Knowledge Management and Art-Making as a Perceptual Skill

Knowledge is a dynamic process, both cognitive and affective, which derives partly from perceptual abilities.  The same applies for the artist as the professional in the world of business.  Perception is an everyday skill, but also one the average person fails to cultivate, like an organ grown dull and passive.  While artificial intelligence possesses he ability to master the process of sensory intake and sensemaking, just as humans, the human capacity for perception cannot be replaced.  Artists experiment with AI, but most argue nothing can replace human agency. 


Human perception of the world opens of windows of inquiry, the questions we can ask but computers cannot that stem from the minds of diverse individuals with unique personalities, different frames of cultural or political reference and educational backgrounds.  Such are the reasons for the diversity of art with the dawn of globalism.  Artists work within the same framework but only in order to exchange ways of representing the world in a common tongue.  It is truly amazing to see how people across the globe can look at the same thing so differently. 


The representational language of contemporary art is understood widespread and has opened up a critical dialogue across national bounds.  Since then, art has entered into a dominantly discursive realm.  The comparisons to organizational knowledge management are at once clear.  One definition of knowledge management claims that knowledge management is the “dynamic process of turning an unreflective practice into a reflective one by elucidating the rules guiding the activities of the practice.  (Tsoukas and Vladimirou 2001)  The definition implies the tacit dimension of knowledge value, clearly taken from the ideas of Polanyi’s The Tacit Dimension.  And Polanyi claims that perception underlies the very character of the tacit dimension to knowledge. 


The global organization faces the same challenge.  Collective knowledge draws upon an exchange of collaborative efforts.  Here lies the challenge of perceptual skill building so that organizations can pool together the insights of individuals to create an organization’s defining vision.  Such entities invite innovation and creativity and foster an organization of equity and creative potential.  Without listening to and drawing upon the diversity of human skills and talents in perception and cultivating shared experiences, communication falters and residual conflicts will ensue, effectively making organizations stagnant. 


Perception occurs in 5 stages: stimulation, organization, interpretation-evaluation, memory and recall.   The task of human perception is to ask those questions crucial to the “why” and “how” rather than the “what.”  In other words, we take the information from sense data to exercise judgment, and that judgment is a fully human process filled with desires and expectations we are usually only tacitly aware.  A perfect example of this challenge in art is to examine the works of Jasper Johns, an artist who feigns invisibility behind the surface of things.   

Jasper Johns, The Seasons- Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall 1987.jpg

Hence, in recollection of the famous educator John Dewey, we can see how aesthetic experience underlies any form of human knowledge creation. Just like Johns, so too does the scientist (or any problem solver) find that “judgment arises from the self-conscious use of the prefix re, the desire to re-order, to re-arrange to re-design what one knows and thus create new angles of vision or new knowledge for scientific or aesthetic purpose.” (Bell 1999; Tsoukas and Vladimirou 2001)

From perception as the baseline of all that is aesthetic it follows also that knowledge management – how we create, share and use the best of human capital talents – is predicated by the refinement of that most unique capacity: to creatively transform what we perceive into unique knowledge.


Haridimos Tsoukas and Efi Vladimirou, “What is Organizational Knowledge?” Journal of Management Studies 38:7 (November 2001).