A Community of Practice
Architecture is more than a set of drawings. While drawings are a tangible commodity of practice, the Architect’s most valuable product is knowledge.
For many years our respective offices have produced and fostered knowledge regarding the design and construction of healthcare facilities. Our ability to stay competitive within the marketplace was contingent upon our ongoing generation and distribution of intellectual capital. Stepping out of our silos, we look at E4H as an opportunity to further cultivate our knowledge base through collaboration and cross pollination.
Knowledge and the appropriate organization of knowledge are critical to our practice. In the article Organizing Knowledge Dr. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, experts in the science and business of information, contend, “Intercommunal relationships allow the organization to develop collective, coherent, synergistic organizational knowledge out of the potentially separate, independent contributions of the individual communities.” Through organization we seek to cultivate and direct our most valuable resource: our knowledge base.
Know-What versus Know-How
Knowledge may be filed away for reference in an individual’s brain or an interoffice database, but this does not produce organizational knowledge. Such archived information is know-what and it is relatively ineffective without know-how, the understanding of how and when to utilize it. If information is our most valuable asset, but it is rendered relatively useless without know-how, then how do we begin to foster both? Brown and Duguid explain that such dispositional knowledge is best acquired through collective practice – communication with colleagues, contractors and clients. They write, “Collective practice leads to forms of collective knowledge, shared sensemaking and distributed understanding that doesn’t reduce to the content of individual heads.” E4H is organized into communities (aka “workgroups”) designed to foster collective knowledge through collective practice.
E4H is a 100% healthcare design firm. The benefit of specialized knowledge was introduced by Plato and enriched by the father of modern Economics, Adam Smith. Smith explained in his treatise, The Wealth of Nations, “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.” Specialized groups are able to produce highly specialized bases of knowledge. The healthcare industry recognizes this fact through increasing demands for fellowship trained physicians and specialty practices. As healthcare design evolves and grows ever more complex, a specialist is necessary for the design of healthcare environments.
Ecologies of Knowledge
We believe the sum of our intellectual capital is greater than its parts. We seek to forge a synergistic community of practice in order to expand our intellectual capital and achieve collective understanding. Brown and Duguid describe the mutually beneficial qualities of interdependent communities, “Such hybrid collectives represent another level of in the complex process of knowledge creation. The outcome is what we think of as organizational knowledge, embracing not just organizational know-what but also organizational know-how.” Our architects and planners are excited to share best-practices and project experience across E4H. We believe embracing a culture that fosters both know-what and know-how will contribute greatly to our organizational knowledge and bring tremendous value to our clients.