Sharing Tacit Knowledge Online: A Case Study of e-Learning in Cisco's Network of System Integrator Partner Firms
Jarle Moss Hildrum
This paper contributes to an ongoing debate about the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the interpersonal sharing of tacit knowledge. Drawing upon the philosophical writings of Michael Polanyi and an original case study of e-learning in Cisco Systems, the paper challenges the widespread argument that ICT-mediated communication is inadequate for the sharing of tacit knowledge. The main conclusion is that advanced e-learning systems—particularly remote laboratories—make possible efficient sharing of tacit knowledge between internationally dispersed technicians. However, successful knowledge-sharing depends crucially on the degree to which the users are motivated to acquire new knowledge online. Motivation can be facilitated through the participation in online networks of practice, but in order to access and benefit from these networks people require a certain threshold level of technical relevant knowledge, which is the most easily generated in local communities of practice.
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