Component knowledge versus architectural knowledge

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In my reading, I have come across an interesting distinction between component knowledge versus architectural knowledge in both the fields of strategy and economic geography.

The distinction is described nicely by Matusik and Hill (1998):

“Component knowledge is the knowledge that relates to a subroutine or discrete aspect of an organization’s operations. It is knowledge that relates to “parts” or “components,” rather than the whole. Architectural knowledge, conversely, relates to the whole—that is, to organization-wide routines and schemas for coordinating the various components of the organization and putting them to productive use (Henderson & Clark, 1990). Because it is organization wide, architectural knowledge is held collectively. Moreover, often no one individual is in a position to see, comprehend, and articulate the totality of architectural knowledge. Thus, architectural knowledge tends to be tacit by default. Finally, because each firm has a unique administrative heritage, architectural knowledge tends to be the result of a path-dependent evolutionary process in which idiosyncratic events loom large (Nelson & Winter, 1982).”

Originally, the concept of architectural knowledge was confined to the organisation level. However, Tallman et al. (2004) propose that architectural knowledge develops also among the firms in a cluster, due to their close competitive, cooperative, and social interactions. Tallman et al. (2004) argue,

“This type of knowledge is not firm-level architectural knowledge that has diffused out of any one firm but represents, rather, understandings developed at the regional cluster level through the routinization of the network of interactions, interdependencies, and common interests among the members. It is a sense of the “rules of the game,” available as a tacit understanding to members of the cluster. This knowledge is not formally exchanged for compensation; indeed, it probably cannot be, but   instead has become part of the body of common knowledge of those inside the regional cluster; it is “in the air” (Marshall, 1920)”

They go on to argue, “Cluster-level architectural knowledge has much of the character of “knowing,” as opposed to “knowledge,” as delineated by Cook and Brown (1999). That is, without being involved in the activity and without developing understandings even while applying them, firms cannot become part of the larger cluster architecture. This is similar in concept to Spender’s (1989) idea of industry recipes, representing collective understandings of how complex tasks are best accomplished, and is tied to the development of communities of practice (Brown & Duguid, 2001).”

Ideas / discussion:

Does thinking about systems architectural knowledge help us?

 I think that it relates to systems thinking and coordinating the various components and putting them to productive use.

Drawing on this literature, systems architectural knowledge would be:

  • held collectively [no one individual is in a position to see, comprehend, and articulate the totality of architectural knowledge.
  • the result of a path-dependent evolutionary process and idiosyncratic events
  • results from understandings developed at the system level through the routinization of the network of interactions, interdependencies, and common interests among the members
  • the “rules of the game,” available as a tacit understanding to members of the system.
  • characterized by “knowing,” as opposed to “knowledge”

References

Matusik, S.F. & Hill, C.W.L., 1998. the Utilization of Contingent Knowledge Creation , and Competitive Advantage. Academy of Management Review, 23(1995), pp.680–697.

McGaughey, S.L., 2002. Strategic interventions in intellectual asset flows. Academy of Management Review, 27(2), pp.248–274.

Tallman, S. et al., 2004. Clusters and Competitive Advantage. Academy of Management Review, 29(2), pp.258–271. Available at: http://www.palgraveconnect.com/doifinder/10.1057/9780230512467.

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