Complex Acts of Knowing – Paradox and Descriptive Self Awareness

Snowden, D 2002, ‘Complex Acts of Knowing – Paradox and Descriptive Self Awareness’, Journal of Knowledge Management, Special Issue, July 2002.


We are reaching the end of the second generation of knowledge management, with its focus on tacit-explicit knowledge conversion. Triggered by the SECI model of Nonaka, it replaced a first generation focus on timely information provision for decision support and in support of BPR initiatives. Like BPR it has substantially failed to deliver on its promised benefits.

The third generation requires the clear separation of context, narrative and content management and challenges the orthodoxy of scientific management. Complex adaptive systems theory is used to create a sense-making model that utilises self-organising capabilities of the informal communities and identifies a natural flow model of knowledge creation, disruption and utilisation.

However the argument from nature of many complexity thinkers is rejected given the human capability to create order and predictability through collective and individual acts of freewill. Knowledge is seen paradoxically, as both a thing and a flow requiring diverse management approaches.

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