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Knowledge Management and Distributed Collaborative Work

This lecture will describe Distributed Collaborative Work (DCW) and its relationship to Knowledge Management (KM). It will identify two categories of DCW: Hot and Cold. The nature of these forms of DCW will be explored in further detail using the concepts of Hard and Soft knowledge from the field of KM. This will lead to a more detailed exploration of the relationship between KM and DCW based on three separate application areas.

Distributed Collaborative Work

Work may be distributed either physically (e.g. it may be carried out in different places) or temporally (e.g. it may be carried out at different times). The forms of Distributed Working that are considered in this course may involve one or both of these. Collaborative Work is taken to mean work that is undertaken as part of a group activity. There is an implicit assumption in most of the literature on Collaborative Working that the group activity is directed towards some shared goal or has some common purpose. As with almost any form of group activity there is some element of social interaction to the work as well as the simple fulfillment of a task (e.g. teamwork usually requires some degree of trust between the members of the team if it is to be effective).

Two distinct forms of Distributed Collaborative Work can be identified based on the work that is being done.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge is increasingly seen as central to the success of organizations and an asset that needs to be managed. Since the 1980s, many organizations have taken steps to outsource, downsize and de-skill in an effort to remain competitive. Outsourcing, downsizing and programmes of planned redundancy all mean that, as people leave, they take with them a valuable stock of knowledge. In addition, many organizations now employ trans-national teams. Such teams may lose many opportunities for informal collaboration and knowledge sharing. Working in an internationalized setting also means that teams have to face not only geographical distance, but also time, culture and possibly linguistic differences. Knowledge Management (KM) is an approach that claims to tackle these issues through focusing on techniques to manage the common base of organizational knowledge and encouraging its sharing and re-use.

Although there are many views about the nature of the knowledge to be managed (see The Duality of Knowledge) we will discuss two broad types.

Based on this simple classification we might expect the relationship between KM and DCW to look something like this:

First simple diagram of relationship between KM and DCW

However, as we will see when we look at some examples of "real world" DCW, this relationship is not as straight forward as it seems.



Distributed Collaborative Work (DCW)

Knowledge Management

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