The Role of Information Technology in Organizational Knowledge Development
Knowledge has been argued the single most important aspect of today’s organizations. Knowledge is the key driver affecting not only what individuals in an organization undertake but also most importantly how they accomplish it. Consequently, the issue of organizational knowledge development is of high priority to all modern organizations.
The thesis at hand investigates the role of IT in organizational knowledge development. Drawing from research holding a constructivist perspective regarding both learning (knowledge development) and IT-issues an analytical framework has been develop to understand (1) the role of the IT-users in their community, (2) the character of the IT-systems and (3) the actual interplay between the users and the IT-systems in practice.
One local branch of a major Swedish travel agency has been selected as the object of study and empirical data have been collected from four travel agents observed and interviewed during a period of one week. Gaining an understanding of the situated practice has been at focus in order to understand the agents’ interplay with the in-house IT-systems in their everyday problem-solving processes of customer errands handling.
The results show that the role of IT in knowledge development is contingent on both the role of the individual as well as on the nature of the system although the former to a greater extend. To newcomers prior experience became a key issue. Newcomers with more prior experience of similar services and IT-use where more prone to explore new ways to perform the services by challenging their old practices. In this sense, they used the IT-systems as learning enablers. Newcomers on the other hand with little or no prior knowledge used the system for confirmatory purposes mostly as they were stuck to already known solutions until these solution were proven unsatisfactory. Such newcomers used IT in a way that constrained learning.
Masters on the other hand have learned how to perform even the most unpredictable errands by having so much confidence in their work practices so as to be able to break them when needed. In some cases however, old habits where hard to let go which affected learning negatively. Master thus used IT both as an enabler but also as a constrainer to learning.
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