Thursday, 2 December 2010

Knowledge for Design

I know some people think knowledge management is dead – but I think it can actually give us some interesting insights for service design. I particularly liked the literature around knowledge flows as well as Garud’s distinction of different knowledge types [1]. I tried to combine these two with the problem I look into for my PhD (How does a design process for complex health and care service have to look like). Like Garud I identified three different types of knowledge, however mine are slightly different. While he distinguishes “know-how”, “know-what” and “know-why”, I found that in service design it is useful to look for “know-how” (method), “know-what” (content) and “know-where” (context). Content is what the service which is designed is supposed to do and method knowledge is how to do the design. Contextual knowledge appears both as the setting for the service (context for content) but also as the setting for the design process itself (context for methods).
All three types of knowledge are both input and output of the design process – although actual knowledge itself of course may change during the process. This is similar to a piece of silk cloth which gets turned into a dress. The material afterwards is still silk but its form has been altered and it might have been combined with other pieces of cloth to make something new.
Looking at types of knowledge is interesting because when we examine their characteristics – mainly how implicit and explicit they are – we can deduce their flow properties (sticky or leaky, short-range or long-range) and their modes of transmission.

[1]   R. Garud, “On the distinction between know-how, know-why, and know-what,” Advances in Strategic Management,  vol. 14, 1997, pp. 81–101.

I wrote all this up in much more detail for a conference paper for the HICSS-44 in January and it will be published in the conference proceedings. I will post a link here once it has been published but if you’re interested before, just drop me an email (eh343 at cam dot ac dot uk).

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