Tacit Knowledge and Organizational Culture

Furthermore, Stark and Dell (Chapter 17 in this volume) refer to the "art of improvisation" and point out that organizational improvisation can be seen as the "basis of a new praxis of organizing complex systems which are innovative in nature." Innovation is strongly related to tacit knowledge. Drawing on a concept of Polanyi's (1958/1978), "tacit knowledge" in contrast to "codified knowledge" or mere information "is personal, context specific and therefore hard to formalize and communicate." (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). It refers to the observation: "We know more than we can tell" (Polanyi, 1958/1978). Tacit knowledge appears on two different levels, either in skills or in superior ways of interpretation and interpretation patterns. These ways of interpretation are rooted in the individual. The organization, designating functions, modes of operation, communication and decision-making processes, has a major impact on the existing "Theories in Use" (Argyris & Schon, 1996). In this context, Peter Drucker calls the organizational culture an "inaudible melody all members of an organization dance to."

We assume that arts intervention—playing with emotions, working with ambiguity and enabling different interpretations: with its tendency to compress because of the different media (pictures, theater, music)—are best for determining existing tacit knowledge that has not been communicated so far and for turning it into something that can be communicated, developed and negotiated. Better than other settings and tools of consulting or organizational development, arts intervention can make the incommunicable communicable and trigger further development processes with their intuitive approach and the nonanalytic way of using metaphors and analogies. They can create the provocative focus that stimulates reflection and interaction and enable new interpretations of experiences. Employees are challenged by arts interventions to observe situations from a different point of view, which creates new ways of perceiving reality.

By means of this encouragement, challenge, or provocation to share tacit knowledge and make it transparent and negotiable, arts interventions can establish conditions that aim at the company's activities towards common goals. Stark and Dell (Chapter 17 in this volume) give us the example of the Musical Learning Journey as an arts intervention to identify, analyze and change tacit patterns to be taken as procedural knowledge in organizations.

Future, Vision, and Meaning

Artists are the avant-garde by tradition that grasps future tendencies that are barely noticeable, but have the potential of expansive implementation, and turns these tendencies into items open for discussion. This report has mentioned over and over again that—because of massive changes in the economic environment—employees and the organization require a central ability to deal with the instability of the future here and now. Scharmer (2009) emphasizes the learning from the future and offers a method of presentation in his U-theory.

There is no leadership without a vision because it would only remain an extrapolation of the past. Considering the new economic reality, such an extrapolation is not sufficient. Leadership needs a vision, as a sketch to perceive the future by intrinsic motivation, as an integral symbol of orientation with a goal. The problem is that the market, which is more and more becoming a basic mechanism of organization in all areas of life, offers no perspectives of the future itself. It is constructed by opportunities, risks and speculation. However, for the future viewed as a project— with all the human desires, hopes and necessities—the ability to shape and influence is a must. The more politics fails to guarantee the possibility to shape and influence, the more the management of organizations is challenged to fill the vacuum and to work together with the people with a vision-based leadership, to adapt and to create solidarity and identity. Arts interventions have the potential of doing their part.

The artist must paint or sculpt or write, not only for the present generation but for those who have yet to be born. Good artists, it is often said, are fifty to a hundred years ahead of their time, they describe what lies over the horizon in our future world.... The artist ... must ... depict this new world before all the evidence is in. They must rely on the embracing abilities of their imagination to intuit and describe what is as yet a germinating seed in their present time, something that will only flower after they have written the line or painted the canvas. The present manager must learn the same artistic discipline, they must learn to respond or conceive of something that will move in the same direction in which the world is moving, without waiting for all the evidence to appear on their desks. To wait for all the evidence is to finally recognize it through a competitor's product. (Whyte, 2001, pp. 241-242, as cited in Adler, 2006, p. 491)

Leadership of Possibility in the New Economy

In context of the new economic situation (keywords: learning economy, knowledge economy, tacit knowledge), Gary Hamel first and foremost explains the relevant possibilities (contrary to the restraints that often dominate the actual production).

The gap between what can be imagined and what can be accomplished has never been smaller. (Hamel, 2000, S.10, as cited in Adler, 2006, S.487)

The question that Nancy Adler (2007) adds to this is: "Now that we can do anything, what do we want to do?" The answer focuses on breaking up the linear continuation of the paths from the past by a new form of leadership of possibility that is based more on "hope, aspiration and innovation" than the "replication of historical patterns of constrained pragmatism." The core ability of leadership of possibility is the "anticipatory creativity" which enables us to design or invent future options that are worth being implemented. According to Adler, this has so far been a process that was more connected to art and artists than management.

The economy of the future will be about creating value and appropriate forms, and no one knows more about the processes for doing that than artists. (Austin, 2005, as cited in Adler, 2006, S.487)

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >