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Institute of Business Informatics - Communications Engineering
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Repertory Grids for Explicating Implicit Knowledge in Organizations: Method Development in Knowledge Management

This thesis is aiming at the development of a method for the elicitation of tacit knowledge in organisational knowledge management (KM). The main result ist a theoretically founded and empirically grounded procedure model for the application of Repertory Grids for knowledge elicitation purposes in organisations.
In oder to develop the procedure model, qulitative expert interviews were conducted. The interviews aimed at capturing practices of the method in use in organisational contexts. The (very) different action strategies have been condensed to five distinct procedure types. The following three main features characterise the application of Grids in organisations: 1) The chosen elements are either more heterogeneous, more atypical or more complex than traditional Grid usage. 2) Due to the alered element characteristics, the construct elicitation process requires alteration as well in order to make the elements comparable. 3) The work activity, in which the tacit knowledge is embedded, has a particular iimpact on the Grid elicitation process. These findings have been incorporated in the procedure model and in the theoretical foundation.
Since the interview analysis showed a diverse rather than a unique picture of the Grid procedure, a theoretical framework for the elicitation process with Repertory Grids in KM has been developed. The framework is based on activity theory and an analysis of different activity theoretical variants from the field of organisational co-operation, knowledge, and learning.
Finally, the procedure model is derived from both, the empirical findings and the activity theoretical framework. Its design is presented by giving an overview of the consecutive phases and their interrelatedness and by detailing the concrete steps and the range of action pathways in every phase. The practical implementation of the methodological steps is demonstrated exemplarily.
Another essential contribution of this thesis concerns a systematic comparison of 21 knowledge elicitation methods that serves as the basis for the investigation of Repertory Grids. Additionally, the concept of externalisation was compared in six major KM models.
The implications of this thesis ara twofold: A) For KM practice, the thesis suggests a method with concrete guidlines enabling KM practitioners to elicit tacit knowledge. B) For KM research, it implies that Repertory Grids can be added to the empirical toolbox of KM research. For example, by using this method it will become possible to empirically investigate the role of implicit mental models in organisational knowledge and learning processes.

Dr. Jeannette Hemmecke