Relational Capabilities: Value Creation through Knowledge Management

Relational Capabilities: Value Creation through Knowledge Management

Patrocinio Zaragoza-Sáez (University of Alicante, Spain) and Enrique Claver-Cortés (University of Alicante, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-054-9.ch003

Abstract

Linking the knowledge-based view and the intellectual capital view of the firm, this chapter has as its purpose to underline the relevance of a specific component of intellectual capital, namely relational capital, in the knowledge acquisition and transfer processes as well as its influence on a firm’s value creation. The authors used a qualitative research based on a multiple case study, and six Spanish knowledge-intensive firms were analyzed in depth. The results show that the main relational capabilities used by firms to create value through knowledge management are: relationships with customers, suppliers and stakeholders; acquisition of established firms; setting-up of joint ventures; collaboration with Universities, national and international institutions; participation in forums and conferences; publications; advice given by consultants and experts; and benchmarking practices. These capabilities allow firms to acquire and transfer knowledge from the environment where they develop their activity with the aim of obtaining benefits such as innovations; customers, suppliers and stakeholders’ satisfaction; an improvement in the firm’s image and credibility; new knowledge; and learning.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Intangible resources have acquired great relevance in recent years due to their strategic value (Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991), and they have also become important value creation factors (Lev & Daum, 2004). These intangibles are known as ‘intellectual capital’. It is widely accepted that intellectual capital divides intangibles into three blocks or components: human capital, structural capital and relational capital (Roos, Pike & Fernström 2005; KSRC, 2003; Bontis, 1999; Johnson, 1999; Sveiby, 1997)

Most of the literature about intellectual capital has focused on describing its nature, on classifying and measuring its intangibles and on highlighting the importance that intellectual capital reports have both for the firm itself and for its stakeholders (Sudarsanam, Sorwar & Marr, 2006; Roos, Pike & Fernström, 2005; Burgman, Roos, Ballow & Thomas, 2005; Pike, Fernström & Roos, 2005; Marr, Gray & Neely, 2003; Sveiby, 2001; Edvinsson & Malone, 1997; Stewart, 1997). The development of intellectual capital models has also deserved special attention in literature (KSRC, 2003; Brooking, 1996; Bontis, 1996; Edvinson & Malone, 1997).

However, while a great majority of studies on intellectual capital highlight its relevance in the creation of firm value, practically no theoretical or empirical works have highlighted the mechanisms through which that is possible. We need to know and understand what drives value in order to deliver value to stakeholders, whatever form that value may take (Roos, Pike & Fernström, 2005). That is why this chapter tries to fill the gap existing in literature considering that the value creation generated by intellectual capital is possible thanks to the knowledge management processes previously generated by the firm.

This study has as its main objective to highlight the importance that the set of relationships created between the firm and its environment or external network has for both knowledge management and value creation. In other words, we try to underline the relevance corresponding to a specific component of intellectual capital, namely relational capital, in the knowledge acquisition and transfer processes as well as its influence on a firm’s value creation.

Based on the previous arguments, this chapter focuses on answering the following three research questions: (1) what are the main capabilities which form the relational capital of knowledge-intensive firms? (2) how does relational capital help develop knowledge acquisition and transfer capabilities? (3) in what way does relational capital contribute to a firm’s value creation through knowledge management? (see Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

The present paper contributes to the literature in several ways. Firstly, the literature on intellectual capital is extensive and mainly focuses on highlighting the importance of intangibles as well as on the development of models for classifying and measuring intellectual assets. Nevertheless, this study adopts a different perspective from the theoretical point of view, bridging the gap between the knowledge-based view and the intellectual capital-based view of the firm for the purpose of showing the relevance that intangible resources and capabilities belonging to relational capital have in knowledge management by the firm. Secondly, we make an effort to fill the gap existing in literature considering that the value creation generated by intellectual capital is possible thanks to the knowledge creation and transfer processes previously generated by the firm. Thirdly, from an empirical point of view, since empirical works in the field of intellectual capital have been very scarce so far, we carry out a number of in-depth case studies meant not only to identify the main relational capabilities but also to show how they contribute to value creation through the acquisition and transfer of knowledge between the external network and the firm. A search of the literature has failed to identify any previous research works which specifically examine the relational capital-knowledge management-value creation link using a comparative case study as we have done here. Finally, the findings obtained in this study can help managers recognize the value of relational capital for knowledge acquisition and transfer as well as its influence on value creation, which should encourage them to take a leading role in the promotion of relationships between firms and their external network with a view to increase relational capital.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset