10 Feb Information circulation in organizations
Information management refers to the process of collecting, organizing, storing and providing information within organizations. The circulation of information is bound to persons who hold the information (Polanyi, 1958; Wiig, 2016). Even if information can be possessed by individuals or by groups, it is important to note that learning first takes place at the individual level. Therefore, human beings have a central position in information management systems. One of the most frequent classifications of information is the distinction between explicit und implicit information (Polanyi, 1966). In fact, individuals often know more than they are able to express. Implicit information is based on individual abilities, which frequently cannot be put into words. Such information is personal and context-specific and therefore difficult to formalize and communicate. In contrast, explicit or codified knowledge can be transmitted by the formal system of language and can be more easily transferred. However, successful information transfer always depends on the characteristics of the involved individuals and their efforts to share information.
Within organizations, one can also make a distinction between formal and informal information. Formal information concerns information that is available, independently of individual information holders, e.g. information about product descriptions or best practices. Informal information concerns implicit and person-dependent information. In companies, formal information is frequently amended by informal elements, such as questions and answers, but also ideas and suggestions (Soda & Zaheer, 2012).
In companies, the codification of information mainly concentrates on the transfer of explicit information by the use of IT-systems, which can then be easily re-used as frequently as possible. To successfully implement a codification strategy, it is necessary to invest in the required communication technology, but also to motivate the staff to register the required information and to make use of the databases (Rowe & Te’eni, 2014). However, codifying information is not adapted to certain types of information, e.g. tacit information which is often used as a starting point for further development by adapting it, for example, to situations and customer requirements. In that case, the company needs to develop social networking between experts, for example in the form of communities of practice. The value of these social networks consists in the exchange of individual information, experience and findings (Brown & Duguid, 2001; Wenger, 1998).
- Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal knowledge: Towards a post-critical philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Polanyi, M. (1966). The tacit dimension. New York: Doubleday.
- Wiig, K. M. (2016). People-focused knowledge management. How effective decision making leads to corporate success.
- Soda, G., & Zaheer, A. (2012). A network perspective on organizational architecture: Performance effects of the interplay of formal and informal organization. Strategic Management Journal, 33(6), 751–771.
- Rowe, F., & Te’eni, D. (Eds.). (2014). Innovation and IT in an International context. R&D strategy and operations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.