The New Knowledge Workers

The New Knowledge Workers

New Horizons in Management series

Dariusz Jemielniak

This critical ethnographic study of knowledge workers and knowledge-intensive organization workplaces focuses on the issues of timing and schedules, the perception of formality and trust and distrust in software development as well as motivation and occupational identity among software engineers.

Chapter 3: Knowledge-intensive Organizations

Dariusz Jemielniak

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational innovation, innovation and technology, organisational innovation


THE MEANING OF “THE KNOWLEDGE-INTENSIVE COMPANY” The term “knowledge-intensive company” is not very precise. Its origins can be traced to the tradition of economic terminology. There, the division into capital-intensive and labor-intensive is the time-honored, undisputable way of organizational classification. In capital-intensive companies, money plays a more important role than human work, while in laborintensive companies it is the other way around. Thus, the statement that a company can be knowledge-intensive emphasizes the fact that in many organizations a key resource, and the primary product, is knowledge (Starbuck, 1992) – something distinctive both from capital and from the people themselves. For example, in the case of Google, people play a very important role in new product development, yet for the search engine the important value comes from the developed algorithms and database attributed to the process of knowledge accumulation. Of course, we should understand that the terms “knowledge” and “knowledge-intensive company” have an unequivocally positive sound to them, which unfortunately tends to undermine their popular usage in management theory. It is difficult to imagine an organization which communicates to its stakeholders that it is not based on knowledge or that its main product is ignorance or stupidity (Jemielniak and Kociatkiewicz, 2009). The absurdity of such an idea shows that using slogans related to knowledge and IT terminology can have a purely ideological character (Styhre, 2003). Moreover, some companies, even if their operations have knowledge aspects within them, try to emphasize those aspects unequivocally by decreasing the weights of others. A good...

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