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Social media demands knowledge management to refocus on broad participation and the active role of individuals as both consumers and contributors at the same time. To make sense of these developments within organisations, knowledge management approaches need to connect the dynamic and fluid social media interactions of individuals and in informal communities with stability and institutionalization in a formal organisational environment.
Towards that end, knowledge maturing is a novel perspective on knowledge creation in and across organisations. The knowledge maturing model contributes to theories of organisational knowledge creation by structuring the collective development process into characteristic phases which are not passed in a strictly linear way.
The x-axis of the model describes how knowledge moves through the four scopes of interaction individual, community, organization and society. The y-axis describes the abundant ideas entering the knowledge maturing process and the organisation’s focus of attention which is wide in the beginning and narrowed down along the phases
- I. Emergence. Individuals create personal knowledge by pursuing their interests in browsing abundant knowledge spaces inside and beyond the organisation, opening up for new knowledge and the changes it might bring about. Knowledge is subjective, deeply embedded in the originator’s context and the vocabulary used for communication might be vague and restricted to the originator. Based on the findings of our studies, we revised this phase to include two sub-phases, exploration and appropriation.
Ia. Exploration: New knowledge is developed by individuals either in highly informal discussions or by browsing the knowledge spaces available inside the organisation and beyond. Extensive search and retrieval activities often result in loads of material influencing creative processes of idea generation.
Ib. Appropriation: New knowledge or results found in the exploration subphase that have been enriched, refined or otherwise contextualised with respect to their use are now appropriated by the individual, i.e. personalised and contributions are marked so that an individual can benefit from its future (re-)use. While many initiatives for knowledge management have focused on sharing knowledge or even detaching knowledge from humans as “media”, individuals also require support for appropriation, at least in a more individualistic culture.
- II. Distribution in communities: The first phase in the scope of communities describes interactions between individuals driven by social motives and the benefits that individuals typically attribute to sharing knowledge. These are, among others, belonging to a preferred social group, thus increasing the probability of getting back knowledge from the community when one needs it. Distribution is not meant in the sense of a one way street of individuals contributing new knowledge that they have committed to. The phase includes discussing the new knowledge, negotiating its meaning and impact, co-developing knowledge, convincing others and agreeing plus committing to the knowledge as collective. From the perspective of semantics, a common terminology is developed and shared among community members.
- III. Transformation: Artefacts created in the preceding phases are often inherently unstructured and still highly subjective and embedded in the community context which means they are only comprehensible for people in this community due to shared knowledge needed to interpret them. Transformation means that knowledge is restructured and put into a form appropriate for moving it across the community’s boundaries. Structured documents are created in which knowledge is de-subjectified, sometimes formalised using established containers and context is made explicit to ease the transfer to collectives other than the originating community.
- IV. Introduction: Knowledge is prepared with a specific focus on enhancing understandability, handed on and applied in an ad-hoc manner in trainings in which a selected group of users is instructed using didactically prepared material. We found two primary interpretations of this first phase in the scope of organisation, i.e. (1) an instructional setting called ad-hoc training and (2) an experimental setting called piloting.
- IV1. Ad-hoc training: Documents produced in the preceding phases are typically not well suited as learning materials because no didactical considerations were taken into account. Now the topic is refined to improve comprehensibility in order to ease its consumption or re-use. Individual learning objects are arranged to cover a broader subject area. Tests allow to determine the knowledge level and to select learning objects or learning paths.
- IV2. Piloting: Typically, not every implementation detail can be foreseen in the transformation phase. Knowledge is arranged in a way so that it can be applied in a dedicated, specific experiment involving not only the creators of knowledge, but other stakeholders. Experiences are collected with a test case before a larger roll-out of a product, a service to an external user community, e.g., customers or stakeholders, or new organisational rules, procedures or processes to an organisation-internal target community such as project teams, work groups, subsidiaries or other organisational units.
- V. Standardisation: The knowledge is further solidified and formally established in the organisation to be used in repeatable formal trainings, work practices, processes, products or services. As in the introduction phase, we distinguish an instructional setting with standardised training activities, called formal training, and an experimental setting turning pilots into standard organisational infrastructure, processes and practices, called institutionalisation. The term standard, finally, can also refer to external standardisation initiatives which are similar for both settings, transcend the organisational boundaries and move knowledge maturing to the scope of societies.
- V1a. Formal training: In an instructional setting, the subject area becomes teachable to novices. A curriculum integrates learning content into a sequence using sophisticated didactical concepts in order to guide learners in their learning journeys to capture a subject area thus increasing the probability of successful knowledge transfer. Learning objects are arranged into courses covering a broader subject area. Learning modules and courses can be further combined into programs preparing for taking on a new role or for career development.
- V2a. Institutionalisation: In the organisation-internal case, formalised documents that have been learned by knowledge workers are solidified and implemented into the organisational infrastructure in the form of processes, business rules and/or standard operating procedures. In the organisation-external case, products or services are launched on the market. They are institutionalised into the portfolio of products and services offered by the organisation.
- Vb. External standardisation: The ultimate maturity sub-phase is very similar for both paths, the instructional and the experimental path, and covers some form of standardisation or certification. On an individual level, qualifications and certificates confirm that participants of formal trainings achieved a certain degree of proficiency which is comparable across institutions. On an organisational level, certificates allow organisations to prove compliance with a set of rules that they have agreed to fulfil. Concerning products and services, certificates show compliance to laws, regulations or recommendations that can, should or must be fulfilled before a product or service can be offered in a certain market.
Maier, Ronald, Schmidt, Andreas
Explaining organizational knowledge creation with a knowledge maturing model
Knowledge Management Research & Practice, vol. 2014, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1–20
Finally, I have managed to complete the last step of my PhD (my defense was already in February): I have published the work. My thesis is titled “Situation-aware information services for work-integrated learning” (supervisors Prof. Peter Lockemann and Prof. Johannes Magenheim) and is available in German. It summarizes my research on context awareness and context management, and on supporting work-integrated learning (e.g., the knowledge maturing model, but also the methodology for context-steered learning) with competence ontologies. Yes, it has taken much too long, even the step from 98% to 100% has taken me one and a half years. But you should be aware that either you complete your PhD quickly, or you take care of a research department and several interesting projects – and do many other interesting things…
I am in the lucky situation that this is just the starting point for my further work. Within the MATURE project, I can continue my research on knowledge maturing and on competency-oriented approaches. Additionally, it has turned out that the context management approach is ideal also for the domain of ambient-assisted living (AAL), which has been shown in SOPRANO, and will continue in UniversAAL. Context-aware system behaviour in context of adaptive user interfaces has been the subject in AGENT-DYSL and will continue to be explored in the upcoming myUI.
Last week we were at Graz, first for a MATURE Consortium Meeeting and then for the I-KNOW conference, which I always enjoy for its atmosphere. It is far more relaxed and suitable for networking with long lunch and coffee breaks in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the quality of the talks did not live up to my expectations based on previous years’ experience (despite the fact that the MATURE project contributed 7 presentations and one poster presentation). This is strikingly similar to the WM 2009 in Solothurn. Is this a (rather alarming) indicator that traditional knowledge management forums do not attract the top research contributions? Or is the topic as such no longer fashionable?
On the other side, the event hosted the kick-off event for the Special Interest Group on Professional Learning (www.sig-protel.eu), which tries to increase the visibility of the topic on a European level, first by better networking among the concerned European research projects like MATURE, APOSDLE, ROLE, and others. In the discussion, it has turned out that despite the ambiguity of the term, professional learning seems to be umbrella term for KM and workplace learning. This SIG is a promising sign for a maturing community.
This year, Christine and I were giving a talk on integrating motivational aspects into the design of informal learning support, which reported on our findings on how to integrating motivational measures into tools for informal learning (the paper is available from here). Christine has done most of the work in ethnographic studies and their analysis. Currently, together with our colleague Athanasios, they are struggling to integrate their ideas into the four demonstrators of MATURE Year 2 demonstrators.
This week I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning at Maastricht in the Netherlands. It was a good networking opportunity for the TEL community, which some dubbed as a “big family” (with all the different aspects of a family). About 130 participants included mostly players from the European projects in the TEL area.
There were some interesting key notes:
- Kia Höök inspired the participants to consider the body and the affective dimension of human behavior in their research and development. I think that there is a huge potential, particularly if we want truly holistic and motivating/engaging learning experiences, although it is not easy to see how to transfer her research results, e.g., to workplace learning support. One step in that direction could be the upcoming Call 3 STREP xDELIA where my colleague Clemens van Dinther is involved in and which will deal with emotions.
- Manu Kapur reported on his experiments on “productive failure”, which showed that students who fail in groups confronted with ill-structured problems outperform those who are successful in groups with well-structured problems even in well-structured problem domains. This implies that short-term failure may not be a reliable indicator for longer term learning success.
ECTEL08 has given itself the mission “Time of convergence”, aiming at bridging different learning contexts. The discussions at the conference showed that convergence it still at its beginning. This manifested in the recurring debates about the role of informal learning and whether the TEL community should target that more (as APOSDLE and MATURE have started):
- There was an increasing number of presentations and discussion contributions (e.g, from Graham Attwell as part of the MATURE PLE conceptualizations), including the keynote by Roy Pea who emphasized the role of informal learning compared to formal learning (e.g., only 5% of a student’s learning is within formal contexts).
- On the other side, Pierre Dillenbourg doubted that this turn towards the “informal” is helpful for the TEL community (he still acknowledges the importance of informal learning) and suspects that this emerging shift of attention is because of frustration about not being able to change the formal system.
- Rob Koper emphasized in the closing panel that if we want to have informal learning support, we should first work on the acknowledgment and valuing of informal activities in career development.
The EC (represented by Pat Manson, Marco Marsella, and Martin Májek) explained that investments into TEL have so far not entered practice in a sufficient way. Stefanie Lindstaedt pointed out that industry could be faster to introduce workplace learning tools, but for that we need to provide evidence about the impact, and this can only be achieved if we do not focus on short term effects, but also on longer term effects.
Also for MATURE, this was a good event. On the first day, MATURE presented the first results of the five months of the project and organized a workshop on Learning in Enterprise 2.0. This was a very good opportunity to bring together the different strands of development (ethnography, concept development, and technical integration of existing tools within design studies) in an open atmosphere and to receive feedback from the community. Additionally, Graham Attwell presented the rolling out of a first simple PLE based on Freefolio in the UK, which is closely linked to MATURE activities.
Finally, the book edited by Claus Pahl appeared: Architecture Solutions for E-Learning Systems where I contributed a chapter on the Impact of Context-Awareness on the Architecture of E-Learning Solutions (Bibsonomy-Entry).
Recently, the situatedness of learning has come to the center of attention in both research and practice, also a result of the insight that traditional learning methods in the form of large decontextualized courses lead to inert knowledge; i.e., knowledge that can be reproduced, but not applied to real-world problem solving. In order to avoid the inertness, pedagogy tries to set up authentic learning settings, an approach increasingly shared in e-learning domain. If we consider professional training, it is the immediacy of purpose and context that makes it largely different to learning in schools or academic education. This immediacy has the benefit that we actually have an authentic context that we need to preserve. The majority of current e-learning approaches, however, ignores this context and provides decontextualized forms of learning as a multimedia copy of traditional presence seminars. We show how making learning solutions aware of the context actually affects their architecture and present a showcase solution in the form of the Learning in Process service-oriented architecture.
Recently, I have completed two book chapters that fairly comprehensively summarize the results of my research on how to support workplace learning with the notion of context awareness:
- The first focuses on the ontology-based modeling and overall methodological approach. It is placed within the context of Semantic Work Environments.
Enabling Leaning on Demand in Semantic Work Environments, to appear in Rech, Decker, Ras (eds.): Emerging Technologies for Semantic Work Environments: Techniques, Methods, and Applications, IGI Publishing, 2008
- The second focuses on the architectural issues related to introducing context awareness into e-learning solutions. It describes my service-oriented approach, which is based on a ontology-centered design methodology for deriving services and ensuring their coherence.
Impact of Context-Awareness on the Architecture of E-Learning Solutions, to appear in Pahl (ed.): Architecture Solutions for E-Learning Systems, IGI Publishing, 2007
The last two days I was at Innsbruck for attending the Microlearning 2007 conference which deals with topics similar to our context-aware workplace learning support approach in LIP. The participants had a refreshing variety of backgrounds. The concept of conference was inspired by the unconference idea with getting rid of traditional paper presentations and having speedgeeking sessions and microcafé discussions. I presented the knowledge maturing idea and the concept of maturity awareness in a seven minute slot for eight times in a row (with changing audience of 3 to 6 people). This was quite an experience, and I liked the immediacy of contact with your audience, but the short slot made it hard to convey the idea. But most of all, it was exhausting… Nevertheless, I took a lot of inspiring ideas with me, probably much more than from other conferences. At some points, I would have liked to have more in-depth presentations in addition to the overview presentations and especially more in-depth discussions (also more critical ones).
The microlearning idea – as a gist – is a metaphor for a new form of learning that is flexible, fine-grained, integrated into everyday activities. The biggest challenge is how to retain guidance, certification etc., which are still important. The maturing idea, as far as I took from the discussions, perfectly fits to this metaphor of learning.
One critical thing about the conference concept: networking was not that easy because of short breaks in between. Still it was nice to meet some people again and to encounter some interesting new ones. But definitely, the confence was worth going to.
For the WWW 2007 Workshop on Collaborative Construction of Structured Knowledge, we have submitted a fairly comprehensive overview of our current ontology maturing research – and got accepted. The paper combines our activities in the EU project IMAGINATION on so-called Imagenotions and our social bookmarking tool SOBOLEO (developed with in the project Im Wissensnetz), which will also be evaluated and presented by Valentin as a demo at the same workshop.
The upcoming Professional Knowledge Management conference WM 2007 at Potsdam will provide the possibility to get a closer look at our ongoing research around the theme of knowledge maturing, which represents a macroscopical phase model for describing interindividual learning processes. The following three publication deal with the issue from different perspective
The first publication (together with Ronald Maier from the University of Halle-Wittenberg) combines the phase model with an organizational learning model and develops criteria for describing the different phases.
Ronald Maier, Andreas Schmidt:
Characterizing Knowledge Maturing: A Conceptual Process Model for Integrating E-Learning and Knowledge Management
In: 4th Conference Professional Knowledge Management: Experiences and Visions (WM 07), Workshop on Convergence of Knowledge Management and E-Learning (CKME ’07), Potsdam, March 2007. PDF
The second publication, originating from our Wissensnetz project, transfers the idea of knowledge maturing, understood as maturing of knowledge structures in the human mind and corresponding information artifacts, to the level of vocabulary and terminology, i.e., into ontology maturing. This transfer provides interesting insights into real-world ontology-engineering, bridging the tagging and the formal ontology paradigms. Our publication presents a light-weight ontology editor reflecting these ideas in knowledge work processes, but this is only a result at the very beginning.
Simone Braun, Andreas Schmidt, Valentin Zacharias:
Ontology Maturing with Lightweight Collaborative Ontology Editing Tools
In: 4th Conference Professional Knowledge Management: Experiences and Visions (WM 07), Workshop on Productive Knowledge Work (ProKW 07), Potsdam, March 2007, PDF
The third publication, together with Hans-Jörg Happel from FZI, transfers the idea to software components to software engineering in order to provide new insights into software reuse processes. If we understand these reuse processes as learning processes, this provides the bridge between knowledge management/organizational learning and software engineering practice.
Hans-Jörg Happel, Andreas Schmidt:
Knowledge Maturing as a Process Model for Describing Software Reuse
In: 4th Conference Professional Knowledge Management: Experiences and Visions (WM 07), Workshop on Learning Software Organizations (LSO 2007), Potsdam, March 2007, PDF
It will be interesting to explore further where the maturing concept can provide new insights and how the different application areas can cross-fertilize one another. If you have further ideas, please send them. I will be happy to collaborate on that issue!