1 SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS THAT ENABLE KNOWLEDGE SHARING Paul van den Brink
2 Cover illustration: Dave Makin,
3 SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS THAT ENABLE KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROEFSCHRIFT ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan de Technische Universiteit Delft, op gezag van de Rector Magnificus Prof.dr.ir. J.T. Fokkema, voorzitter van het College voor Promoties, in het openbaar te verdedigen op dinsdag 11 november 2003 om uur door Paul VAN DEN BRINK doctorandus in de informatica, master of business administration geboren te Amsterdam
4 Dit proefschrift is goedgekeurd door de promotor: Prof.dr. H.G. Sol Samenstelling promotiecommissie: Rector Magnificus, Prof.dr. H.G. Sol, Prof.dr. J.H. Andriessen, Prof.dr. S.K.Th. Boersma, Prof.dr. P.G.W. Keen, Prof.drs. J.S. Mackenzie Owen, Prof.dr.ir. A. Verbraeck, Prof.dr.ir. G.J. de Vreede, voorzitter Technische Universiteit Delft, promotor Technische Universiteit Delft Universiteit van Groningen Technische Universiteit Delft Universiteit van Amsterdam University of Maryland University of Nebraska ISBN NUGI 684 Copyright 2003 by Paul van den Brink All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author.
5 For Sanderella and my parents
7 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My most sincere gratitude goes out to the following people. I am deeply indebted to my promoter Henk Sol. Henk has offered me exceptionally professional guidance and was always able to put his finger on the weak spots. It was a real pleasure working with him. The thorough comments that Erik Andriessen of the Delft University of Technology made on draft versions were helpful and very valuable. His expert advice is highly appreciated. The observations of Gert-Jan de Vreede of the University of Nebraska were relevant, constructive, and well valued. I heartily thank Theo Siraa from the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment for the very congenial and professional way of working together. I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Hilbert Bruins Slot and Ger Bijster from Unilever Research & Development for their stimulation, professional cooperation, and good-natured collaboration. I am much obliged to the experts Daan Andriessen, Olaf Beelen, Thijs Boekhoff, Noor Christoph, Arjan Evers, Paul Iske, Dany Jacobs, Jan Kingma, John Mackenzie Owen, Johan Oldenkamp, Theo Siraa, Frans Smeets, Jan de Vuijst, Anita van der Wal, Mathieu Weggeman, and Dirk de Wit who commented on the model developed. The inadequacies they observed and the improvements they suggested were very welcome. My gratitude goes out to the esteemed paranymphs Rob Krams and Rein Nobel. The kind hospitality of Agnes Fowler whenever I visited the faculty is greatly appreciated. I am especially grateful to my loving wife Sanderella Plak for her continuous encouragement and support, and for her patience with me even when that meant self-sacrifice. I truly value and cherish this. Paul van den Brink The Hague, September 2003
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9 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing iii ii TABLE OF CONTENTS i ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...i TABLE OF CONTENTS...iii iii LIST OF FIGURES...vii iv LIST OF TABLES...vii v SUMMARY... ix 1 STIMULI FOR KNOWLEDGE SHARING INTRODUCTION PACE OF CHANGE Transition to the knowledge economy Forces of change COPING WITH THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT Organizations as learning organisms Learning and sharing of knowledge KNOWLEDGE SHARING What is knowledge Knowledge management and knowledge sharing PROBLEM DESCRIPTION RESEARCH FRAMEWORK INTRODUCTION RESEARCH QUESTION AND RESEARCH GOAL RESEARCH APPROACH Research principle Research strategy Research instruments RESEARCH OUTLINE KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES INTRODUCTION KNOWLEDGE CREATION THROUGH HUMAN ACTION Knowledge is personal and actionable Knowledge is tacit or explicit Interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge of individuals Organizational learning KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES PEOPLE, ORGANIZATION AND TECHNOLOGY THE HUMAN FACTOR Drivers for human action Skill levels and roles...33
10 iv Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing 3.6 THE ORGANIZATIONAL FACTOR Dimensions of an organization Values, norms, practices and organizational climate THE TECHNOLOGY FACTOR Information and communication technology as key support Supportive functionalities CONCLUSION CASE STUDIES INTRODUCTION CASE 1: GETRONICS CONSULTING Description Way of working The human factor in knowledge sharing processes The organizational factor in knowledge sharing processes The technology factor in knowledge sharing processes Observation and analysis CASE 2: ROYAL NETHERLANDS AIR FORCE Description Way of working The human factor in knowledge sharing processes The organizational factor in knowledge sharing processes The technology factor in knowledge sharing processes Observation and analysis REFLECTION CONCLUSION ENABLING CONDITIONS INTRODUCTION SOCIAL CONDITIONS AND ENABLERS Motivation: care, appraisal, and empowerment Values, attitude, moods, and emotions: trust Skill levels and roles: competence leverage and knowledge crew ORGANIZATIONAL CONDITIONS AND ENABLERS Strategy: learning organization Structure: organically structured organization Systems: slack, integrated into daily workprocess, and metric Staff and skills Style: knowledge champion and climate of openness Shared values: community, collaboration, and dialogue TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS AND ENABLERS Technology for sharing explicit knowledge: knowledge repository Technology for sharing explicit and tacit knowledge: knowledge routemap Technology for sharing tacit knowledge: collaborative platform KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES AND ENABLING CONDITIONS CONCLUSION...90
11 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing v 6 PHASES OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN AN ORGANIZATION INTRODUCTION THE KNOWLEDGE JOURNEY THE UNAWARENESS PHASE THE KNOWLEDGE REPOSITORY PHASE THE KNOWLEDGE ROUTEMAP PHASE THE COLLABORATIVE PLATFORM PHASE THE ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING PHASE CODIFICATION STRATEGY AND PERSONALIZATION STRATEGY KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASES AND ENABLING CONDITIONS CONCLUSION TESTING CONDITIONS FOR KNOWLEDGE SHARING INTRODUCTION ASSESSMENT OF THE ENABLING CONDITIONS INDICATING THE LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING THE APPLICABLE KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASE SELECT CONDITIONS TO STIMULATE FEASIBLE WAYS TO STIMULATE CONDITIONS A REPEATING PROCESS OF ASSESSMENT AND ACTION IN PRACTICE Steps of the process Comparison to the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change Comparison to the framework of Wiig CONCLUSION ENABLING KNOWLEDGE SHARING IN PRACTICE INTRODUCTION CASE GETRONICS CONSULTING REVISITED Assessment of existing conditions The applicable knowledge sharing phase Selection of conditions most appropriate to stimulate Proposed stimulations of conditions involved Suggested approach and result CASE MINISTRY OF HOUSING, SPATIAL PLANNING, AND THE ENVIRONMENT Description Way of working Social, organizational, and technological factors Assessment of existing conditions The applicable knowledge sharing phase Selection of conditions most appropriate to stimulate Observation and analysis Proposed stimulations of conditions involved Suggested approach and result CASE UNILEVER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT VLAARDINGEN Description Way of working Social, organizational, and technological factors...161
12 vi Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing Assessment of existing conditions The applicable knowledge sharing phase Selection of conditions most appropriate to stimulate Observation and analysis Proposed stimulations of conditions involved Suggested approach and result CONCLUSION REFLECTION AND VALIDATION INTRODUCTION REFLECTION ON THE PRESCRIPTIVE EMPIRICAL MODEL Observations with respect to enabling conditions Observations with respect to assessment of conditions Observations with respect to proposed stimulations METHOD OF VALIDATION Objective of the expert interviews Structure of the approach VALIDATION OF THE PRESCRIPTIVE EMPIRICAL MODEL Relation between model and reality Limitations and possible improvements of the theory AN IMPROVED PRESCRIPTIVE EMPIRICAL MODEL Enabling conditions Knowledge sharing phases and knowledge sharing strategy A repeating process of assessment and action Suggested approach CONCLUSION EVALUATION OF THE RESEARCH AND CONCLUSION EVALUATION OF THE RESEARCH Realization of the research goal Outcome of the research Significance of the research Reflection on the research approach DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH CONCLUSION A REFERENCES B INDEX C INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY TOOLS D AN INSTRUMENT FOR ASSESSMENT E AN APPROACH TO STEER STIMULATIONS OF ENABLING CONDITIONS F SAMENVATTING (SUMMARY IN DUTCH) G CURRICULUM VITAE AUTHOR...245
13 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing vii iii LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE 2.1: INDUCTIVE-HYPOTHETICAL MODEL CYCLE FIGURE 2.2: RESEARCH OUTLINE FIGURE 3.1: KNOWLEDGE CONVERSION PROCESSES (NONAKA AND TAKEUCHI, 1995) FIGURE 3.2: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES FIGURE 3.3: MODEL OF TECHNOLOGY (ORLIKOWSKI, 1992) FIGURE 3.4: 7S FRAMEWORK (MCKINSEY) FIGURE 5.1: OVERVIEW OF ENABLING SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FIGURE 6.1: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASES UNDER A CODIFICATION OR PERSONALIZATION STRATEGY FIGURE 6.2: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASES AND CONDITIONS UNDER BOTH STRATEGIES FIGURE 7.1: INFLUENCE DIAGRAM ON MAIN ELEMENTS OF MODEL FOR TESTING CONDITIONS FIGURE 8.1: ASSESSED CONDITIONS IN GETRONICS CONSULTING FIGURE 8.2: ASSESSED CONDITIONS IN THE MINISTRY FIGURE 8.3: ASSESSED CONDITIONS IN UNILEVER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT FIGURE 9.1: ADAPTED OVERVIEW OF SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FIGURE C.1: INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY TOOLS iv LIST OF TABLES TABLE 2.1: DESCRIPTIVE VERSUS PRESCRIPTIVE APPROACH (TSANG, 1997) TABLE 3.1: INTERACTION BETWEEN TACIT AND EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE (NONAKA AND TAKEUCHI, 1995) TABLE 3.2: OVERVIEW OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES TABLE 4.1: ABSENT CONDITIONS IN GETRONICS CONSULTING TABLE 4.2: ABSENT CONDITIONS IN THE ROYAL NETHERLANDS AIR FORCE TABLE 5.1: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES AND ENABLING CONDITIONS TABLE 6.1: CHARACTERISTICS OF CODIFICATION AND PERSONALIZATION STRATEGY (HANSEN ET AL., 1999) TABLE 6.2: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASES AND KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES TABLE 6.3: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASES AND ENABLING CONDITIONS TABLE 7.1: ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS TABLE 7.2: FEASIBLE WAYS TO STIMULATE SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS TABLE 8.1: ASSESSMENT OF CONDITIONS EXISTING IN GETRONICS CONSULTING TABLE 8.2: ASSESSMENT OF CONDITIONS EXISTING IN THE MINISTRY TABLE 8.3: ISSUES OF CONSIDERATION CORRELATED WITH POSSIBLE TRENDS TABLE 8.4: ASSESSMENT OF CONDITIONS EXISTING IN UNILEVER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT TABLE 8.5: ISSUES OF CONSIDERATION CORRELATED WITH POSSIBLE TRENDS TABLE C.1: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROCESSES VERSUS ICT TOOLS TABLE D.1: KNOWLEDGE SHARING PHASE INTERVALS...232
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15 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing ix v SUMMARY SOCIAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONDITIONS THAT ENABLE KNOWLEDGE SHARING The increasing pace of change in our society creates the need for organizations to cope effectively with this changing environment. The sharing of knowledge may help organizations to do so. This dissertation studies conditions that facilitate knowledge sharing between people. The primary objective of the research is to understand and gain insight into these conditions to help organizations to become more effective in knowledge sharing. Our research approach focuses on theory building with a practical value. Our study builds on a synthesis of the theory of Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) about knowledge creation and the model of Orlikowski (1992) on the concept of technology in organizations. This resulted in an elaboration on the knowledge sharing processes that may exist in an organization, an explanation of the three entities people, organization, and (information and communication) technology and their role in knowledge sharing, and an examination of the relationship between these processes and entities. Chapter 1 considers the developments in our society that may cause this increasing pace of change. Learning i.e. knowledge sharing and adapting is a critical success factor for all organizations that participate in a dynamic environment in order to stay in synchronization with their surrounding. In this process knowledge plays a pivotal role. The notion of knowledge is explained through definition of the concepts data, information, and (explicit and tacit) knowledge. We conclude this chapter with a description of the problem we will study in this research. The research question and goal are described in Chapter 2. Organizations face problems when they want to create and sustain an environment that enables and encourages knowledge sharing. They should provide for conditions such that people can trust each other, work together, are motivated to share ideas, and can engage in dialogues. The purpose of this dissertation is to identify and understand the conditions that may facilitate knowledge sharing. Therefore we address the following research question: Which conditions facilitate the sharing of knowledge between people in an organization? and the related research goal: Identify the relevant conditions and enablers that facilitate knowledge sharing between people in an organization. The research approach consists of a principle, strategy, and instrument. Due to the explorative nature of our study we choose the interpretive philosophy as our research principle. The inductive-hypothetical model cycle our research strategy incorporates this philosophy and it helps to investigate both theoretical and practical issues, and to distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive aspects of our study. Within this framework the case study research was chosen as our research instrument. We extend the knowledge creation theory of Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) in Chapter 3 with the management of codified or explicit knowledge to define the knowledge sharing processes that can occur in an organization. The following organizational knowledge sharing processes are identified: creating knowledge tacit-to-tacit, tacit-to-explicit,
16 x Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing explicit-to-explicit, explicit-to-tacit, valuation of new explicit knowledge, organizing & classifying assessed explicit knowledge, storing structured explicit knowledge, maintaining and refining stored explicit knowledge, distributing stored explicit knowledge, accessing stored explicit knowledge, using explicit knowledge, and using tacit knowledge. We discuss the model of Orlikowski (1992) which treats the influences of people, organization, and technology and their interactions, because we consider these three entities as the key factors in knowledge sharing. For the human factor we discuss the drivers that motivate people to do what they do, the possible skill levels of an individual in an organization, and the roles an individual can play in an organization. Organizational dimensions are analyzed using the 7S framework by McKinsey, which consists of seven related factors: strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, style, and shared values. The technology factor and the potentialities of (information and communication) technology to support knowledge sharing are detailed by grouping their functionalities: office applications, groupware, document systems, work process systems, analytical systems, and knowledge systems. Two organizations of quite a different nature two of our case studies are analyzed in Chapter 4 through the human, organizational, and technological factors that influence their knowledge sharing processes. We identify conditions that may help to incorporate knowledge sharing in the way of working in these organizations. Chapter 5 describes the in our opinion most relevant conditions that facilitate knowledge sharing in an organization. These conditions are structured into social, organizational, and technological factors: social: care, trust, empowerment, competence leverage, appraisal, and knowledge crew; organizational: climate of openness, dialogue, community, organically structured organization, collaboration, learning organization, slack, knowledge champion, system integrated into daily workprocess, and metric; technological: knowledge repository, knowledge routemap, and collaborative platform. In Chapter 6 we propose that the development of an organization with respect to knowledge sharing can be characterized by several phases. The following phases are identified: the unawareness phase, knowledge repository phase, knowledge routemap phase, collaborative platform phase, and organizational learning phase. We construct a model in which we consider two types of knowledge sharing strategy: codification or personalization. Our model therefore consists of two matrices one for each type of strategy in which the different phases, associated with the development of knowledge sharing, are incorporated. In these two matrices each phase is related to their most appropriate social, organizational, and technological conditions that enable knowledge sharing (see the table below). Unawareness phase none CODIFICATION STRATEGY People Organization Technology
17 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing xi Knowledge repository phase Knowledge routemap phase Collaborative platform phase Organizational learning phase Unawareness phase Collaborative platform phase Knowledge routemap phase Knowledge repository phase Organizational learning phase CODIFICATION STRATEGY People Organization Technology appraisal, competence slack, system integrated knowledge repository leverage into daily workprocess knowledge crew knowledge champion, metric knowledge routemap trust, care, empowerment climate of openness, dialogue, community, collaboration collaborative platform organically structured organization, learning organization PERSONALIZATION STRATEGY People Organization Technology none trust, care, appraisal, competence leverage, empowerment climate of openness, slack, dialogue, community, knowledge champion, collaboration collaborative platform knowledge crew metric knowledge routemap system integrated into daily workprocess organically structured organization, learning organization knowledge repository In Chapter 7 we present a repeating process of assessment and action (see the figure on the next page) to implement our prescriptive conceptual model. We describe action as the stimulation of appropriate enabling conditions. By assessing conditions that enable knowledge sharing in an organization, before and some time after a condition is stimulated, a change in the degree of knowledge sharing may become visible. This variation may become an indicator of the effectiveness of (one or more) conditions in facilitating knowledge sharing and can help to test our model. Our repeating process of assessment and action is based on a pragmatic assessment of the enabling conditions that facilitate knowledge sharing. This enables us to obtain an indication of the level of knowledge sharing in an organization. Given the type of knowledge sharing strategy deployed, this level of knowledge sharing allows us to derive, for the organization at hand, the applicable knowledge sharing phase. Related to each phase are conditions that are the most appropriate to stimulate. Based on the identified knowledge sharing phase and the degree of fulfillment of its related conditions we decide whether to enhance the current knowledge sharing phase or to facilitate a transition from the present into the next knowledge sharing phase. When we correlate current issues or problems of this organization with possible, relevant trends we can determine the most viable way to realize stimulations of these enabling
18 xii Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing conditions. The effect of these stimulations can subsequently be assessed and can give rise to further action. In Chapter 8 we describe the implementation of our prescriptive conceptual model through a process of assessment and action in three case studies: Getronics Consulting, the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment, and Unilever Research & Development. In Chapter 9 we evaluate our prescriptive empirical model. We use the experiences from applying our repeating process of assessment and action in three dissimilar organizations to reflect whether our prescriptive empirical model tallies with and confirms the primary objective of this dissertation: to systematically study, identify, and understand the enabling conditions to help organizations to become more effective in knowledge sharing. Through a number of expert interviews we elaborate on the validation of our prescriptive empirical model. These experts are subject matter professionals who are regarded as capable to form an accepted scientific opinion on our model. We address the issue whether our model is in accordance with observations from reality, respecting the interpretive philosophy we adopted for this research. Based on the comments given by subject matter experts and our experiences from the three prescriptive empirical models, we propose an improved model.
19 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing xiii In Chapter 10 we present an evaluation of our study, offer suggestions for future research, and conclude our research. We summarize the main outcome from our research as follows, it offers: a contribution to the theoretical understanding of the requirements for knowledge sharing in organizations and an improved insight into the processes involved in sharing of tacit and explicit knowledge; the identification of social, organizational, and technological conditions that facilitate knowledge sharing in an organization and the definition of phases that reflect a certain stage in the development of knowledge sharing in an organization; the description of a repeating process of assessment and action that identifies customized activities to enhance knowledge sharing in an organization. We emphasize that knowledge sharing is a complex beast influenced by numerous factors. It would be oversimplifying reality to claim there is one particular remedy. In our research we identified a framework of conditions relevant for knowledge sharing. We argue that knowledge sharing between people in an organization is embedded in the way of thinking and in the way of working, and that it can be enabled by stimulating the right social, organizational, and technological conditions. Paul van den Brink
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21 Stimuli for Knowledge Sharing 1 1 STIMULI FOR KNOWLEDGE SHARING Knowledge is the most democratic source of power. A. Toffler 1.1 Introduction Organizations are confronted with an ever changing environment. The increasing pace of change in our society emphasizes the necessity for organizations to adapt to and cope with environmental uncertainty. Choo (1995a) argues that in order to cope effectively with their changing environment organizations and their employees should act as a learning organism and be adaptive, innovative, and able to process information about that environment, and be able to turn this information into knowledge and share this within the organization. Knowledge sharing is about stimulating the exchange of experiences, ideas, and thoughts between people. Organizations can create and sustain an environment that encourages knowledge sharing, i.e. they can provide for conditions that enable such an environment. This dissertation identifies and studies conditions that facilitate knowledge sharing between people. The primary objective of the research is to understand and gain insight into these conditions to help organizations to become more effective in knowledge sharing. In this chapter the stimuli for knowledge sharing in an organization are discussed. First, the social and technological developments in our society that may cause the increasing pace of change are considered. Next, we address in what way organizations can cope with such a turbulent environment. Third, knowledge and knowledge sharing are defined for we consider this as key factors that enable organizations to stay in synchronization with their surrounding. Finally, we describe the problem we will study in this research. 1.2 Pace of change This section discusses the increasing pace of change in our society and some of the most relevant developments that possibly influence this process Transition to the knowledge economy The first transition in human society was from a hunter-gatherer economy to an agricultural economy based on natural resources: land, agriculture, mining, and fishing. Then emphasis shifted to the industrial economy and capital: money, factories, and machines (Stewart, 1997a; Vogt, 1995). Now we are entering a third period of change: the shift from the command-and-control organization, the organization of departments and divisions, to the information-based organization, the organization of knowledge specialists (Drucker, 1988). The transition to the knowledge economy can be typified through the increasing replacement of (manual) labor by information and knowledge as the means of production (Quinn, 1992; Malhotra, 1993). The focus shifts from what you own to what you know, from tangible to immaterial, from paper to digital (Stewart, 1997a; Toffler, 1991).
22 2 Social, Organizational, and Technological Conditions that enable Knowledge Sharing Consider the time between these transitions, for this tempo is remarkable. We observe that the nature of work and society is changing at an increasing pace of time. It started with the invention of the digging stick and the appearance of agriculture in BC. The second technical innovation has been the oxen-led scratch plow that took place around BC: some years later. After that, the pace of innovation constantly increased (Kurzweil, 1999; Vogt, 1995). Diamond (1998) argues: Technology begets technology, it is an auto catalytic process: that is, one that speeds up at a rate that increases with time, because the process catalyzes itself. The explosion of technology since the Industrial Revolution impresses us today, but the medieval explosion was equally impressive compared with that of the Bronze Age, which in turn dwarfed that of the Upper Paleolithic. Zorpette and Ezzell (1999) comment on the development of technology as follows: In the century now closing, we have gone from gaping at electric lightbulbs and telephones to channel-surfing past images of a sunrise on Mars, to outbursts of pique if our takes more than a few minutes to get to the other side of the world. Quinn (1992) claims a major role for technology and knowledge combined: The main reason for this impressive change of our society is the advancing usage of knowledge combined with the increasing possibilities of information and communication technology. Our society develops into a knowledge economy with an increasing need for knowledge. Drucker (1997) states that it is likely that the productivity of knowledge and knowledge workers will become the decisive factor in the world economy. Acquisition, creation, manipulation, interpretation, and use of information and knowledge will be crucial competitive advantages (Stata, 1989). Toffler (1991) underlines this: The paradigm of the advanced economy focuses more on connectivity rather than disconnectedness, integration rather than disintegration, real-time simultaneity rather than sequential stages. Labor in the advanced economy no longer consists of working on things, writes historian Mark Poster of the University of California (Irvine), but of men and women acting on other men and women, or people acting on information and information acting on people Forces of change Which developments cause this increasing pace of change? Senge (1992) observes that A wide array of forces of change in the contemporary organizational context is discernible: increasing uncertainty, economic and political turbulence, changing demographics, the increasing interdependence of global markets and global enterprises, strategic alliances, flattening, re-engineering, restructuring, reorganizing, downsizing and rightsizing of the organization, the shorter life-cycle of products, rapid technological developments, and instantaneous communications. Some of the most relevant social and technological developments in our society that call for organizational realignment are (Toffler, 1991; Kurzweil, 1999; Anderson, 1997; Horn, 1999; Jarvenpaa and Ives, 1994; Vogt, 1995): Increasing complexity of society The complexity of our society grows. With that, the issues an organization faces also become more complex and are often interrelated. Solutions are complicated and frequently only attainable through the synergetic effort of several, heterogeneous experts. Global competition Global competition demands swift reactions to continuous and rapid developments in the environment. If one company does not pursue some particular innovation, another