Information Systems and Organizational Learning The social epistemology of organizational knowledge systems
Current literature on organizational learning tends to be theoretically fragmented, drawing on analogies to individual learning theory or simply using organizational learning as an umbrella concept for many different kinds of organizational change or adaptation. This chapter introduces a framework for the analysis of organizations as knowledge systems (Holzner and Marx, 1979) composed of a collection of knowledge processes: constructing, organizing, storing, distributing, and applying. The knowledge system framework draws heavily on the sociology of knowledge and emphasizes the social nature of each of these constitutive processes. The chapter uses the framework to analyze the case of a small engineering consulting company that implemented a new information system to automate one of its core business activities: energy audits of commercial buildings. Traditional approaches to organizational learning have emphasized the ways in which information systems can lower the costs and increase capacity for search, storage, and retrieval of information. The knowledge system framework suggests a deeper level of influence, whereby information systems can also affect the objects of knowledge and the criteria for knowledge construction.