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A Dialogical Approach to the Creation of New Knowledge in Organizations

Haridimos Tsoukas
Organization Science
Vol. 20, No. 6 (Nov. - Dec., 2009), pp. 941-957
Published by: INFORMS
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25614709
Page Count: 17
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A Dialogical Approach to the Creation of New Knowledge in Organizations
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Abstract

Despite several insightful empirical studies on how new knowledge is created in organizations, there is still no satisfactory answer to the question, how is new knowledge created in organizations? The purpose of this paper is to address this question by focusing on direct social interaction, adopting a dialogical approach. The following argument is advanced. From a dialogical perspective, new knowledge in organizations originates in the individual ability to draw new distinctions concerning a task at hand. New distinctions may be developed because practitioners experience their situations in terms of already constituted distinctions, which lend themselves to further articulation. Further articulation develops when organizational members engage in dialogical exchanges. When productive, dialogue leads to self-distanciation, namely, to individuals taking distance from their customary and unreflective ways of acting as practitioners. Dialogue is productive depending on the extent to which participants engage relationally with one another. When this happens, participants are more likely to actively take responsibility for both the joint tasks in which they are involved and for the relationships they have with others. Self-distanciation leads to new distinctions through three processes of conceptual change (conceptual combination, conceptual expansion, and conceptual reframing), which, when intersubjectively accepted, constitute new knowledge. Several organizational examples, as well as findings from organizational knowledge research, are reinterpreted to illustrate the above points.

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