Tacit Knowledge Network Development

Knowledge-based groups or communities are complex systems that emerge, evolve and mature through stages that display specific features and capabilities of the community or group. Understanding these capabilities and features are fundamental to building sustainable economic, social and learning networks systems. Understanding emergent behaviour within and beyond organizational communities requires understanding the social or sociological aspects in relation to the explicit formal/physical structures in the organization. Looking deeper into the development of informal networks across boundaries highlights the geographic structures and scales of knowledge flows and their influence on urban communities. Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to examine the theory of knowledge networks through applied research Design/methodology/approach – This is a case study approach, incorporating action research through embedded practice, utilizing interdisciplinary (or rather non-disciplinary) techniques and is thus a novel approach and application. Originality/value –This methodology translation of knowledge networks from theory into practice to yield little known or understood technical issues when working in social complex adaptive systems. Practical implications – The outcomes of the application contributes to the understanding of how, what and why sustainable social networks develop, offering the possibility of application in the field.


Posted in Informal knowledge networks, Networks, Tacit knowledge | Tagged , ,

Building Knowledge Sharing Communities

It is difficult for organizations to effectively manage personal knowledge so it can be mobilized, shared, and rewarded to benefit the organization. The difficulties are compounded in large organizations where people with potentially valuable knowledge are unknown to one another and dispersed geographically. Issues that are potentially amenable to management include identification, indexing and codification of the knowledge held in people’s heads, and the cultural issues of discovery, mutual trust and sharing at the personal level. A large engineering and project management organization (“EPMO”) has prototyped a methodology to graphically codify, index and map staff knowledge using mind mapping technologies. Not only does the methodology provide a graphical structure making it easy for staff to determine who is likely to posses the kind of knowledge they need to find, but interview process is an important facilitator to precondition the knowledge bearers for sharing, and the content of the resulting maps tends to present the knowledge bearers in a more humanized way.


Posted in Community of practice, Emergence, Knowledge management, Mind mapping, Tacit knowledge | Tagged , , , ,

Emerging Autopoietic Communities – Scalability of Knowledge Transfer in Complex Systems

Knowledge-based communities are important but poorly understood systems for helping enterprises maintain their organizational integrity and address organizational imperatives. Based on an autopoietic theory of organization, we examine the emergence and development of knowledge-based communities at different scales up to large distributed enterprises and industry clusters. Knowledge-based communities are highly complex systems that evolve and mature through the phased emergence of new features and capabilities. Development and support of successfully sustainable communities needs to be based on a better understanding of how these features and capabilities emerge. To comprehend the impact of emergent behavior within and beyond organizational communities requires an understanding of the social or sociological aspects of a system in relation to the explicit formal/physical structures in the organization.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Community of practice, Complexity, Knowledge management, Organizations | Tagged , , , ,

Autopoiesis and Knowledge in Self-Sustaining Organizational Systems

Knowledge and the communication of knowledge are critical for self-sustaining organizations comprised of people and the tools and machines that extend peoples’ physical and cognitive capacities. Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela proposed the concept of autopoiesis (“self” “production”) as a definition of life in the 1970s. Nicklas Luhmann extended this concept to establish a theory of social systems, where intangible human social systems were formed by recursive networks of communications. We show here that Luhmann fundamentally misunderstood Maturana and Varela’s autopoiesis by thinking that the self-observation necessary for self-maintenance formed a paradoxically vicious circle. Luhmann tried to resolve this apparent paradox by placing the communication networks on an imaginary plane orthogonal to the networked people. However, Karl Popper’s evolutionary epistemology and the theory of hierarchically complex systems turns what Luhmann thought was a vicious circle into a virtuous spiral of organizational learning and knowledge. There is no closed circle that needs to be explained via Luhmann’s extraordinarily paradoxical linguistic contortions.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Knowledge, Organizations | Tagged , ,

A Biological Theory of Knowledge and Applications to Real World Organizations

This paper extends an epistemologically grounded biological theory of organization and knowledge based on Karl Popper’s evolutionary epistemology and three worlds ontology, amalgamating concepts from evolutionary biology, emergence and hierarchy theory, autopoiesis, and military affairs. We discuss how this body of theory is being used to guide and inform KM research and development in a geographically extended industrial and project management organization. Applicability of the biological and epistemological framework is demonstrated in a study of the emergence and sustainment of communities of practice, in the development of a methodology for improving business processes, and in the implementation of managing engineering knowledge over the lifecycles of fleets of ships and vehicles.


Posted in Biology, Knowledge, Organizations | Tagged , ,

Emergence and Growth of Knowledge and Diversity in Hierarchically Complex Living Systems

An environment conducting a flux of energy and materials between temporally or spatially separated sources and sinks may become more complexly structured due to the emergence of cyclical, dissipative transport systems. Selection favors transport systems able to stabilize themselves against environmental perturbations through feedback. Continuing selection for self-stabilization over long periods of time may eventuate in the emergence of an autopoietic assembly of subsystems (i.e., an autocatalytic set). The stabilizing ‘control information’ inherent in the instantaneous structure of the autopoietic system represents a form of knowledge that enables the stabilized system to continue an existence as a living and evolving entity. Such self-referential knowledge (defined by Karl Popper as “solutions to problems of life”) is integral to the differential survival of nascent autopoietic systems. Maturana and Varela developed the concept of autopoiesis for the autopoietic cybernetics of self-maintenance and self-production. They also equated the cybernetics of autopoiesis with cognition. Concepts of “meaning”, “memory”, “learning” and “heredity” can also be derived from this framework of Popperian autopoiesis. Hall has argued that autopoiesis has emerged at cellular, (multicellular) organismic, and economic organizational levels. Given an acceptance that different orders of autopoiesis exist, it follows that forms of regulatory knowledge (i.e., solutions to problems of life) exist at each organizational level where autopoiesis occurs. Knowledge may be “tacit”, “implicit” or “explicit”.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Complex systems, Emergence, Knowledge | Tagged , , ,

Time-Based Frameworks for Valuing Knowledge: Maintaining Strategic Knowledge

To survive and flourish in a changing and unpredictable world, organizations and people must maintain strategic power over necessary resources – often in the face of competition. Knowledge contributes to that strategic power. Without vigilance to maintain its currency and accuracy, the value of knowledge depreciates as circumstances change over time. Karl Popper’s evolutionary epistemology and Maturana and Varela’s concept of autopoiesis provide a paradigmatic framework for considering the roles and importance of time in constructing knowledge and using it to maintain strategic power. Following Popper, knowledge is constructed, used and evaluated via cyclically-iterated processes. We introduce nine time-based frames of reference based on this Popperian autopoietic paradigm to explore the relationships between time and a utility-based valuation of knowledge as it is constructed and applied. We believe this framework and associated paradigmatically consistent vocabulary provide useful tools for analyzing organizational knowledge management needs.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Complexity, Knowledge, Strategy | Tagged , , ,

Requisite Variety, Autopoiesis, and Self-organization

Ashby’s law of requisite variety states that a controller must have at least as much variety (complexity) as the controlled. Maturana and Varela proposed autopoiesis (self-production) to define living systems. Living systems also require to fulfill the law of requisite variety. A measure of autopoiesis has been proposed as the ratio between the complexity of a system and the complexity of its environment. Self-organization can be used as a concept to guide the design of systems towards higher values of autopoiesis, with the potential of making technology more “living”, i.e. adaptive and robust.


Posted in Autopoiesis, Complexity, Requisite variety, Self-organization | Tagged , , ,

Autopoiesis in Creativity and Art

The term autopoiesis, (meaning ‘self’) and ‘poiesis’ (meaning ‘creation, production’) defines a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself. The term was introduced by the theoretical biologists, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, in 1972 to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells. The term has subsequently also been applied to the fields of systems theory and sociology. In this paper we apply this model to characterize creativity in art practice.


Read also: Autopoiesis and Creativity

Posted in Art, Autopoiesis, Creativity | Tagged , ,

Innovation, from cells to societies

Innovation is the breaking of an adaptive pattern through the emergence of phenotypic novelty, sometimes corresponding to a new ecological function. Phenotypes in biology include anatomical, physiological and behavioral traits, such as bird wings permitting flight. Innovations are also obviously a part of cultural and technological evolution and include behavioral norms, institutions, and tools. Importantly, there are considerable analogies between innovations in biology, culture, and technology, suggesting that the same driving processes come into play.

I mentioned the example of bird wings permitting flight. Wings are the phenotype – flight is the function. Both emerged as novelties in certain dinosaur lineages, but wings serve many other functions in modern-day bird species such as paddling in water birds, courting displays, and thermoregulation. And of course, the function of flight has been lost or reduced in some bird species. Winged flight has also emerged in other animal lineages, such as the insects, and some of the same generic structures of bird wings are found in gliding mammals and reptiles. Anatomical structures permitting the use of air for displacement has therefore emerged independently many times. So innovation may derive from a single chain of events (such as photosynthesis), or be a more inevitable occurrence arising in multiple independent lineages (gliding and active flight).


Posted in Innovation | Tagged