In order to further inform the notion of soft knowledge, in this chapter we will explore three areas of literature with different views of how work is supported by knowledge: Distributed Cognition, Common Ground, and Communities of Practice. The different views show, to a greater or lesser degree, that the capture-codify-store approach is probably the wrong metaphor. The exploration of these views also indicates that the simple soft-hard distinction is not as simple as it appears.
So far we have seen that organisations have lost knowledge through the pressures of downsizing and outsourcing and are having to share knowledge as a result of globalisation; that is, they are having to collaborate with other organisations, often in other locations, or they are having to operate in other locations themselves with the result that their staff have to operate in a distributed environment. We have also seen that KM has not been totally successful in helping organisations manage their knowledge, with the result that there is a shift in views of knowledge from knowledge as an object that can be captured to recognising that there is some knowledge that cannot be captured. KM tends to view these as opposites, but we have also noted a shift in perspectives—away from representationism and more to constructionism. We have used the terms "hard" and "soft" knowledge to try to simplify the different views of knowledge. We can regard the management of hard knowledge as being the result of a representationist view. This is well established. It is soft knowledge that poses the challenge to KM, and therefore, in this chapter, we will explore and refine the notion of soft knowledge in order to ascertain whether it really does map to a constructionist view. We will undertake this exploration by exploring three different views of how work is supported by knowledge:
Common Ground; and
Communities of Practice.