The role of discourse in establishing an enabling context for organizational knowledge creation: An ethnographic study
The field of knowledge creation within organizational studies has pointed to the importance of an organization establishing an enabling context for fostering innovation and knowledge production. Factors identified as critical for enabling include the existence of structures and practices that foster solid collegial relations and enact a climate of care. Based on ethnographic research, this thesis adopts a broadly sociolinguistic approach to an exploration of interpersonal relations within a New Zealand IT company, in order to identify the ways in which a knowledge enabling context is instantiated. Using, in particular, the rapport management framework developed by Helen Spencer-Oatey (2000, 2008) and highlighting the variable of participant relations, the study analyses the discourse of the organization as both language and action, to provide a more extensive account than has so far been achieved in the knowledge enabling literature, as well as extending the sociolinguistic work on language in the workplace into new domains of discourse. The study shows that facilitation of and support for collegial relations occurs at all levels of the selected organization, from the spatial configuration and connectivity of the organization as a whole, through its component social structures, to the management of relations across levels of hierarchy. At the level of the organization as a whole, one organizational activity - the weekly company meeting - through its frequency, regularity, inclusiveness and management, facilitates and sustains collegial relations in multiple and distinctive ways. Two distinct kinds of organizational community are identified: the widely recognized community of practice (CofP); and a different kind of community, referred to in knowledge creation literature as a micro-community of knowledge. As well as identifying distinctive characteristics of these two communities, the analyses show that rapport is managed differently in each, while shedding new light on the productive interdependence of these two types of community. An interactional ethos characterized by care is reflected in the communication style at all levels of the organization. Despite substantial differences in power and status, the study finds that associative expressiveness, low distance and generally positive affect dominate interaction throughout. In closing, this thesis discusses the implications for future research into knowledge creation. It suggests, in particular, that including considerations of spatiality in the analytical framework has potential to contribute further to the field of language in the workplace through its influence as a vector of interaction.