A knowledge-based strategic theory framework for knowledge management : knowledge creation and transfer in businesses

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The discourse on knowledge management (KM) has emerged relatively recently in the field of management. Organisational and strategic theories have been developed which seek to explain the existence, boundaries, structure, management and competitive advantage of organisations based on knowledge. These theories are consistent with one thread from the overall discourse which argues that the management of knowledge within an organisation is an important activity required for maintaining competitive advantage in a hypercompetitive external environment. Despite the extensive interest in this area, there is sti11limited agreement even about some of its fundamental principles. This plurality of perspectives is due to the diversity of disciplines, theories and objectives with which the area is enriched by both academics and practitioners alike. Many independent KM initiatives have also been proposed for managerial use under the KM umbrella. Such activities include meetings, mentoring schemes, training, job rotation, site visits, conferences and exhibitions, and internal and external collaborations. Many of these initiatives are relatively autonomous and independent concepts. Generally these concepts have been first identified in the practitioner literature and it is unclear where they fit within academic frameworks. In particular, the relationship between KM initiatives and important related academic concepts such as knowledge transfer, organisationalleaming, knowledge creation and innovation is not clear. This lack of agreement, clarity and cohesion in the KM discourse naturally suggests the following research problem: What is the relationship between KM initiatives, organisationalleaming, knowledge transfer, knowledge creation innovation? Taking an organisation and strategic management theory perspective, an exploratory framework for understanding and explaining KM is developed within this thesis. Theoretically, this framework draws together perspectives from the resource-based view of the firm, organisational learning and innovation literatures to propose that the two fundamental KM processes are knowledge transfer and creation. Knowledge transfer supports learning and the utilisation of available internal and external knowledge resources within an organisation. Through knowledge transfer and learning, new knowledge can be created and organisational innovation takes place. These two processes are then integrated into Whittington, Pettigrew et al.'s (1999) framework for organisational change. Various disparate KM initiatives are also positioned within the developed framework based on whether they facilitate knowledge transfer by altering organisational boundaries, processes or structures. The essence of the developed framework is represented pictorially by a research model. This research model depicts the framework's key concepts and the relationships between them. It also begins to represent some of the complex dimensionality inherent in the framework. The research model is explored empirically using data from the Business Longitudinal Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Responses from 3014 Australian businesses surveyed yearly from 1994 to 1998 are analysed using chi-squared and logistical regression statistical techniques. This sample consists of 1344 small and 1670 medium businesses across eleven industries. In empirically exploring the research model, some of the dimensionality of the framework is explored. However, the process also provides a confirmatory function by providing empirical support for many of the aspects of the framework. Statistical support was found for all elements of the research model. Odds ratios for the various KM initiatives examined ranged from 1.292 to 3.554. These results confirm the value of these initiatives for facilitating the transfer of knowledge. They also suggest that the dimensionality of these constructs represented in the model should be explored further. Of all the KM initiatives, research and development emerged as the most effective initiative for facilitating knowledge transfer and creation. This finding suggests that research and development should be the very first initiative considered by managers looking to implement a KM program. It also suggests that future research on knowledge transfer and creation should pay particular attention to this particular initiative. The logistical regression analysis demonstrated that changing organisational boundaries, processes and structures all contribute to facilitating knowledge transfer which lead to knowledge creation. These results provided support for the most important contribution of the thesis. This contribution was the development of an integrated and exploratory conceptual framework which can serve as a foundation stone for the field of KM.
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