Tapping Diverse Experiences: Toward Articulating Knowledge Creation Theory

Tapping Diverse Experiences: Toward Articulating Knowledge Creation Theory

Hammad Akbar (University of Liverpool Management School, Liverpool, UK) and Shah Faisal Khan (Faculty of Economics and Administration, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2016070104
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Abstract

Tapping diverse experiences is recognised as important for knowledge creation. The authors examine how learning and knowledge creation are affected if a distinction between the extent and nature of employees' involvement, and differences in levels within these, is made. They offer propositions suggesting that the extent and nature of employees involvement differ in their relative contribution to different facets of knowledge creation, including shared understanding, know-why, knowledge creating behaviours and new product creativity. Finally, the authors discuss theoretical implications, future research directions and limitations of this research.
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Introduction

Diverse experiences are important for the creation of new knowledge (Milosovic, Bass & Combs, 2015; Whelan & Carcary, 2011). Knowledge creation is positively enhanced with an exposure to pluralistic specialisations and ideas (Kim & King, 2004; Niu, 2010). Employees with diverse experiences are important sources of pluralistic specialization and ideas based on their experiential knowledge (Park, 2010). Employees’ involvement, therefore, becomes crucial for knowledge creation (Latukha, 2016; Nonaka, 1994) in order to tap their diverse experiences. However, we understand little about how employees’ involvement contributes to knowledge creation.

The knowledge creation literature indicates two important aspects of employees’ involvement - extent and nature. In terms of its extent, scholars have identified that rather than merely involving functional employees (i.e. at one organizational level), employees at all (or multiple) organizational levels should be involved in creating new knowledge (Hedlund, 1994; Nonaka, 1991; Pascale, Millemann & Gioja, 1997). In terms of the nature of involvement, it is indicated that it is not just the mere involvement of employees but how deep is their involvement which matters. For examples, scholars have argued that it is the higher-level as opposed to lower-level learning which creates new knowledge (Argyris, 1991; Argyris & Schön, 1978). Nevertheless, the existing literature has not adequately taken the distinction between the extent and nature of employees’ involvement into account in understanding knowledge creation. This understanding becomes particularly important in the wake of the calls for the consolidation and harmonization of the knowledge management concepts (Baskerville & Dulipovici, 2006; Heisig, 2009) and the integration of these concepts with organizational learning (Yoon and Ardichvili, 2010).

Employees’ involvement remains to be understood in terms of how it relates to different, important aspects of knowledge creation. Scholars here point to the importance of four aspects which we focus on. Firstly, is the importance of shared understanding. Shared understanding is the mind/common knowledge collectively held by organizational members and which binds them together as a cohesive group (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, Toyama & Konno, 2000). Secondly is the importance of an individuals’ know-why. Know-why is the deep understanding of the underlying web of cause-and-effect relationships (Quinn, Anderson & Finkelstein, 1998; Sparrow, 1998), a source which generates new ideas and meaning (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Senge, 1990). Thirdly are the knowledge creating behaviours. Scholars have argued that creating new knowledge requires a ‘way of behaving’ in which learning, reflection and knowledge sharing is continuous (Nonaka, 1994, Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Finally, is the new product creativity. Scholars have suggested that creative outcomes which are characterised by higher levels of novelty, such as discontinuous innovations, contribute more to developing organizational competitiveness than those characterised by lower levels of novelty, such as continuous innovations (Cheng & Van de Ven, 1996; Van de Ven, Polley, Garud & Venkataraman, 2008).

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