A two-by-two framework to categorize knowledge characteristics of a law department

An article several years ago laid out an organizing framework for knowledge in the form of a basic four-cell matrix. Visualize theory and practice as labels for the two rows and content and process as labels for the two columns. This useful table comes from Admin. Sci. Q., March 2003 at 95.

The authors place “organizational learning” at the intersection of theory and process, because that area of study combines theories about how organizations learn and the methods by which organizations encourage learning.

The authors place “learning organization” in the cell for practice and process, because the shift there is toward useful, non-theoretical advances (See my post of Dec. 19, 2005: think of law departments as learning organizations.).

A third cell in the two-by-two framework covers “organizational knowledge,” which they see as combining theory and content. The focus rests not on activities (process) but on the results (knowledge content).

Finally, they place “knowledge management” in the fourth cell, the one where practice and content combine. For legal departments, content is king, not process, and implementation matters, not theory.

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