Corbel, P. et Terziovski, M. « Organisational Excellence and the Management of Knowldege: To what extent can we build on the Knowledge-Based View of the firm? », 6ème colloque du MAAOE (Multinational Alliance for the Advancement of Organizational Excellence), Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, juin 2007, article repris in K.J. Foley et P. Hermel, The Theories and Practices of Organizational Excellence: New Perspectives, SAI Global, Sydney, septembre 2008, p.177-204
There is a broad consensus in the academic and business communities that knowledge management is one of the main contributors to competitive advantage and “organizational excellence”. Although the Resource-Based view of the Firm is now widely used by researchers to conduct research on competitive advantage, the sub-branch of research called the Knowledge-Based View (KBV) of the Firm has not emerged as a real alternative to transaction-costs economics.
The aim of this paper is to address the two questions: What are the common principles on which the KBV is built on? What are the impediments of the KBV that stop it from becoming a theory which is useful for researchers and practitioners?
With respect to the knowledge-based view of the firm, we show that the reasons why knowledge should be considered as the basis on which firms are built differ significantly from one author to another. Some insist on the advantages of the firm in producing knowledge, others in exploiting it, and still others in protecting it. And among those who insist on producing knowledge for example, the explanations are still very different from one author to another.
This lack of internal coherence is probably one of the main reasons why the KBV is rarely considered as a credible alternative theory of the firm to transaction-costs economics. We confront the potential contributions to the KBV to the recognised weaknesses of transaction-costs economics to show that it had (and still has) the potential to become a complementary explanation to the existence of hierarchical and quasi-hierarchical organizations. Following this, we go on to explain the differences between the potential and the current research on organizations.
Finally we show that the various approaches related to the KBV can be considered as more complementary than competing. Nevertheless, this creates some tensions in the management of knowledge. Protecting knowledge can be counter-productive during the creation or in the exploitation stages. For example, dividing knowledge in small parts to prevent leaks can slow down the pace of a research project or the development of a new product.
Consequent to the above, we develop an integrative model that allows us to augment the internal coherence of the different approaches developed inside the KBV of the firm. This model is based on the creative tensions that exist between production, protection and exploitation of knowledge. The paper concludes that the tensions can be managed if an integrative approach is taken where the objective is to gain synergy from the whole rather than exploit the individual elements that make up the whole. The paper also articulates several practical implications for managers.
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