Collection Spotlight: Handbook on the Knowledge Economy

Handbook on the Knowledge Economy (Front Cover)Handbook on the Knowledge Economy, edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn, Abraham Ninan

Reviewed by Almarie E. Munley, Ph.D.

Handbook on the Knowledge Economy is an essential work that explains the use of knowledge today in organizations and governments worldwide. The book explicitly states its purpose by outlining a central theme which is to inform the reader by explaining what knowledge is and how it works socially, organizationally, and economically. It is necessary to know the functionality of knowledge to improve and create a more fluid organization. The editors of this textbook collected research that introduces the reader to the historical character of knowledge, followed by an outline of the risk involved when addressing the social capital of knowledge. The handbook moves on to a series of essays from cultural capital to issues on policy related to the knowledgebase. It addresses the much acclaimed issues related to intellectual capital as well as giving the reader an opportunity to review how values play a role in the knowledge economy.

Rooney, Hearn, and Nina’s collection on concepts, policy, and implementation of knowledge progresses through various applicable formalities, addressing strategy and implementation and also imagination and creativity when considering the results of using knowledge. It also allows the reader to understand the position of culture, values, power, communication, risk perceptions, and ethics that are central and effective for knowledge systems.

In outlining some of the most critical pieces of this handbook, let me highlight a few that will catch your eye as we consider the use of knowledge and its importance:

Hitendra Pillay’s “Knowledge and Social Capital” takes into account the ways in which knowledge becomes an asset for society. It highlights the premise that William James stated in 1909: that knowledge at its most basic level is derived from personal meaning and the understanding of the relationships to this meaning. These relationships are greatly influenced by culture, social experiences, and technological artifacts. The premise is that social capital is built on two types: human and cultural. Pillay continues to unveil the process of social and cultural experiences which lead to a tension between economic and social capital. In conclusion, the author confirms that “the development of a global transactional economy and the pursuit of self-interest driven by capitalist ideologies, our moral and social values have been gradually transformed to support an ethic of single-minded competitiveness. Morals related to ‘social good’ are being eroded by the push for a market-driven society – a world where economic maximization seems to be the only focus” (p.85). Pillay continues to voice the need to understand and manage trade-offs inherent in the tensions between the different types of capital posited here. This should then bring us to a holistic model by which we may promote a balanced knowledge society.

Another interesting factor in considering the knowledge economy is the creativity within the process. This is the subject of Mark Banks’ article “Managing Creativity in the Knowledge Economy.” Banks notes that there are many options to an organization wishing to become more creative. Possibilities include not only importing specialized training into the workforce, but actually maximizing on the incubators and generators already at work. There are specific structures that act as incubators in organizations today, yet most managers do not know what they are. Banks moves the reader to an understanding of a “community of practice,” which works as a group of people informally bound together, sharing knowledge to pursue a goal or to solve problems in an organization. It suggests that practice is a key role in providing creative venues for organizations. Managing creativity becomes more challenging when you try to define creativity across various industries – how do you actually do this? Banks insists that creativity requires a direct management. The other side of the coin is the challenge not only to manage, but to bring actual change to the organization. There are many opportunities to enhance organizational creativity. The problem is the “poor state of knowledge” about creativity in the workplace. Banks suggests that managers and organizations alike consider the following questions:

  • How is creativity defined in the context of a firm?
  • Who possesses it and in what forms is it expressed?
  • What value is placed on creativity as an internal resource?
  • How do intrinsic and extrinsic organizational structures enhance or undermine creativity? (p.226)
    • The essays in Handbook on the Knowledge Economy comprise a rich representation of perspectives on how knowledge is treated, including from the social, economic and organizational standpoint. I do believe these chapters will provoke more thought and encourage readers to consider the importance of managing knowledge wisely.

      Almarie E. Munley, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership and Management in the School of Undergraduate Studies.