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Factors contributing to organizational knowledge creation

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The primary interest of this paper is the investigation of factors that contribute to new knowledge creation. There is an abundance of theoretical and empirical work (in the strategy, organizational behavior and industrial organization fields) on the factors that contribute to innovation (e.g., von Hippel, 1986; Powell et al, 1996; Henderson and Cockburn, 1994; Frost, 2001). Where this paper differs is that the authors are interested in the more fundamental question of how organizations create new knowledge (which can then lead to innovation). Previous studies (Leonard-Barton, 1995; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995) have assumed that new knowledge creation equates to innovative output. This study does not make this assumption because the authors see innovation (new products, services, processes, patents, publications) as the embodiment of new knowledge (ideas, insights, novel thinking). In other words, new knowledge needs to be internalized, mobilized and utilized within the organization (or group) in order to produce innovative output. Utilizing cross-sectional data from 317 firms across 17 general industry categories, Soo, Midgley and Devinney (2001) present comprehensive theoretical and empirical investigation of organizational knowledge creation and its impact on firm performance. This investigation showed a strong series of cross-sectional relationships between information and knowledge sourcing, the quality of the usage of that information and knowledge stock in problem solving, and innovation and performance, in terms of market share, profitability and growth. Although Soo, Midgley and Devinney (2001) provide a comprehensive examination of the linkages operating in the knowledge creating process from a cross-sectional perspective, they are unable to make generalizable statements that apply within firms facing specific issues related to the appropriateness of their knowledge acquisition activities, problem solving quality and organizational practices. The main objective of the current work is to further refine this model through multiple case studies. This allows us to investigate the many important aspects of the knowledge creation process that cannot be captured by questionnaire surveys alone and to refine the validity of the general model proposed by Soo, Midgley and Devinney (2001). Also, the conjunction of the large sample cross-sectional survey with the individual firm case study samples, allows us to benchmark the case studies against a more generalizable set of results. This provides us with an opportunity to not only learn new things from the case studies but to also recognize where the specific firms being studied have made mistakes or substantively differ from the population at large. The authors also investigate additional factors contributing to knowledge creation that can be incorporated in future empirical work. The case studies presented in this paper represent an important avenue for further theoretical and empirical advancement in an increasingly important area in strategic management and organizational studies.

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