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Making sense of knowledge work
KTH, School of Technology and Health (STH).
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

According to a dominant discourse in contemporary writings and research, we are living in a Knowledge Economy where knowledge is seen as the pre-eminent resource and the key to success for individuals as well as organizations and nations. Consequently, much effort in management research has been dedicated to devising new concepts and theories such as the knowledge-based theory of the firm and the intellectual capital perspective, all premised on the assumption that knowledge work is somehow different from other forms of work. But what, actually, is knowledge work? And what is it that makes it so different?

This dissertation represents an attempt to make some sense of this discourse. Research themes investigate the role of tangible and intangible dimensions of knowledge work and organizations. Particular attention is paid to organizational identity and the physical work environment. The notion of identity is central to the Knowledge Economy Rhetoric, while the physical setting is a neglected, but potentially important, aspect of knowledge work and identity construction. Various theoretical and methodological perspectives were applied throughout the research process to illuminate these themes. The thesis covers two empirical case studies; one of a small high-tech firm in the telecommunications sector as it developed a knowledge based strategy. The other study explored the relationship between the design of the office and identity construction in a large IT/management consulting firm. In addition, a study of the literature on the organizational category of knowledge-intensive firms was conducted to explore the dominant constructions of knowledge work within the research community. The results from these studies are presented in five papers. While addressing different questions, the papers all deal with some aspect of sensemaking of, or in, knowledge work. The first paper describes how the management team in the case company went through a process to make sense of the intangible dimensions of their organization. The second paper is a conceptual treatise outlining an alternative conceptualization of strategy for knowledge-intensive firms that emphasizes the importance of identity. Paper three provides an analysis of how the category of knowledge-intensive firms is used in the research literature and the consequences thereof. In paper four branding is analyzed as a management practice. The last paper discusses the role of emotion, ambivalence and embodied experience of the physical environment in identity construction.

The exposition reflects further on the insights from this journey and what they entail for making sense of knowledge work. It is argued that a better understanding of knowledge work has to take the knowledge worker – the individual – as the starting point for theorizing. Taking this position requires us to scrutinize the theoretical perspectives that guide our conceptualizations of the knowledge worker. Theoretical perspectives are constructions that allow us to see certain things and not others. Current conceptualizations are, by necessity, extensions of earlier dominant perspectives or worldviews. Based on the findings from the empirical studies, an alternative perspective is proposed that takes the embodied experience of the knowledge worker as a point of departure. Implications of this perspective for conceptualizing and studying knowledge work are then discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2006. , viii, 90 p.
Series
Trita-STH : report, ISSN 1653-3836 ; 2006:1
Keyword [en]
embodiment, emotion, intellectual capital, knowledge-intensive firms, knowledge work, organizational identity, physical setting, place, work environment
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-620ISBN: 91-7178-249-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-620DiVA: diva2:14643
Public defence
2006-02-24, Sal E1, Lindstedtsvägen 3, Stockholm, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2010-09-17Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Using an Intellectual Capital Perspective to Design and Implement a Growth Strategy: the Case of APiON
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using an Intellectual Capital Perspective to Design and Implement a Growth Strategy: the Case of APiON
2001 (English)In: European Management Journal, ISSN 0263-2373, E-ISSN 1873-5681, Vol. 19, no 5, 510-525 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper uses the case of telecommunications software company APiON to illustrate how the company developed and implemented a growth strategy that allowed it to realize a dramatic increase in shareholder value through proactively focusing on harnessing its intellectual capital (IC) resources. Having surveyed the literature on value creation, categorizing it under financial and economic, strategic, managerial action, and resource-based perspectives, the paper notes that a major criticism that can be leveled at all these perspectives is that they are weak in identifying specific actions and in mobilizing organizational resources to increase shareholder value. Even resource-based theory (RBT) focuses on the development and protection of valuable resources rather than on providing a theory of 'resources in action'. The IC perspective has emerged alongside RBT as a complementary viewpoint but has a distinctive practitioner bent emphasizing resource accumulation and deployment in the value creation process. This paper presents the key tenets, concepts and language of the IC perspective, illustrating its implementation using the case of APiON. It closes with some lessons and implications for knowledge intensive businesses

Keyword
Intangible assets, Intellectual capital, Knowledge, Shareholder value, Value creation process
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9079 (URN)10.1016/S0263-2373(01)00065-2 (DOI)
Note
QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
2. From Implementing Strategy to Embodying Strategy: Linking Strategy, Identity and Intellectual Capita
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Implementing Strategy to Embodying Strategy: Linking Strategy, Identity and Intellectual Capita
2003 (English)In: Journal of Intellectual Capital, ISSN 1469-1930, E-ISSN 1758-7468, Vol. 4, no 3, 316-331 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

For most knowledge-intensive companies at present, the business environment where they compete is complex, characterized by rapid change and uncertainty. Employees and other intangible resources (i.e. intellectual capital) generally represent the most critical resources in the value creation process. Crafting strategy in such contexts is not helped by conventional models and tools of strategy. The assumptions which underpin many of them do not hold in the present competitive environment, making them at best irrelevant, but at worst leading to the development of strategies that can put the success of a company in jeopardy. New metaphors for describing these companies and their competitive realities, as well as tools for navigating in them, are required, if the strategy discipline is to remain relevant for practitioners. In this paper, it is suggested that the intellectual capital perspective can provide a bridge to the practical application of a vision- and values-based strategy through the notion of embodying strategy in organizational resources. A conceptualization of strategy, that links strategy, identity and intellectual capital, more suitable to knowledge-intensive companies competing in uncertain environments, is introduced and described.

Keyword
Corporate identity, Corporate strategy, Intellectual capital, Knowledge organizations
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9080 (URN)10.1108/14691930310487789 (DOI)
Note
QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
3. What Really is a Knowledge-Intensive Firm? (Re)framing Research in the “Knowledge Economy"
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What Really is a Knowledge-Intensive Firm? (Re)framing Research in the “Knowledge Economy"
2005 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The concept of a knowledge intensive firm (KIF) is seemingly an important category of organizations that is being increasingly studied. The underlying inference from the literature is that the KIF constitutes a category of organizations that is distinct and different from other organizational categories. The research reported in this paper explores how scholars are using the concept in their studies, analyzing how it is portrayed in the literature, and critiquing the implications that are drawn from these studies. As categories are important for ordering reality and in shaping meaning, the consequence of our analysis surfaces a number of problems that this research raises for the perpetuation of the knowledge economy rhetoric and its potential flaws. We suggests that what is needed is not a better definition of a KIF, but a better understanding of the classification systems and their underpinning assumptions that guide how we present research on knowledge in organizations.

Keyword
Knowledge Intensive Firm, Knowledge, Knowledge Work, Categories
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9081 (URN)
Note
QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2010-09-17Bibliographically approved
4. Managing Meaning Through Branding: the Case of a Consulting Firm
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing Meaning Through Branding: the Case of a Consulting Firm
2008 (English)In: Organization Studies, ISSN 0170-8406, Vol. 29, no 1, 103-125 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The current interest in organizational culture, identity, image and reputation and in organizational discourse points towards the pressure on contemporary organizations to focus attention on the symbolic dimensions of their activities. The phenomenon of branding, while originally portrayed as a marketing tool, can also be understood as an exercise in management of meaning. Branding does not only inform external stakeholders, such as customers and investors, about the values of the organization. It also potentially instructs and directs organizational members. In this sense, branding can be viewed as a management and leadership practice. Drawing on a longitudinal case study, this paper illustrates how these practices are played out in the particular context of a management consulting firm and explores the relationship between branding and organizational identity and identification. The study highlights the shortcomings of the strategic marketing perspective on brands and the need for further empirical studies that examine the role of branding from different perspectives and in different empirical contexts.

Keyword
brands, branding, management consulting, organizational identity, identification
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9082 (URN)10.1177/0170840607084573 (DOI)000253168700005 ()
Note
Uppdaterad från manuskript till artikel: 20100917 QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2010-09-17Bibliographically approved
5. Bringing the “I” Back Into the Self: Body, Place and Emotion in Identity Construction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bringing the “I” Back Into the Self: Body, Place and Emotion in Identity Construction
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9083 (URN)
Note
QC 20100917Available from: 2006-02-10 Created: 2006-02-10 Last updated: 2010-09-17Bibliographically approved

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