Applying Social Technical Theory in Knowledge Management
Applying Social Technical Theory in Knowledge Management
For years organizations have strived to operate more efficiently. Many argue that the best way to accomplish this is to increase the quality of life for its employees. This will increase productivity, ultimately leaving the organization better off (1). Other organizations will argue that in order to stay competitive, they must rely on the latest technological advances. While both of these concepts hold true, it is important to understand how both the social and technical aspects of an organization work together. To do this, we must explore Social Technical theory and how it relates to knowledge management.

Socio-Technical Theory can be broken down into two sub-systems: the technical system and the social system. According to Cartelli (2), the technical sub-system can be defined as the process of converting data into a usable product, while the social sub-system consists of the added value the employees bring into the organization (1). An organization’s design or re-design must account for both of these subsystems working collectively. By bringing these sub-systems together (Socio-Technical Theory), an organization is able to maximize its potential (2). A happy employee with the latest technological advanced tools equals greater productivity.

To gain a better understanding of the socio-technical concepts let’s take a look at web based technologies. The internet allows us to pull data from multiple resources with the push of a few buttons. This information system collects data from different users and allows other users to access the information and even add to it. Cartelli (2) demonstrates how this information system is used in a socio-technical model in his paper titled, “Socio-Technical Theory and Knowledge Construction: Towards New Pedagogical Paradigms?” In this example, students are able to input data in a centralized location. This data is then verified by an authority figure (i.e. a teacher) and, with the approval of the class, makes the information public. There is also the role of the system administrator who provides the students and teachers with the access needed and is able to modify or delete the data as he/she sees fit.

This web-based socio-technical model is also seen in a more recognizable form with Wikipedia®. On this website, you can find compiled information that is made available to the public by users who are knowledgeable on the topic. This information is validated by other users and is ultimately controlled by a system administrator. In both of these examples we can see how the social sub-system (users, students, teachers, and administrators) along with the technical sub-system (the internet) are working together to stream-line information.

As these models become more prevalent, organizations must look at how they manage this newfound information; not only the data

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Sub-Systems And Social Technical Theory. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from