The purpose of this project is to investigate knowledge sharing within a small but growing design organization. The aim of the investigation was to create a model, supported by and understanding of observed elements, describing how knowledge flows between the levels of individuals, project teams, and organization. The objective is to support knowledge sharing practices, of designers and leadership, as the company grows in size and project load.
Methodologically the study took an abductive approach, as the empirical material guided the researchers towards the theorization and conceptualization of the proposed model. Throughout the project each researcher served a different role. One was a participant observer, working as a design intern internally in the organization, and was able to collect daily insights and first hand experience. The other was an external observer and was able to check the internal observations and reflect with another perspective.
The findings lead the researchers to diagnose the impact and influence of narratives, boundary objects, working styles, and values on knowledge sharing within design organizations. It was found that boundary objects and narratives are significant throughout the levels to support knowledge sharing and conversion from tacit to explicit, and explicit to tacit. Individual working styles can significantly impact design processes and collaboration among project teams, in regards to sharing skills and developing ideas. While, values impact on designers processes and end products, as they carry significance for both individuals and company.A company with a strong vision, attracts employees who embody the same values.
Challenges and opportunities of knowledge sharing were identified and described throughout to support the understanding and contribution of exchanging knowledge within design organizations.
This report is valuable for designers or leadership who wish to develop or improve knowledge sharing practices in their organization. The format and language of the suggestion in concepts designers are familiar with supports the value and motivation to apply and contribute to design processes and organizational development.
In an increasingly globalized world that is being forced to reduce consumption of certain resources we are required to call on another: knowledge. While ‘knowledge’ is a commonly used word in everyday speech, in the context of this report, we have used the definition as described by researchers, Davenport, De Long, and Beers. The define knowledge as “information combined with experience, context, interpretation, and reflection”.1 Knowledge is a significant element for organizations and societies to develop, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, claims that “knowledge is our most important resource: the only way we can progress, make society better, make the world better is by understanding, by knowing”.2
While researchers, Nonaka and Takeuchi, describe that creating and utilizing knowledge in such a situation is “a means of breaking away from the past and moving them into new and untried territories of opportunity”, a claim that states knowledge supports societal progress.3
Storytelling are a means of expression and communication for individuals. They facilitate knowledge sharing between individuals as they are a mode for conveying perspectives, ideas, and motivations.Storytelling have the possibility for individuals to develop their own ideas by providing a sequential and logical framework for thought processes. This process can also support the considerations of users in an individual or group design process.
Boundary objects are a means for individuals to embed their tacit knowledge in an object and convey it in explicit form to others. Thus, such objects carry knowledge and support its conversion between individuals. Particularly in design practice, individuals rely on embedding their knowledge in objects to express their ideas to others in either their project team or organization.
The working styles of individuals have the ability to impact knowledge sharing both in project teams and at the organizational level. When working on a project team individuals have the opportunity to apply and share their own working and design style. Through collaborative processes individual working styles have the ability to influence and evolve those of others. This exchange of skills has the ability to influence design practices at an organizational level. Additionally, organizational procedures and requirements can also have a significant impact on the working and design styles of individuals and project teams.
Individuals are attracted to a design organization that holds similar values to their own. Values embody passion which is a guiding force in design. The individual is influenced by their own values and thus reflects them in their design processes. As organizational values should be mirrored in designs, and individuals and project teams should translate and apply them throughout their processes. When company leadership aims to impart a value of knowledge sharing, they should foster processes that embed this practice at all levels of the organization.
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Research/Master thesis by Amelia Strohsnitter and Camila Buschle.
MSc. Sustainable Design, Aalborg University (Copenhagen) – 2016