Toward a Pragmatic Theory for Managing Nescience

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International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management

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Aristotle’s dictum scio nescio (I know that I don’t know) may serve as a source of enhanced performance for organizations. Awareness of nescience sets the direction for further inquiry, as managers tend to move in the direction that they believe will reduce nescience most. However, nescience is difficult to quantify, so, to date, managers have primarily relied on intuition. This paper introduces a theoretical framework for managing nescience that is based on information theory. This framework is tested in three exploratory empirical studies that take place in highly contrasting settings: semiconductor manufacturing, medical diagnostics and social media analytics. All three studies demonstrate that metrics related to information entropy can be used to quantify nescience. However, practitioners value the framework and its metrics more highly in the settings where the quality of or access to information drives successful product development. The problems encountered in these settings tended to be well-structured, or they were converted from being ill-structured to being well-structured. Further study of more highly contrasting practical settings will be required to determine whether frameworks based on information theory can serve as foundations for a broadly based, pragmatic theory for managing nescience.



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