Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective Capability in Distributed Organizing

In this paper, I outline a perspective on knowing in practice which highlights the essential role of human action in knowing how to get things done in complex organizational work. The perspective suggests that knowing is not a static embedded capability or stable disposition of actors, but rather an ongoing social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted as actors engage the world in practice. In interpreting the findings of an empirical study conducted in a geographically dispersed high-tech organization, I suggest that the competence to do global product development is both collective and distributed, grounded in the everyday practices of organizational members. I conclude by discussing some of the research implications of a perspective on organizational knowing in practice.

I have argued that paying attention to organizational knowing might complement our understanding of organizational effectiveness by highlighting the essential role of situated action in constituting knowing in practice. In particular, we might learn some useful insights about capabilities if we also focus on what people do, and how they do it, rather than focusing primarily on infrastructure, objects, skills, or dispositions. Understanding organizational knowing in practice may get us closer to an understanding of organizational life as “continually contingently reproduced by knowledgeable human agents—that’s what gives it fixity and that’s what also produces change”.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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