Noetic organisations

Gonçalo Jorge Morais da Costa, Mary Prior and Simon Rogerson


Before unlock the guiding research issue for this manuscript the authors reveal their stimulus:

  • The research project, PhD, of the first author about why link knowledge management, organisational culture and ethics, which has been presented into previous ETHICOMP conferences (e.g. Costa, Prior & Rogerson, 2010);
  • And, organisational theory future developments (authors personal view) despite potential criticism and comments from scholars and practitioners, since debate is crucial.

As a result, this contribution outlines the concept of noetic organisations! However, is vital to address what key domains will structure the authors’ argument:

  • 21st century managing requirements;
  • Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy;
  • Learning organisations;
  • Organisational theory future developments (wise organisations and noetic organisations).

21st century managing requirements induce a collaborative approach in order to exploit unlike workers insights, instead of the traditional authoritarian, command and control attitude. People are a “natural” resource and an organisational asset to sponsor sustainable competitive advantage. Hence, the new managing orientation is also assuming innovation as a key ingredient for success and competitiveness (Liyanage & Poon, 2002). This entails increasing the innovative potential of the organisation by fostering novel ideas, harnessing people’s creativity and enthusiasm, tapping the innovative potential of workers, and supporting the dissemination of autonomy and entrepreneurship (Black & Porter, 2000).

DIKW hierarchy or continuum process has been widely approach in literature; although, until recently the attention devoted to knowledge was minor, and even less to wisdom (Small, 2004). Data are facts and messages observed by an individual or group, which may be considered elements of larger physical systems (Choo, 2005). Nonaka (1994) perceives information as a flow of messages, so schemas and mental models of the actor influence what meanings are constructed.

Knowledge is a result or product of knowing, information or understanding acquired through experience, practical ability or skill, and cognition (Oxford English Dictionary, 2008). Costa (1995, pp. 3) defines wisdom as a

“combination of knowledge and experience, but it is more than just the sum of these parts. Wisdom involves the mind and the heart, logic and intuition, left brain and right brain, but it is more than either reason, or creativity, or both. Wisdom involves a sense of balance, an equilibrium derived from a strong, pervasive moral conviction (…) the conviction and guidance provided by the obligations that flow from a profound sense of interdependence”.

Therefore is difficult to conceptualise and operationalise it, as the ongoing debate throughout Eastern and Western history demonstrates (Rowley, 2006). Given the purpose of this contribution the authors will devote their attention to knowledge and wisdom levels and their influence over organisational theory.

Since the expression “learning organisation” was referred by Senge et al. (1994), explanations have prospered in management literature. Yet, literature comprises a lack of accurateness about the concept itself. Ortenbald (2002) denotes that just a few authors have attempted to produce groups of learning organisations. Ortenblad also refers that a learning organisation encompasses four ontological dimensions: cultural values, leaders, communication, and knowledge workers. This complex relationship among the four dimensions involves a considerable amount of ethical issues and social challenges (Costa, 2011).

Learning organisations will become wisdom organisations due to the confrontation between neo-liberal tendencies and internal and external moral practices, so:

wise organisation must create time for the virtues that allow wise, practical judgements to be made. An organisation has a temporality where it remembers the past, accepts responsibility for it and uses that to devise a new space for itself in the future whilst acting now (Rowley & Gibbs, 2008, pp. 364).

These authors even argue that practically wise organisations seek to extend the following processes: understanding dynamic complexity; developing personal wisdom competency; deliberating towards ethical models; refreshing shared sustainable vision; group wisdom dynamics; deliberated praxis; and embodied learning.

Even so, is the authors’ go beyond Rowley & Gibbs (2008) outlook and to discuss the characteristics of noetic organisations. Considering that noetic research investigates the nature and potentials of consciousness as a way to understand the relationship between consciousness, soul and spirit; and, how they relate with the physical world (Noetic Science, 2011), it seems possible that these discoveries will influence organisational theory evolution because they may improve the development of personal wisdom.


Black, S. J., & Porter, L. W. (2000). Management: Meeting new challenges. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.

Choo, C. W. (2005). The knowing organization: How organizations use information to construct meaning, create knowledge and make decisions. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Costa, G. J. M. (2011). Ethical evaluation of learning organizations: A conceptual framework. In G. J. M. Costa (Ed.), Handbook of Ethical and Social Issues in Knowledge Management: Organizational Innovation (pp. 250-277). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

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