Bridging Epistemologies

Bridging Epistemologies

What is the Bridging Epistemologies framework? Description

S.D.N. Cook and J.S. Brown argue that much current work on organizational       knowledge, intellectual capital, knowledge-creating organizations, knowledge       work and the like is based on a single, traditional understanding of the  nature       of knowledge. In this “epistemology of possession,”  knowledge is treated       like something which people possess. Yet, this vision  can not account for       the knowing which is found in individual and group  practice.

Knowing as action calls for an “epistemology of practice.” Moreover,       the epistemology of possession tends to privilege explicit over tacit  knowledge.       Also it tends to privilege individual knowledge over  group knowledge.

Current work on organizations is limited by this privileging, and by the       scant attention given to knowing. Organizations are better understood if  explicit,       tacit, individual and group knowledge are treated as four  distinct and coequal       forms of knowledge. Each is doing work the others  can’t. Knowledge and knowing       should be seen like mutually enabling; not  like competing.

Actions by collectives cannot be reduced to only the actions of individuals       within them. Cook and Brown identify 4 types of knowledge: explicit and  tacit       at the individual and collective levels, and consider how they are  bridged       by the active process of knowing (OUBS,2001). The process by which  different       knowledge types are used in practice is described as a  “generative dance”.       According to this metaphor, knowledge creation  does not simply rely on an       inventory of knowledge elements  (possession), but on the ability to       use those as tools  (action).

Cook and Brown hold that knowledge is a tool of knowing, that knowing is       an aspect of our interaction with the social and physical world, and that        the interplay of knowledge and knowing can generate new knowledge and new        ways of knowing.

Origin of the Bridging Epistemologies model. History

The model from Cook and Brown developed from:

  • Polanyi’s distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge (1983). Tacit         knowledge is what is not easily visible and expressible. Tacit knowledge         is personal, context specific and hard to formalize and communicate.  Subjective         insights, intuitions and hunches fall in this category, which  includes cognitive         and technical elements. Explicit knowledge can be  expressed in words and         numbers and can be easily communicated and shared  in the form of hard data,         scientific formulae, codified procedures and  universal principles. (Nonaka         and Takeuchi).
  • Spender’s epistemological pluralism (1998): (1) objective knowledge          is only one way of knowing things, and (2) some aspects of explicit and          tacit knowledge are only known collectively (see also Blackler, 1995).

It adds a dynamic element of knowledge and opposes the traditional  knowledge-as-assets       or resource view of knowledge. This model resembles  the view of Nonaka and       Takeuchi in their SECI model, which sees knowledge  creation as a transformation       of the various knowledge elements.

Usage of the Bridging Epistemologies framework. Applications

The framework Cook and Brown helps to think of knowledge in an organizational       context and understanding why and how we know things collectively. Their  model       strengthens the link between product and process innovation. In  their view,       forms of knowledge distributed among individuals and groups  are not the only       essential for product development; ways of “knowing”  reflected in the interaction       of the workers with each other and their  objects of work are also essential       (OUBS,2001).

An example of the Bridging Epistemologies model

The model is illustrated using the simple example of a bakery: Relevant        tools are:

  • Knowledge as concepts. Theory known by individuals, like which flour          to use, how much salt to use etc.
  • Skills. The ability to make bread
  • Stories. How things were built up
  • Genre. The context of the bakery

An apprentice can learn or be part of all these elements, he or she will       need experience in order to make bread: knowledge as action.

Assumptions of the Bridging Epistemologies model. Conditions

  • Knowledge can not be transformed from its various forms (individual/tacit         etc.), but exist in distinct forms.

Article: Cook and       Brown – Bridging Epistemologies.

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Posted in Knowledge & Beyond.