People-Focused Knowledge Sharing Initiatives in Medium-High and High Technology Companies: Organizational Facilitating Conditions and Impact on Innovation and Business Competitiveness

People-Focused Knowledge Sharing Initiatives in Medium-High and High Technology Companies: Organizational Facilitating Conditions and Impact on Innovation and Business Competitiveness

Nekane Aramburu (University of Deusto, Spain) and Josune Sáenz (University of Deusto, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-802-4.ch011
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Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to analyse the organizational conditions that foster the development of different people-focused knowledge sharing initiatives in medium-high and high technology companies, as well as the degree of influence of those initiatives on the ideation stage of innovation processes. Finally, considering that successful innovation is the one that helps to improve business competitiveness, the degree of influence of this innovation capability dimension on company performance is examined. For these relationships to be tested, an empirical study has been carried out among medium-high and high technology Spanish manufacturing firms with more than 50 employees and which carry out R&D activities. To this end, a questionnaire has been designed and submitted to the CEOs of the companies making up the target population of the research. Structural equation modelling (SEM) based on partial least squares (PLS) has then been applied in order to test the main hypotheses of the research.
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Introduction

Since the last decade, the study of knowledge has been one of the most important topics in the management arena (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Davenport & Prusak, 1998). Indeed, we are supposed to live in a “knowledge economy”, where intangible assets – and knowledge in particular – are the key sources for value creation (Brooking, 1996; Edvinsson & Malone, 1997; Stewart, 1997).

This idea is clearly reinforced by the existing relationship between knowledge creation and innovation (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). In today’s economy, innovation is one of the main driving forces behind business competitiveness (Drucker, 1988; Shapiro & Varian, 1998; Sveiby, 1997). Along these lines, it is generally assumed that innovation depends on the accumulation and development of relevant knowledge of a wide variety (Fischer, 2001).

For new knowledge to be created, knowledge sharing between individuals is the key (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, von Krogh & Voelpel, 2006). As a consequence, the study of different mechanisms and initiatives which could facilitate knowledge sharing represents an extremely relevant research topic. Many of these mechanisms take advantage of information and communication technologies (i.e. they are “IT-based” – Dalkir, 2005; Davenport, 2007) whereas, in other cases, personal interaction between individuals is the key (i.e. “people-focused” knowledge management; Wiig, 2004). A review of early literature on knowledge management gives clear proof of the prevalence of information technology (IT) focused research in this domain (Swan, Robertson & Nevell, 2001).

Taking this into consideration, the focus of this chapter will be on people-focused knowledge sharing (i.e. the type of knowledge sharing which involves personal or “face-to-face” interaction). In particular, the organizational conditions that foster the development of different people-focused knowledge sharing initiatives (e.g. communities of practice, coaching, mentoring, employee functional rotation and other initiatives for knowledge sharing with external stakeholders) will be analysed, as well as the degree of influence of those initiatives on the ideation stage of innovation processes. Finally, considering that successful innovation is the one that helps to improve business competitiveness, the degree of influence of this innovation capability dimension on company performance will be examined. In other words, it is assumed that business competitiveness is related to superior performance (Cantwell, 2005).

Given their special focus on innovation, their extremely high knowledge intensity, and the degree of complexity of the knowledge being dealt with, medium-high and high technology companies will be under scrutiny in this research. As a result, these companies will be provided with a basic framework in order to shape their knowledge management strategies and in order to enhance their capability for generating new ideas and developing successful innovation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ba: It refers to the physical and/or mental space where knowledge generation and exchange take place.

Knowledge Sharing Enablers: It refers to the set of organizational conditions (organizational design, culture, technological infrastructure and management systems in place) which facilitate the exchange of knowledge (i.e. knowledge sharing).

ICT-Based Knowledge Sharing: It refers to the processes of knowledge exchange which take place through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT).

Communities of Practice (Cop’s): “Groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their understanding and knowledge of this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger et alter , 2002, p. 4).

People-Based Knowledge Sharing: It refers to knowledge exchange processes which take place by means of social/direct interaction among people.

Knowledge Management: It refers to the management of knowledge acquisition, creation, transmission, storage and retrieval processes.

Knowledge Sharing: It refers to knowledge exchange processes which take place both among people from the same organization and from different ones.

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