It is widely believed that knowledge work is a relatively new phenomenon and constitutes the main form of activity in post-industrial organisations. While the term remains undefined, it is taken to refer to the knowledge that individuals apply while performing business activities in ‘knowledge-intensive’ firms. Here, the subjective knowledge of individual social actors’ is applied to objective organizational knowledge as the raw material of the production process. Thus, knowledge is considered to be both an input and an output of business processes and to also underpin the process by which knowledge inputs are transformed to outputs. This conceptualization is incorrect, and in order to illustrate why, the socially constructed nature of individual knowledge and its relationship to knowledge-produced data is subjected to critical analysis. Cooley (1975) was one of the first to employ the term ‘knowledge worker’; however, his conception encompasses both white and blue-collar workers, professionals and craftspeople alike. This paper echoes Cooley’s perspective in many respects; however, it seeks to extend and apply it in a contemporary context. Accordingly, the first section of this paper explores the constitution of individual knowledge and deconstructs commonly held beliefs on knowledge by examining its relationship to data and information. However, in order to help researchers and practitioners understand better the phenomenon, the third section presents a conceptual model and taxonomy of knowledge in organizational contexts. This paper’s motivation is to eliminate the hype that surrounds the concept of knowledge work and to propose an understanding of the phenomenon that is more in tune with the ‘reality’ of organisational life as evidenced by the author’s experience as a practitioner and his empirical research on information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructures in the newspaper industry. Thus the fourth and penultimate section of the paper draws on this research in support of its thesis and, also, to inform its conclusions.
Butler, Tom, "Deconstructing the Hype Around Knowledge Work and Putting Clothes on the Emperor's Back" (2000). AMCIS 2000 Proceedings. 91.