Structural Capital and Innovation Capabilities: Theory and Empirical Evidence from Spain

Structural Capital and Innovation Capabilities: Theory and Empirical Evidence from Spain

Elsa Mercedes Alama Salazar (Universidad de Piura, Perú)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-875-3.ch009
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Organizational knowledge, as well as their different manifestations, may play a critical role for effective development of the firm processes and products (Kogut and Zander, 1996; Teece, 1998; Alegre and Lapiedra, 2005). The present work explores the influence that the different manifestations of organizational knowledge, or structural capital, show on the innovation capability of professional service firms. To achieve this purpose, in a first section an exploratory factor analysis is carried out. From it, the main blocks of organizational capital are obtained. In the next step, the basic hypotheses about the positive influence of these types of structural assets, on firm innovation are presented.
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During the last years, research about the role of knowledge in firm activities and value creation has been one of the most fruitful within the business management field. The Knowledge based View has highlighted the relevance of knowledge as a key organizational factor (Zack, 1999), considering that it is one of the main determinants for the existence of the firm, its growth and development, its internal organization, and business success.

Nevertheless, previous approaches as the Resource based View (Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 1991, 2001; Peteraf, 1993) or parallel research streams as the Dynamic Capabilities approach (Teece, Pisano and Shuen, 1997) have also emphasized the role that intangible resources and organizational capabilities, which are based on information and knowledge, play in building robust competitive advantages.

As Galende and De la Fuente (2003) point out, a good piece of research is devoted to address the innovation processes from an external perspective, leaving aside the internal complexity that characterizes innovation dynamics. Besides, it can be said that the innovative capability of a certain firm depends very closely on the intellectual assets and knowledge that it possesses, as well as on its ability to deploy them (Alegre and Lapiedra, 2005; Subramaniam and Youndt, 2005).

Nevertheless, these approaches pose certain problems (Priem and Butler, 2001) like the lack of a clear definition for the notion of competitive advantage, or the challenges and difficulties for the identification and measurement of resources and capabilities that become critical for that competitive advantage. This kind of problems hinders the empirical test of the main axioms of these theoretical streams, making difficult to advance towards a consolidated theory. In this sense, and following the recommendations outlined by Reed, Lubatkin and Srinavasan (2006), a feasible and mainly pragmatic solution is using the so called Intellectual Capital based View.

This theoretical-pragmatic approach is a narrowly focused or specialization of the Resource based View around those resources or factors with intangible nature that may become the main responsible for firm success. This approach arisen from practitioners in the decade of the nineties (Brooking, 1996; Edvinsson and Malone, 1997; CIC, 2003) and it distinguishes different blocks of intellectual capital or types of organizational knowledge stocks. There is some general agreement when depicting the following main kinds of intellectual capital: a) human capital, or those knowledge, abilities, experiences and attitudes possessed by the organizational members (CIC, 2003; Subramaniam and Yound, 2005); b) structural capital, which includes those pieces of knowledge that provide coherence and guidance for the whole organization (Edvinsson and Malone, 1997); and c) relational capital, that arises form the relationship processes that the firm maintains with the external agents that surround it (CIC, 2003; Reed et al., 2006).

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