Organizations are always on a journey from ‘art’ to ‘science’ in the way they perform their tasks. Art to science defines a continuum within which we can map the way organizations perform their tasks. The ‘artistic’ way of performing tasks is heavily dependent on experts. The key tasks are performed by experts and how the task is getting done remains a black box. There may not be well-defined processes and every time tasks are performed it will be to some extent adhoc. The science way of performing tasks happens when there is clarity in the way tasks are performed, with well-defined processes. There will be a fair bit of understanding of how the underlying variables behave and organizations will be in a comfortable position to predict the way tasks will be performed.
This journey from art to science gets played across all organizations and with a discerning eye, we can easily recognize the same. To a large extent, the difference in efficiency and effectiveness between organizations is a reflection of where they stand in this continuum. Sharing an adoption of a figure from an earlier blog (KM should be ‘Task focused’ and not ‘Employee focused’).
Check out the Leepu & Pitbull reality television series to get a better understanding of both the art way of working and science way of working. Leepu, who is a car designer, works at the ‘art’ end of the continuum and finds it difficult to explain his car designs and how it needs to be fabricated, while Pitbull Trimboli is a car mechanic who follows a scientific approach to his work. Watch a few episodes and you will see how the clash gets played out.
One of the key roles of Knowledge management should be in helping organizations transition this journey faster and bring science into what they are doing. It is a journey of learning (single and double-loop learning), creating new knowledge, embedding those learning. Role of knowledge management function will be to facilitate resolving key problems and challenges faced in performing any task and embedding those learning. A very relevant paper on this was written by Roger Bohn, titled “Measuring and Managing Technological Knowledge”. Bohn traces the journey of performing a task from limited knowledge to mastering. He lists down 8 steps in the journey, as mentioned below.
- Stage One — Complete ignorance
- Stage Two — Awareness
- Stage Three — Measure
- Stage Four — Control of the mean
- Stage Five — Process capability (control of the variance)
- Stage Six — Process characterization (know-how)
- Stage Seven — Know why
- Stage Eight — Complete knowledge
As we chart a new path for KM, as practitioners and researchers we should understand how knowledge and its impact gets played out in organizations.
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