Organizations as congitive systems :what do they process and deliver?
The substitution of knowledge to information as the entity that organizations process and deliver raises a number of questions concerning the nature of knowledge. The dispute on the codifiability of tacit knowledge and that juxtaposing the epistemology of practice vs. the epistemology of possession can be better faced by revisiting two crucial debates. One concerns the nature of cognition and the other the famous mind-body problem. Cognition can be associated with the capability of manipulating symbols, like in the traditional computational view of organizations, interpreting facts or symbols, like in the narrative approach to organization theory, or developing mental states (events), like argued by the growing field of organizational cognition. Applied to the study of organizations, the mind-body problem concerns the possibility (if any) and the forms in which organizational mental events, like trust, identity, cultures, etc., can be derived from the structural aspects (technological, cognitive or communication networks) of organizations. By siding in extreme opposite positions, the two epistemologies appear irreducible one another and pay its own inner consistency with remarkable difficulties in describing and explaining some empirical phenomena. Conversely, by legitimating the existence of both tacit and explicit knowledge, by emphasizing the space of human interactions, and by assuming that mental events can be explained with the structural aspects of organizations, Nonaka’s SECI model seems an interesting middle way between the two rival epistemologies.
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