Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know

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9780875849041: Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know
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Breakthrough research on knowledge transfer reveals five proven methods for making knowledge sharing a reality - which are right for your company? While external knowledge - about customers, about competitors - is critical, it rarely provides a competitive edge for companies because such information is equally available to everyone. But internal 'know-how' that is unique to a specific company - how to introduce a new drug into the diabetes market, how to decrease assembly time in an automobile plant - is the stuff of which sustained competitive advantage is made. Nancy Dixon, an expert in the field of organizational learning, calls this knowledge borne of experience 'common knowledge', and argues that in order to get beyond talking about knowledge management to actually doing it, companies must first recognize that all knowledge is not created - and therefore can't be shared - equally. Creating successful knowledge transfer systems, Dixon argues, requires matching the type of knowledge to be shared to the method best suited for transferring it effectively. Based on an in-depth study of several organizations - including Ernst & Young, Bechtel, Ford, Chevron, British Petroleum, Texas Instruments, and the U.S. Army - that are leading the field in successful knowledge transfer, "Common Knowledge" reveals groundbreaking insights into how organizational knowledge is created, how it can be effectively shared - and why transfer systems work when they do. Until now, most organizations have had to rely on costly 'trial and error' to find a knowledge transfer system that works for them. Dixon helps managers take the guesswork out of this process by outlining three criteria that must be considered in order to determine how a transfer method will work in a specific situation: the type of knowledge to be transferred, the nature of the task, and who the receiver of that knowledge will be. Drawing from the successful - but very different - practices of the companies in her study and providing compelling illustrative stories based on the experiences of real managers, Dixon distills five distinct categories of knowledge transfer, explains the principles that make each of them work, and helps managers determine which of these systems would be most effective in their own organizations. "Common Knowledge" gets to the heart of one of the most difficult questions in knowledge transfer today: what makes a system work effectively in one organization but fail miserably in another? Going beyond 'one-size-fits-all' approaches and simple generalities like upper management involvement and cultural issues, this important book will help organizations of every kind construct knowledge transfer systems tailored to their unique forms of 'common knowledge' - and in the process create the best kind of competitive advantage there is: the kind that can't be copied.

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From the Back Cover:

"The hope of 'knowledge management' will remain unfulfilled unless organizations learn how to tap into not just their employees' facts and observations, but their hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. Nancy Dixon has studied the ways in which knowledge truly spreads, and she describes the practice in real-life detail, blending a keen feel for organizational design, in-depth research, practicality, and high spirits."
-Art Kleiner, Coauthor of The Dance of Change and Author of The Age of Heretics

"Common Knowledge is valuable to readers interested in understanding the practices by which knowledge is transferred. An important contribution to the knowledge management literature."
-Stephen Denning, Program Director, Knowledge Management, World Bank

"Nancy Dixon offers insightful case studies that identify the obstacles facing organizations that implement knowledge management practices, and outlines the techniques to overcome them. Her book reveals that by focusing on getting 'best demonstrated practices,' we can all improve and leverage what we already know in our organization."
-Jack W. Hugus, Ph.D, Vice President of Best Practices, Lockheed Martin Corporation

"Common Knowledge presents an elegant view of how knowledge is transferred and provides a simple framework to better understand the complexity of knowledge management."
-Gary Merriman, President, Exploration Production Americas, Conoco, Inc.

"Nancy Dixon brings her unique blend of insight and lucidity to the business of knowledge management. By pointing out the fundamental shifts that are taking place in our view of knowledge, she shows us why the knowledge management systems that work do work, and specifies the design principles that could make such systems work in your organization."
-Mike Pedler, Revans Professorial Fellow, Revans Centre for Action Learning & Research, University of Salford, UK

About the Author:

Nancy M. Dixon is an Associate Professor of Administrative Sciences at The George Washington University. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Nancy M. Dixon
Published by Harvard Business School Press (2000)
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