Role of organisation structure in knowledge creation

Janaky Grant, Robin Kramar

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This paper explores the role of organisation structure in the creation of knowledge in a dynamic, competitive context. It integrates literatures from two streams: the literatures on knowledge creation and organisational structures. The spiral model of organisational knowledge is used as the basic framework for the study. This model assumes that human knowledge creation and expansion occurs through the social interactions involving tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. This research acknowledges that the movement of knowledge through the knowledge creation spiral takes place in the context of the organisation and it explores the ways in which the structure of an organisation reinforces or inhibits the tacit-explicit knowledge interaction across organisational boundaries. The telecommunications industry is extremely dynamic. Firms in this industry compete globally across geographic and organisational boundaries and they must therefore gain new sources of competitive advantage. In this environment, organisation structure can provide the capability through knowledge creation to adapt rapidly to the dynamic environment. This paper examines one organisation in the telecommunications industry. A qualitative methodology is used and it focuses on single organisation case setting. It involves multiple telecom projects that provide a number of contextual settings spread across the Asia Pacific Region. The field research for the case study used a variety of techniques such as face to face open ended interviews, examination of relevant company documents and observations of work practices. The participant sample not only consisted of a mix of roles and levels of seniority and but was also multi profile consisting of employees and contractors both expatriate and local. The research contributes to both theory and practice on the role of embryonic structures in knowledge creation. An embryonic structural base was discovered as providing an organisation with the unique ability to adopt highly differentiated approaches to creating organisational knowledge for performance benefits. In particular, the research identified and described key structural elements as enablers of knowledge creation processes. It also identified inhibitors to the knowledge creation process. The significant contribution to theory is reflected in the theoretical model developed as a result of the research. It depicts embryonic structural elements as enablers of organisational knowledge creation. These findings alert practitioners to the knowledge benefits can be achieved by building response capability into the structure for the organisation to successfully adapt to its dynamic environment. Practitioners desiring to adapt the structural approach to enabling knowledge creation will benefit from this case study research. Increasing environmental dynamism and uncertainty require greater organisational flexibility and therefore new structural forms. The research findings demonstrate that the embryonic structure's ability to contribute to creating a workplace unrestrained by geographic and organisational boundaries enabling knowledge creation for exceptional response agility to environmental changes. This research encourages future researchers to use this case study as a leverage point to explore other theories supporting futuristic organisation structures befitting firms desiring to thrive in the knowledge economy. In the business scenario where there is a desire to understand leading edge practice, and where organisations have an increasing need to overcome existing barriers to knowledge creation, this research is deemed essential having made significant contributions to theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-32
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Copyright Common Ground and The Author/s. Article originally published in International journal of knowledge, culture and change management, Volume 7, Issue 9, pp. 19-32. This version archived on behalf of the author/s and is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission must be sought from the publisher to republish or reproduce or for any other purpose.


  • organisation structure
  • knowledge creation


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