Language Lessons

Know Your Limits

Knowledge mobilization may bog down your business if employees don't fully understand it. Employees don't always have as much influence as they assume they do, and entrepreneurs used to getting their way may feel uncomfortable when called upon for a response.

On the flip side, Kenny warns, some people may feel less able to decline a request, especially when it's coming from the boss. It's not uncommon for organizations exposed to knowledge mobilization to lose a few employees who don't like the change. Sometimes, those can be just the workers you don't want to lose, she adds.

Of course, you can't respond to everything. Denning, for example, discriminates between requests, such as questions from co-workers, which he tries invariably to respond to, and invitations, a classification that includes junk mail. "I don't take that as a request and don't feel I have to respond to it," he says.

Despite its limitations, knowledge mobilization is ideal for modern entrepreneurial organizations in many ways. It's especially effective for managing outsourced relationships, says Viek. And for a company like Gruner's, which consists of independent-minded consultants who are frequently out of the office, its ability to build feelings of community is a godsend, says Gruner.

"There's a whole different feel to the company now," she says. "If someone has an issue, they explain it and come up with solutions rather than simply sitting back and complaining about it."

Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, writer specializing in business topics.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Language Lessons.

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