Knowledge workers as fractals in a complex adaptive organization

Snunith Shoham, Alon Hasgall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This paper addresses the link between effective knowledge management in an organization and the organization as a complex adaptive system, which is required to deliver a rapid and high-quality response to social, media-related and technological changes in the environment. In an organization that possesses the characteristics of a complex adaptive system, it is legitimate for each employee and manager (as a fractal) to operate individually in the face of demands and changes in the environment; at the same time, constant processes of integration are at play among the employees and vis-à-vis the managers. The research hypothesis was that the combination of the employee's independence as a fractal and a self-activated integration between the fractals is essential for maintaining effective knowledge management processes in the organization. The study was performed using qualitative research, enabling investigation of behavior within the organizational reality as it occurs, analyzing interviews and observation sessions conducted with about 60 employees at six private, government and public organizations. The study analysis relied on five criteria based on the functioning of the complex system and included synchronization of the goals of each employee as a fractal with the system as a whole, the ability to cope with the environment, decentralization of resources, work processes and knowledge transfer, and self-development of each fractal. The findings indicate that managers were perceived by employees and by themselves as leaders of organizational processes and as the parties responsible for synchronizing the resources, and not as the owners of specific ‘knowledge’. Employees were perceived as specific knowledge owners and as bearing direct responsibility for the process of updating employees and managers and keeping abreast of the organizational information. This was found to be a condition for the employee becoming a fractal/knowledge worker. The conclusion of the study is that organizations that possess the characteristics of a complex adaptive system will achieve proven knowledge management capabilities, while improving the processes of knowledge performance and integration between employees. These organizations will be better able to respond correctly and quickly to dynamic changes in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
JournalKnowledge and Process Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


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