The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations
Theme 1: Knowledge Organisations
  • Knowledge management: beyond the clichés.
  • What is the 'knowledge economy'?
  • Data, information and their electronic means of creation, storage, access and communication.
  • More than information: the meaning of knowledge.
  • Knowledge management as a publishing process.
  • Building intellectual capital and maintaining intellectual property.
  • eBusiness in a networked world.
  • Information and communication technologies as means of production, means of knowing and means of communicating.
Theme 2: Learning Organisations
  • Transforming personal knowledge into common knowledge.
  • Educational institutions as knowledge managers.
  • Blurring the boundaries: informal learning, training and education.
  • Knowledge work: defining the competencies and capabilities.
  • Mentoring: where leadership means knowledge transfer.
  • Collaboration as a personal capacity and organisational resource.
  • The making of a 'knowledge worker'.
  • Building human capital: towards enhanced performance.
  • Towards leadership: management education and training.
Theme 3: Organisational Cultures
  • Building a culture of innovation.
  • Teams and the dynamics of collaboration.
  • Productive diversity: capitalising on human differences.
  • Diversity management: equity and outcomes in the organisation.
  • Developing sustainable organisational cultures: government, community and NGOs.
  • Under-development, development, capacity development: renegotiating the terms.
  • Globalisation, internationalisation and organisational change.
  • Mass customisation: recognising market and customer differences.
  • Navigating complexity: the dynamics of organisational change.
Theme 4: Tangible Outcomes from Managing Intangibles
  • Knowledge and culture as factors of production.
  • Putting a tangible value on intangibles.
  • Being close to customers: identifying trust and loyalty in customer relations.
  • Vision, strategy and leadership: measuring the effects.
  • Beyond competition: creating efficiencies through improved supply chain relationships.
  • Capacity development: building knowledge locally,
  • Addressing the divides: digital, development, social.
  • Virtual enterprises in a networked world.


Scope and Concerns

Organisational Intangibles and Their Tangible Value

The Management Conference and The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management create a forum for discussion and a place for the publication of new knowledge about the nature and future of organisations. Their focus is those intangible drivers which determine not only the liveability of organisations for insiders, and their credibility and attraction to outsiders; but also their tangible results in the form of efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. The intangibles of knowledge, culture and change management do not appear on balance sheets, but ultimately do have an enormous impact on ‘bottom lines’.

The interests of the Conference and the Journal range across organisations in all their forms and manifestations: businesses, from micro-enterprises to multinational corporations; institutions of formal learning, from schools to universities; public sector agencies; and non-government and community sector organisations. Their concern also extends beyond the boundaries of organisations to consider the dynamics of supply chains, organisational alliances, networks, communities of practice and capacity building. The story may be different from situation to situation. However, across all of these contexts, a pragmatic focus persists—to examine the ‘organisation’ and ‘management’ of groups of people collaborating to productive ends, and to analyse what makes for success and sustainability.

Ours is the era of the knowledge economy, or so say the commentators. (And it seems a little late to be calling it a ‘new’ economy, particularly when some of the things that only yesterday were supposed to be excitingly ‘new’ have proved disappointing today.) But what might it mean to have a ‘knowledge economy’? Today’s economy is increasingly dependent upon technologies which assist the flow of information, and this we might in one sense a knowledge economy. The value of an organisation is also increasingly located in intangibles such as business systems, intellectual property and the human skills base, and in this sense, knowledge has become a factor of production. And human needs have been transformed to the point where, in the marketplace, consumers focus on knowledge-representations as much as they do on physical entities—design, aesthetics, concepts, brand associations. If anything, these are the things that make the knowledge economy new.

What, however, is this nebulous thing, knowledge, and how do we manage it? Certainly, it is bigger than out-of-the box IT systems, or content management systems, or groupware—things that are often sold as knowledge management ‘solutions’. To be sure, the new technologies have the capacity to enable and transform. But knowledge is also the stuff of incessant talk, collaborative working relationships, personalised stories and constant learning. It is, in fact, no less than the core of human capital.

With or without technology assistance, knowledge management involves transforming personal knowledge into common knowledge, implicit and individual knowledge into explicit and shared understandings and everyday common sense into systematic designs. It is also the business of codifying these designs as information architectures, paradigms or disciplines.

Not that this leaves the world of tacit and individual subjectivity behind as a poor cousin to knowledge proper. On the contrary, herein lies the raw material of inspiration, imagination and creativity. The shape of things has to be felt before it can be articulated.

Most importantly, it is the project of knowledge management to ensure that collaboration is institutionalised and that knowledge sharing does occur. As a result, wheels are not needlessly reinvented. Lessons from mistakes are learnt once. And the knowledge of the organisation or community is not dangerously depleted when a key person departs. In short, the extra work of organising knowledge should create less.

Now we’re managing knowledge, but what is this thing we are managing? Knowledge is the process of connecting the stuff of the mind and the stuff of the world. It is not a recorded thing (data, information), or at least, it is not just that. Knowledge is a form of action. Knowing might be by experiencing (deep understandings, intuitions or judgments based on extended immersion in a particular situation), or conceptualisation (knowing the underlying concepts and theories of a particular discipline, system or vocation), or analysis (linking cause with effect, interests with behaviours, purposes with outcomes), or applying (doing something again or anew). These are some of the ways in which knowing is done.

And what does knowing do? It creates a different kind of organisation. This organisation is one in which certain kinds of knowledge rise to higher levels of validity. This is the knowledge that has been collaboratively constructed, is widely informed, is cross-referenced—and these processes give it a collegial or organisational imprimatur. This knowledge becomes authoritative to the extent that the processes of knowledge construction are made transparent. And the unidirectional (top-bottom, expert-novice, organisation-customer) transmission of knowledge is replaced by knowledge as dialogue.

Ours is an era when organisations are driven by culture, so today’s management gurus tell us. This is in direct contrast to the focus on system and structure in an earlier era when management was considered to be an exact science.

On the micro-scale, teams are driven by shared values—or is it perhaps the complementarity of differences of knowledge and experience? On the corporate scale, organisations try to enlist employees to their visions and ethos—or is it perhaps a matter of creating an inclusive space in which everyone’s motivations and energies are enlisted, even if they don’t fit a single obvious corporate mould? On a market or community scale, organisations try to get close to customers and forge tight supply chain relationships—or is this really a matter of negotiating the differences that are inherent to a world of ever more finely differentiated niche markets and subtly or not-so-subtly divergent organisational cultures? And on the macro, global scale, we may find ourselves operating across one world market—or is it perhaps, a world where, in crossing borders, successful organisations negotiate differences and become many things to many peoples?

Culture is a key organisational driver, but not because it has a simplistically unifying dynamic—of shared values, singular vision and cloning to the ideal of the corporate person. Its dynamic today, more often than not, is one of productive diversity. This is not the diversity of affirmative action or remedies for discrimination. Rather it is the diversity that is at the heart of organisational cultures, including workaday domains such as human resource management, product and service diversification strategy, sales and marketing into a myriad of niches, and customer relationship management which recognises that no two customers are the same.

Ours is an era of massive change, sometimes liberating, other times traumatic. Organisations find themselves buffeted by external forces: technological, market, political and cultural. They are challenged to become ever more efficient, effective, productive and competitive. How can they be active masters of change rather than reactive servants? How can change in organisations be driven by their people rather than the organisation in the abstract, or its leaders having to drag them along? Organisations will fail if they are not capable of learning, in a collective sense, as well as the individuals who spend their days at work there. They will fail if they do not regard themselves as places of continuous personal and corporate reinvention, of individual and institutional transformation. The organisation and every person within it needs to envision themselves, not as a change object, but as an agent of change.

The Conference and the Journal will attempt to address these and other dynamics of knowledge, culture and change as they manifest themselves in organisations. The perspectives range from big picture analyses to detailed case studies which speak to the tangible value of organisational intangibles. They will traverse a broad terrain, from theory and analysis to practical strategies for action.