Sunday, March 29, 2015

Visible and Invisible Organizations

One of the concepts that resonated with me from this week’s reading was the idea of the visible organization and the invisible organization. Evans (2013) explained how the visible organization reflects the “official governance structure” and “official lines of communication” (p. 121). In contrast, the invisible organization informally “reflects the actual flow of communication and the drivers of work performance” (p. 121). Within the invisible organization, personal relationships come into play and may influence decision making along different lines of power.

In conjunction with the idea of both formal and informal structures, I call upon insights from Namjoo, Kuang-Yuan, Palmer, and Horowitz (2014), who wrote about the role of Web 2.0 technologies for the transfer of knowledge within organizations. Basing their examination on “enablers of knowledge transfer,” which they have cited as “existence of informal networks, weak ties, boundary spanners, absorptive capacity, and social capital” (p. 177), they suggested how Web 2.0 platforms can successfully capitalize on the potential of informal networks for information sharing purposes. Rather than knowledge being disseminated through traditional lines of communication, it may be freely transferred and drive greater organizational innovation.

For instance, to illustrate how Web 2.0 technologies can enable knowledge transfer, the authors have cited how facilitated connections may more often span boundaries, connecting individuals who might not otherwise work together immediately. This nontraditional information sharing introduces different perspectives that may in turn lead to new ways of solving problems and developing creative solutions.

I think that the Namjoo et al article is noteworthy, because the authors have argued that organizations should not only recognize the existence of informal structures, but embrace them. Rather than worrying about how traditional power structures might be threatened, they  have recommended that “organizations need to support the culture of democratic knowledge sharing via web 2.0 use” (p. 183) for their own benefit. As a Teacher Librarian, I see this idea applying to how traditional communication structures on school campuses may be reimagined. Rather than information flowing from administration to staff to students, I would like to consider how we may we improve our learning environments through the use of flatter and more informal knowledge sharing networks.


Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.).  New York: Neal-Schuman.

Namjoo, C., Kuang-Yuan, H., Palmer, A., & Horowitz, L. (2014). Web 2.0 use and knowledge transfer: How social media technologies can lead to organizational innovation. Electronic Journal Of Knowledge Management, 12(3), 176-186.

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