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44th Hawaiian Conference on System Sciences

Koloa, Kaui, Hawaii, January 4-7 2011

Knowledge Orchestration for

Sustained Competitive Advantage
Max Rohde and David Sundaram

Department of Information Systems and

Operations Management

How do I design, implement and evaluate a system, which is good at supporting work

with knowledge and unstructured information?

Do we really know what we are talking about when we are

talking about knowledge?

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How we use the word ‘knowledge’?

Knowledge Management

Knowledge Repository
Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Storage, Retrieval, Application and Creation

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The ‘knowledge’ language trap.

Knowledge is maybe the most valuable organizational resource.

Organizations can possess and store knowledge.

We can manage knowledge.

More knowledge is better.

What is the value of knowledge?

BUT: Knowledge is not a ‘thing’. What is the value of knowledge?

3/1/2011 (Kogut & Zander, 1992; Grant, 1996)

‘Knowing’ as alternative for knowledge?

‘Knowing’ emphasizes the behavioural dimension of knowledge.

Knowing is bound to actions and individuals.

BUT: Knowledge related capability is ‘sticky’. Organizations cannot ‘know’.

3/1/2011 (Orlikowski, 2002; Thompson & Walsham, 2004)

Theoretical Perspectives

Strategic capabilities of Collective knowing driven by

organizations individuals
(Kogut & Zander, 1992; Grant, 1996) (Orlikowski, 2002)

‘Epistemology of Possession’ ‘Epistemology of Practice’

(Cook & Brown, 1998)

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Value Resource or Action

Issues Epistemology Possession or Practice

Aggregation Organization or Individual

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The structures, which make up knowledge (formal routines,

technologies, human ‘resources’, …) …

… only potentially enable action leading to competitive advantage …

… or lead to ‘unmindful’ action and competitive disadvantage.

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A Definition
A knowledge potential describes an organizational
capability, which might or might not be enacted. The value
of this capability depends on whether it will (1) enable the
organization to take mindful actions, (2) to innovate,
and/or (3) to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.

(formal routines,
technologies, human
‘resources’, …)

(Blackler, 1995)
A Comparison with Organizational Routines

‘Possession’ ‘Practice’

Formalized ‘best’ practice, Every routine is executed

technologies, organizational differently depending on a
structures changing environment.

Ostensive Performative

(Feldman & Pentland, 2003)
The mindful execution of routines requires both

sufficient structural stability


situational flexibility.

… applying this ‘lens’ to knowledge …

(Weick & Sutcliffe, 2006; Levinthal & Rerup,
Alignment between Structural
and Situational Dimension


Bridging the ostensive and performative is a way to enable context-informed
organizational decisions, flexibility, and learning (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2006; Levinthal &
Rerup, 2006)

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Knowledge Orchestration
The alignment of knowledge potentials and environment should
integrate with what individuals naturally do.

In order to align, individuals must notice and understand the external

environment, individuals must take action (knowing) and therewith
ultimately transform knowledge potentials.

It is desirable for organizations to integrate these activities, to

orchestrate the alignment.

Example: An individual receives an email requiring the update of a work

procedure definition. If the update can be done ‘quick’, noticing and
transforming are well integrated.
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Some Implications of this Model

The value of the knowledge related capability (knowledge potential)

heavily depends on the environment.

The focus lies therewith not on managing knowledge potentials but

rather on their alignment with a constantly changing environment.

Aligning knowledge potentials with a changing environment is facilitated

by the process of knowing, which in turn is enrooted in the actions of

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Thank You for Your Attention!


Special thanks to the reviewers and editors of HICSS-44. We gratefully

acknowledge the support by the University of Auckland Council, the
University of Auckland Business School, the Faculty Research and
Development Fund (UoA) and the Department of Information Systems
and Operations Management (UoA).
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