Bounded awareness and tacit knowledge: revisiting Challenger disaster
Purpose ‐ This paper's aim is to highlight the relationship between individual tacit knowledge and bounded awareness in managerial decision making. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper reviews pertinent literature on bounded awareness, individual tacit knowledge and decision making as well as that on the NASA Challenger disaster of 1986. The authors then build logical arguments towards three distinct propositions. Findings ‐ The distinct three propositions are: managers' dependence upon their existing tacit knowledge interacts with the bounds on their awareness in a cycle of positive reinforcement; different decision makers in the organization can experience differing bounds on their awareness towards the same piece of information; and the tension between experiences of success and failure influences the development of bounded awareness in individuals. Research limitations/implications ‐ This study reflects on only a single case of decision-making failure in its analyses. A variegated sample of different failures in multiple contexts might lead to finer insights. Practical implications ‐ These realizations bring to the fore a paradoxical property of dependence on tacit knowledge that it can be beneficial but can sometimes be harmful. This has implications for the field of knowledge management, wherein tacit knowledge is often a central construct. Originality/value ‐ To the best of the authors' knowledge, the relationship between bounded awareness and tacit knowledge has not been explicitly discussed before. The propositions can open useful new avenues for future researchers on the antecedents of, and remedies for, bounds on managerial awareness during decision making.
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