Enriching SME Learning and Innovation Through Inter-Organizational Knowledge Transfer

Enriching SME Learning and Innovation Through Inter-Organizational Knowledge Transfer

Himyar Al-Jabri (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman) and Kamla Ali Al-Busaidi (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2020070102
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Abstract

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are today considered a driving force in several nations' economies. Inter-organizational knowledge transfer (IOKT) enables organizations including SMEs to improve operational and strategic performance. To enhance SMEs' competitive advantages, they need external knowledge to enrich learning capabilities. This study uses qualitative methodology to examine the values that can be generated from the IOKT process in SMEs. Participants were 10 Omani SMEs from the ICT sector, a knowledge-intensive sector. Based on face-to-face, semi-structured interviews, the results confirmed that inter-organizational knowledge transfer is considered important to SMEs. Results indicated that learning benefits are gained from informal IOKT activities at those SMEs, but they do not yet show a strong impact on the innovation performance of organizations. Thus, this study provides valuable insights for researchers and practitioners interested in the SME domain to use as a basis for their investigations.
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Introduction

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are important elements of every nation’s economy, and there is an interest among researchers in addressing knowledge management and knowledge transfer between SMEs. SMEs are the backbone of the national economy because of the contribution they make to the country’s GDP (Bakar et al., 2015; Durst & Runar Edvardsson, 2012; ITC, 2015; Marri et al., 2016). External sources of knowledge are of prime importance to SMEs (Sparrow, 2001), and its lack can cause costly mistakes (Chen, 2005). Some of these external sources are customers, competitors, suppliers, and conferences. SMEs need IOKT (Chen, 2005) because of its ability to improve their performance when effectively used (Szulanski, 2016). The literature shows that there is an emphasis on the importance of studying knowledge management in the SME domain; however, little work has been done (Cerchione & Esposito, 2017; Durst & Runar Edvardsson, 2012; Zieba et al., 2016), especially in the knowledge transfer area and, specifically, in the ICT sector.

The motivation for organizations to adapt knowledge management is that they want to manage what they know and use it effectively (Easterby‐Smith et al., 2008; Jennex, 2008). Knowledge management processes add value to business processes, employees, customers, and financial performance (Al-Busaidi, 2010). An organization’s existence depends on how well they can manage knowledge (Durst & Runar Edvardsson, 2012). Knowledge management has a positive impact on business performance in terms of satisfaction, profitability, and innovativeness (Vij & Farooq, 2014). Knowledge management (KM) is critical for competitive advantage (Bakar et al., 2015; Loebbecke et al., 2016); specifically, knowledge Transfer (KT) is a critical process for competativeness (Easterby‐Smith, Lyles, & Tsang, 2008; Sherif & Sherif, 2008). Knowledge transfer is a determinant of the long-term existence of organizations (Khamaksorn et al., 2017) and helps organizations improve their innovation capabilities within or across boundaries. Inter-organizational knowledge transfer (IOKT) is an activity by which organizations can acquire knowledge from other organizations—ideally in strategic alliance situations (Easterby‐Smith et al., 2008), joint ventures (Fang et al., 2013), R&D programs (Poorkavoos, 2013), mergers and acquisitions, and licensing agreements. IOKT is a process by which knowledge is passed from a donor organization to a recipient organization. The knowledge transfer process must be managed effectively so that it yields the results that the initial relationship was intended to provide (Al-Jabri & Al-Busaidi, 2018; Fang et al., 2013; Rhodes et al. 2008).

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