Metaknowledge Management of Diverse Teams

Metaknowledge Management of Diverse Teams

Metaknowledge Management of Diverse Teams

Author: Robert Held – Contact

The transition into a knowledge-sharing economy demands leaders to place greater emphasis on strategy and organizational culture. Technology competence and its governance at the executive and senior management levels are symbiotic with diversity management in a knowledge-sharing society, in which mobility across both sectors and cultures is a central tenet. Technology and pervasive digital networks simplify locating expertise in an organization and enable a firm to harness innovation from workplace diversity. The effectiveness of digital leadership and knowledge management however is dependent on developing and communicating organizational culture, as well as implementing intuitively-designed communication channels.

The following review details theoretical and empirical support for the use of enterprise social networks and electronic communication in knowledge-focused firms, while collecting characteristics of an ideal social platform. The first and central argument places responsibility on upper-management and executives, followed by suggestions for how to maintain successful use of enterprise social networks to leverage social capital within a firm. Cross-Cultural Organizational Behavior is also discussed, as intercultural competency is key for managing workers connected by expanding networks. Lastly, technology management research proposes metaknowledge as a tangible goal for firms entering the Knowledge Era, as well as necessary technical, structural, and cultural infrastructures for achieving metaknowledge.


Enterprise Business Technology: Governance & Leadership in the Digital Age


The increasing role of technology in the workplace is a prominent feature of the knowledge-oriented transition of businesses. In contrast to the production-oriented focus of the Industrial Era, a knowledge-based economy is synonymous with globalization and technology, and therefore requires an entirely new approach to management (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007). Although technology and global connectivity seem to be externally driving innovation (Bettis & Hitt, 1995), the internal organizational culture is rather the principle force that drives digital transformation (Kane, Palmer, Philips, Kiron, & Buckley, 2015). Developing and adhering to a digital strategy is therefore the key to driving innovation and maintaining an edge in the knowledge era.

The higher tiers of an organization are responsible for driving digital transformation by strategizing and maintaining a culture that values knowledge exchange. Enterprise Business Technology Governance is a guideline offered by Valentine and Stewart (2013) which details that the responsibility for effective management of technology’s prevalent role falls on the shoulders of executives and board members. In this regard, the board of directors are no longer in the position to delegate roles for actualizing digital strategy, nor may they avoid honing skills such as intercultural competence which are required due to the dynamic and expanding nature of digital networks. An organization’s technological maturity is in the hands of its executives.    

Companies with boards who exhibit digital maturity out-perform those less digitally mature. According to work from Fitzgerald and colleagues (2014), companies with digitally mature directors are 26% more profitable, with 21% greater market value than companies headed by their less tech-savvy peers. Such disparities stem in part from comprehensive technology governance, which attracts and engages talent, provides tech-related training, and promotes internal norms of evaluating and adapting novel technology. Valentine and Stewart (2013) highlight the issue: 90% of directors and executives agree that technology is either important or very important to their organization, yet a mere 20% of executive survey respondents reflected competence traits relating to technology governance.


Success in the Knowledge-Based Economy


Increasing executive competency requires unpacking the concept of knowledge management. The first step in leadership of knowledge management is recognizing social capital, that is the total of both actual and potential resources “embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by a social unit” (Gold, Malhotra, & Segars, 2001). Gold and colleagues (2001) refer to technical, structural, and cultural infrastructures that maximize a firm’s social capital, which echoes a demand for technology processes, norms and trust, and shared contexts respectively, to maximize knowledge exchange. Successful knowledge-oriented leaders must leverage knowledge management by balancing digital architecture, establishment of knowledge-sharing norms, interpersonal trust, as well as shaping and maintaining corporate culture and vision.  

Technical Infrastructure

Enterprise social platforms are internal spaces for opening communication channels and expanding personally meaningful networks and locating expertise. Specifically, web-based platforms enable colleagues to communicate messages to specific coworkers or to broadcast messages to the organization, post and edit files linked to themselves or colleagues, and view messages, connections, and files communicated and posted by any user (Maentymaeki & Riemer, 2016). Social platforms in general have the potential to eliminate characteristic management issues of locating exactly where expertise exists in an organization (Alavi & Tiwana, 2002). Just as Lew Platt, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, admits: “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable” (Davenport & Prusak, 1998). An intuitive enterprise social platform can better extrapolate the location of organizational knowledge and mobilize horizontally and vertically such information in an organization (Davison, Ou, Martinsons, Zhao, & Du, 2014). Most importantly, these digital architectures facilitate organizational learning, which increases the market competitiveness of a firm (Tsai, 2001). 

Structural Infrastructure

The enduring challenge of proper knowledge management is sustaining organizational structure that encourages interpersonal interactions and discourages withholding information. Specifically, the development of self-organized networks is paramount for facilitating and streamlining innovative ideas, as well as inter-group problem solving of both unforeseen and reoccurring operational issues. What Cohen and Levinthal (2000) refer to as absorptive capacity, ideal knowledge sharing structure empowers workers to recognize the value of new information, to assimilate it, and to apply it to create new knowledge and capabilities. An example arises when considering adopting novel technology: less technology-mature companies usually approach innovative solutions with a risk-adverse mentality, while technology-mature firms tend to approach new solutions with the support of an expansive knowledge network to locate and mobilize expertise and experience for making informed decisions.

Cultural Infrastructure

The challenge of digital interaction however, according to Holton (2001), is to purposefully design channels that allow for the in-depth dialog necessary for natural knowledge exchange which typically occurs face to face. The goal of organizational culture objectives is to support the development of formal and informal relationships even in a virtual environment, irrespective of proximity, to convert tacit knowledge to explicit organizational knowledge (Nonaka & Van Krogh, 2009). Yet as a prerequisite for working collaboratively, trust must develop through frequent and meaningful interaction, which may take longer to develop through simple electronic messaging (Senge et al., 1994). The goal is to design intuitive communication channels that reflect the nuances of interacting face to face, where members are comfortable with being open with one another. Furthermore, successful technology infrastructure must offer features that address cultural diversity, geographic distance, and member isolation, which remain challenges for developing trust via digitally mediated communication (Holton, 2001). A vital step for senior management is to implement a multi-faceted tool where initiating and developing meaningful dialog comes second-nature to diverse group members, where trust can grow into effective collaboration.


Cross-Cultural Facilitation and Management


The expanding nature of social networking systems offer companies innovative potential that arises from group diversity. Group diversity in this respect refers to demographic information such as age, gender, educational background, and culture, among other variables (Ostergaard et al., 2010). In addition to research showing that technologically diverse firms are more innovative and remain competitive longer (Beaudry & Breschi, 2003; Garcia-Vega, 2006), organizations with diverse team members are more likely to have a larger knowledge base and an advantage of gathering external knowledge, that is if they are correctly coordinated (Zahra & George, 2002; Ostergaard, Timmermans, & Kristinson, 2010).

In what Halal (1998) referred to as the “Connectionist Era”, the new competitive business landscape is comprised of globalization and democratization with international alliances, which proposes significant challenges to leaders (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007). Internal digital communications however equip leaders with additional resources to be flexible and to handle the uncertainty, complexity, and role ambiguities that often arise in diverse group processes, especially regarding work engagement (Adler, 1986). To manage and extend knowledge networks that span sectors and geographic regions, intercultural competency is a tool for reducing friction, ensuring respectful interaction, and retaining talent (For further review, see Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005).

There is no shortage of hurdles for leaders of multicultural teams. Authors researching multicultural team performance have reported instances of in-group biases (Salk & Brannen, 2000), ethnocentrism (Cramton & Hinds, 2004), as well as cases of emotional and task conflict (Glinow et al., 2004) among other findings (see Shapiro et al., 2005). In a significant review of Cross-Cultural Organizational Behavior, Michele Gelfand along with her colleagues (2007) states that leaders of multicultural teams performing as well as or better than homogenous teams must establish norms for meaningful participation and facilitate strong team identity in comparison to salient cultural identities (see Van Der Zee, Atsma, & Brodbeck, 2004). Gelfand and colleagues (2005) presented a comprehensive review of various traits of workers and effective leaders across cultures, where not only is knowledge of cultural differences vital for navigating intercultural contexts but understanding why differences exist is also consequential.  


Diversity and Knowledge-Sharing Platforms


To be effective for diverse teams, electronic communication and enterprise social network platforms must be perceived as useful (Saldanha & Krishnan, 2012) and encourage self-efficacy in its users (Papadopoulos, Stamati, & Nopparuch, 2013). The platforms have the potential to provide leaders with tools to facilitate knowledge management across growing horizontal links and to ensure successful expatriate relationships and international adjustment when necessary, which not only depend on expatriate self-efficacy, but also expatriates’ other-orientation and perception (Black et al., 1991). Higher rates of expatriate success can be achieved by focusing primarily on self-efficacy and relational skills (Bhaskar-Schrinivas et al., 2005) with awareness of the expats background, shared goal features, and maintaining feedback and acknowledgement with both local and remote work. Effective implementation of such networks has been shown to increase productivity of knowledge workers by 25%, reflecting an impressive 365% return on investment (Chui et al., 2012). Greater productivity and returns are possible within multi-faceted networks where workers can meet social and work-related goals simultaneously (Maentymaeki & Reimer, 2016).

Gamification and instant task-acknowledgement are innovative features for structuring platform activity. At an early stage, it is necessary to establish organizational norms which maintain knowledge management structures over time (Deterding et al., 2011). Intuitive feedback channels also offer advantages for leaders to maintain both team identity and perceived usefulness of the network, which is more important among diverse teams (Shapiro et al., 2005). Furthermore, transparency of connections and worker skillsets allows users to locate expertise and to convert tacit knowledge into organizational knowledge. Intuitive feedback that incorporates face-to-face cues and communication qualities that are usually missing online is an additional opportunity to communicate corporate vision and organizational culture for greater knowledge exchange and return on investment.


Future Focus: Metaknowledge


Moving forward in the knowledge-based economy, those companies who lead by example in technology competency will attract talent irrespective of age (Kane et al., 2015) and are more likely to have greater revenue and returns (Valentine & Stewart, 2013). What constitutes success in the post-industrial realm is the use of digital connectivity for expanding personally-constructed networks, which promotes intrinsically motivated organizational learning. Multi-faced enterprise social networking technology, that is the platforms with feedback, acknowledgement, and skill transparency, is especially promising for knowledge sharing in expanding networks.   

As an objective for knowledge-based firms, metaknowledge refers to the awareness of who knows what and who knows whom in an organization, which is displayed in enterprise communication technologies (Leonardi, 2015; Ren & Argote, 2011). In a study by Leonardi (2015), transparency of internal communication increased knowledge of who knows what by 31%, while knowledge of who knows whom increased by 88% within a firm, albeit through passive exposure to users of transparent communication networks over a six-month period.

Such drastic increases in personal awareness in Leonardi’s study (2015) was principally from making internal communication digitally transparent. The potential that social platforms offer firms increases exponentially when its leaders tailor structural and cultural infrastructure with interpersonal and feedback features that are usually absent in digital communication. As horizontal connections beyond a firm’s original sector or nation become vital in the Knowledge Era (Wilson et al., 2004), enterprise social networks must offer intuitive features for enhancing digital collaboration amongst diverse teams to sustain a competitive edge. 

To review, knowledge management begins with the conscious commitment from executives and upper management to fulfill their fiduciary duty to perform in a decisive capacity within a competitive organization, to first make personal strides toward technological competence and second, to establish key infrastructures for maximizing the performance of the firm’s social capital (Gold et al., 2001). Enterprise social networks are a technical infrastructure that, together with structural and cultural affordances, offer leaders the opportunity to expand networks, and to locate and channel transformational knowledge to the right people. Unlike in the production-focused economy, the Knowledge Era requires adept knowledge management via executive technology competence, pervasive organizational norms and culture, and multi-faceted enterprise social media.

Another interesting article: Motivationale Homöopathie und “Wissenschaftsglaube” im Training und Coaching


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