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Mapping knowledge in work: Proxies or practices?

Warhurst, C. and Thompson, P. (2006) Mapping knowledge in work: Proxies or practices? Work, Employment and Society, 20 (4). pp. 787-800. ISSN 0959-0170

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Abstract

Governments and firms are exhorted, on pain of relegation to the lower divisions of (un)competitiveness, to embrace the idea of a knowledge economy (DTI, 1998; EC, 2004; Hamel and Prahalad, 1996; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; OECD, 2001a; Reich, 1993; World Bank, 2002). However, this mainstream academic and policy debate tends to be prescriptive and insensitive to real developments in the economy and workplace. It also fails to provide the necessary conceptual definitions and distinctions concerning the use of knowledge in the workplace. Moreover, there is insufficient disentangling of firm strategies and structures, occupational changes and the content of work. With these critiques in mind, this article focuses on two main issues: first, how being 'knowledge-driven' is currently measured, focusing on the proxies employed in such assessments; second, how the mapping of workplace knowledge might be undertaken better by reference to practice. This approach builds on existing critical research including our own earlier work that has argued for a disentangling of knowledge work and knowledgeability in work (Thompson, 2004; Thompson et al., 2001; Warhurst and Thompson, 1998).