Coupling Knowledge and Action in the Management Context: What Does It Mean for Business Educators?

Carmelo Mazza, Jesper Strandgaard Pedersen, José Luis Alvarez

Research output: Working paperResearch

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In the last decade, scholarly interest has been mainly attracted on the nature of knowledge, mechanisms of knowledge production and the transformation of the institutions diffusing knowledge. Most of these studies share the underlying hypotheses that management knowledge "travels", as a package, from producers to passive receivers. A few exploratory attempts have envisioned an alternative perspective based on the idea of "knowledge consumption". Managers are active receivers of institutionalized knowledge in the course of enacting their organizational roles. Building on this last perspective, first we try to outline the process of knowledge consumption. We describe how sources of knowledge are selected, knowledge is acquired and consumed by assuming that managers are active consumer of management knowledge. Then, we construct the process linking the flows of management knowledge in organizations and the flows of action performed by managers. We sustain that knowledge has to be first dis-embed from the context and artifacts it is in to be translated into a portable form—a standardized artifact, a logic of action, etc. Then, specific courses of action are required to re-embed knowledge in new artifacts, practices or routines (e.g. a budgetary procedure, an organizational process, etc.). So, to re-embed knowledge in new contexts, managers have to mobilize resources and build consensus on the specific courses of action. By assuming this process, two consequences are derived: first, the dis-embedding/re-embedding process is not the outcome of conscious planning; it goes back and forth, allows for controversial or "hypocritical" moves, at least in the short run. In any case, once management knowledge is translated into logics of action, managers have to use their imaginative power to share these logics to mobilize constituencies on priorities and undertake specific courses of actions This supports the idea that the managerial role is intrinsically political. Second, management education cannot simply deals with managerial recipes and rules of thumb. It is increasingly asked for providing non-technical knowledge to help managers exert their political role. To mobilize constituencies and create consensus on controversial decisions, technicalities could be less relevant than business-unrelated knowledge. We hold that has a relevant impact on both the institutional settings and the content of management education. The paper is structured in three parts. First, a framework is proposed to describe management knowledge consumption. Second, we outline the process linking consumed knowledge with actual managerial action. Third, the impact of this perspective on the structure of the institutions diffusing knowledge and on the idea of what is needed to make managerial decisions are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherInstitut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi. Handelshøjskolen i København
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2003
SeriesWorking Paper / Institut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi (IOA). Copenhagen Business School

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