A Case Study on How Workers in a Fast-paced Environment Go Through the Knowledge Life Cycle When Dealing with Critical Incidents

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Virginia Tech


21st century work environments are becoming more dynamic; they are fast-paced and require critical incidents to be dealt with in a shorter time frame. At the same time, in order for organizations to survive knowledge management (KM) systems need to be in place that allow organizations to learn from these incidents and use the knowledge gained to solve new problems.

The knowledge life cycle consists of three phases: create, preserve, and disseminate. The knowledge life cycle also involves the transformation of knowledge from tacit to explicit, which is important to shift knowledge from the individual level to the organizational level; this represents a very important objective of KM.

KM is not a domain on its own but intersects with other areas such as organizational learning, performance support, and communities of practice. Learning and performance support are among the concerns of practitioners in the sister fields of instructional design and technology (IDT) and human performance technology (HPT). Yet still, there are not many studies that examine KM through the lens of these professions. There is a need for knowledge to be accessible and for structures to be put in place to facilitate the knowledge life cycle.

The purpose of this study was to explore how workers in a fast-paced environment go through the knowledge life cycle when dealing with critical incidents, and the factors that acted as driving and restraining forces. A single instrumental case study research design was used to study employees of a walk-in computer software help desk. The HPT model along with principles and procedures of critical incident technique were used to create a framework for data collection, which included interviews, a focus group session, and examination of extant data.

Findings revealed that workers went through the knowledge life cycle by making internal and external connections and both organizational and individual factors impacted the flow of knowledge. A disconnection between available tools and work processes posed the greatest barrier to going through all the knowledge life cycle process.



knowledge management, knowledge life cycle, organizational learning, instructional design and technology, human performance technology, fast-paced