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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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Fluid Knowledge

All knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. Societies, human capabilities, social relations, resources, and technologies, all change. Even very ancient ideas have to be restated using modern language and metaphors to make them meaningful to the current age. Thus, how knowledge evolves is more important than what knowledge exists already.

Fads and fashions are media for knowledge development. They are a societal form of brainstorming where people try on new ideas, often quickly discarding those that do not work well; yet retaining others. Fads and fashions are processes by which knowledge accumulates and spreads. They draw upon aspirations, enthusiasm, fear, greed, mass media, social influence, and social pressure to inform people about new ideas and to induce them to investigate the value of these new ideas. Fads and fashions also make people aware that knowledge deteriorates, and they facilitate the discarding of obsolete ideas. People who discover the deficiencies of old ideas do so gradually and surrounded by other people who are making similar discoveries. The prevalence of so many fads and fashions provides constant reminders that knowledge is transitory, and there are usually several alternative ideas being offered as replacements for obsolete older ones (Abrahamson and Fairchild, 2009; Scarbrough and Swan, 2001).

At a microscopic level, the very process of change both produces knowledge and makes it obsolete. As people attempt change, they take fresh looks ...

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