and talking about (reach out if that keeps you up aswell!)

I feel lucky to share these values and beliefs with my peers at my current work place, and be trusted to work on the matter and be accountable to improve the status quo - I hope to do another article on our attempts and incentives aiming to nurture our common knowledge and cultural capital

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