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Organizations behave as knowledge-seeking communities when their members share beliefs about cause-and-effect relationships, norms for evaluating information, and values that guide the translation of knowledge to practice. What are the practices, arrangements, and mechanisms that make up how an organization knows what it knows? What are the underlying values and norms that shape the character and orientation of these methods? What can we learn from failures and disasters in organizational learning -- and how do organizations become susceptible to common learning traps such as the self-fulfilling prophecy, groupthink, group polarization, learning myopia, and selective information processing? In The Inquiring Organization, Chun Wei Choo examines how an organization's knowledge-acquisition and information-seeking leads to the construction of beliefs and the formation of epistemic practices that can affect its capacity to learn and grow. The book explores the epistemology of organizational learning and information seeking; how organizations acquire and justify knowledge; and how information is sought and shaped to warrant as well as to question beliefs. It starts from the premise that organizations are truth-seeking -- they seek beliefs which are well supported by reasoning, evidence, and experience in order to act more effectively. It then makes the case for a normative view of organizational knowledge which identifies the epistemic norms that an organization needs to pursue in order to acquire valid knowledge and true belief. The book progressively develops a set of information and epistemic features that are used to describe an inquiring organization. An inquiring organization is one that is motivated to acquire knowledge, where this motivation for knowledge includes not only the pursuit of truth, but also understanding, creativity, and curiosity. It has developed norms and practices of information seeking and knowledge acquisition that are truth-conducive, granting it reliable success in acquiring knowledge that is advantageous to the organization. It sees knowledge as the result of an ongoing process of inquiry in which knowledge is always provisional and always being improved upon, where beliefs are linked to experience, and the seeking of knowledge is an inclusive, collective enterprise.
This book brings together three great motifs of the network society: the seeking and using of information by individuals and groups; the creation and application of knowledge in organizations; and the fundamental transformation of these activities as they are enacted on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Of the three, the study of how individuals and groups seek information probably has the longest history, beginning with the early "information needs and uses" studies soon after the Second World War. The study of organizations as knowledge-based social systems is much more recent, and really gained momentum only within the last decade or so. The study of the World Wide Web as information and communication media is younger still, but has generated tremendous excitement, partly because it has the potential to reconfigure the ways in which people seek information and use knowledge, and partly because it offers new methods of analyzing and measuring how in fact such information and knowledge work gets done. As research endeavors, these streams overlap and share conceptual constructs, perspectives, and methods of analysis. Although these overlaps and shared concerns are sometimes apparent in the published research, there have been few attempts to connect these ideas explicitly and identify cross-disciplinary themes. This book is an attempt to fill this void. The three authors of this book possess contrasting backgrounds and thus adopt complementary vantage points to observe information seeking and knowledge work.
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