GLOBALISATION—THE NEED TO MANAGE KNOWLEDGE DISTRIBUTED OVER SPACE
Unlike outsourcing and downsizing, which have resulted in attempts to share knowledge across time by capturing and codifying it and then storing it for later use by other people, globalisation is a pressure that requires knowledge to be shared across space. This raises different issues and problems.
A major difference is that the two communication partners, generally speaking, have access to each other. There is a time element in that they may be in different time zones and communicating asynchronously, but the time perspective is on a different scale and they do have the opportunity to communicate.
Globalisation has not only increased the need to communicate in a physically distributed environment, but it has also extended the scale of this to distribute the environment across international borders. This causes issues of time differences, as mentioned above, and also physical distance, problems of language, and of culture.
In addition to the globalisation of technology, economy and communication, Castells (1996) also observes the impact globalisation has on identity and social change. He demonstrates this by defining two main areas: the Net and the Self. For Castells, the Net is the interaction of technological innovation and social relations. The Self, on the other hand, is how society is defined by the way social groups define their identity. Castells also notes that the Net and the Self are inseparable, for social and technical changes are interrelated. Society cannot be understood without its technological tools. The result of the most recently developed technological tools is what Castells calls the "space of flows." That is, the integrated global network that is made of three parts: the technology (the infrastructure), the places (that is, the hubs and nodes of the network with local cultural and social conditions), and the people. The space of flows has brought about a culture of what Castells terms "real virtuality." Here time is timeless and space is placeless. The result of this is that global economic effects are felt in local communities. People are working in the space of flows but are living in the physical world. Castells terms the result of this clash a "condition of structural schizophrenia" and suggests that people are losing their sense of self and are having to look for their identity in new forms. Thus organisations operating in the global environment have the advantages of access to a vast pool of staff and expertise and modern communication media that render barriers of time and space practically irrelevant but which also raise different cultural and social barriers. This raises the question as to how companies might best manage their knowledge in such an environment.
It could be said, particularly by exponents of the KM approaches outlined earlier in this chapter, that these issues are not major hurdles and that knowledge can still be captured, stored, and then shared by electronic transmission. This may well be true according to the view of knowledge as a capturable commodity; however, language and cultural issues could nevertheless create barriers to the successful sharing of the knowledge. Of more importance, alongside the barriers created by globalisation, there has been a recent realisation that there is some knowledge that cannot be captured. If the knowledge cannot be captured, codified, or stored, this means that sharing it, both over time and space, is even more difficult and presents KM with different issues and challenges for the management of such knowledge. It is only recently that the need to manage knowledge that cannot be captured and codified has been recognised.