10 Practical findings from the deployment of an exploratory knowledge management framework

Publication Date10 August 2015
AuthorJamie O'Brien
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,Knowledge management systems
10 Practical ndings from the
deployment of an exploratory
knowledge management
Jamie O’Brien
Donald J. Schneider School of Business and Economics,
St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA
Purpose – This paper aims to offer a practical lens grounded in the relatively unexplored industry
setting of medical devices. The objective of this paper is to use two in-depth case studies to highlight the
key ndings of an exploratory knowledge assessment framework surrounding the areas of knowledge
creation, acquisition, sharing and reuse.
Design/methodology/approach – An interpretivist paradigm was followed while using two case
studies. The study was developed over a three-year period using 36 in-depth interviews, document
analysis and observation.
Findings – At the case companies, these ndings were concluded: Across groups, cross-functional
sharing is siloed, which leads to a lack of knowledge sharing. Cultural issues, such as hoarding of
knowledge, hinder knowledge management (KM) initiatives. Employees new to the organisation nd it
difcult to locate knowledge. Employees are dependent on their informal network. The implementation
of several KM initiatives is hindered because staff do not have sufcient time. Knowledge reuse is not
given attention when targets have to be met. Due to time issues and informal network dependence, there
is a lack of formal systems use. There is a lack of ownership of knowledge. There are knowledge
retention problems. The organisation does not know its employees’ skills.
Research limitations/implications The usual limitations of case-study research apply
surrounding generalisability; however, the author has used best practice in the application of this study
using the case-study literature.
Practical implications – By exploring at rm level some of the factors associated with individual
knowledge acquisition and providing empirical evidence, the study contributes to richer understanding
of what should be perceived by potential knowledge recipients to enhance their acquiring knowledge
from others. The research shows that for increased competitiveness, knowledge should be shared
among organisational members and highlights some of the pitfalls of using KM systems to achieve this.
Originality/value – The proposed framework offers a lens to organisations with which they could
gauge their knowledge base and ask the how and why questions. This would improve awareness in the
areas of knowledge acquisition, sharing, learning and reuse.
Keywords Qualitative research, Applied knowledge management, Framework,
Case study methods, Medical device industry
Paper type Case study
As already established in previous research (O’Brien, 2013a,2013b;McAdam and
Moffett, 2006;Grifths and Evans, 2011;Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 12 August 2014
Revised 13 January 2015
25 March 2015
Accepted 30 April 2015
Vol.45 No. 3, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/VINE-08-2014-0051
Development (OECD), 2007;Lev and Daum, 2003), there is a need for a common
approach to knowledge assessment at the organisational level. This has been discussed
in the eld of knowledge management (KM) for some time. Since the early 1990s, KM has
tried to establish itself among practitioners and academics as an area of study for
ensuring organisational competitiveness and, ultimately, longevity. US spending alone
on KM initiatives grew by 16 per cent, to account for $73 billion in 2007, according to
McGreevy (2007). As a discipline, however, KM shows immaturity (Grifths and Evans,
2011). A plethora of denitions for the term knowledge management exist, with the only
consensus seeming to be that it refers to organisational knowledge and ultimately leads
to organisational competitiveness (Burton-Jones, 2008).
The OECD recognises that “knowledge management practices seem to have a far
from negligible effect on innovation and other aspects of corporate performance”.
However, there is little systematic evidence of just how great an effect KM has.
Among the various categories of knowledge-related investment, “knowledge
management is one of the areas about which little is known in terms of quality,
quantity, costs and economic returns” (OECD, 2004, p. 1). KM comes from both
academic and practitioner sources, with some seeing the eld as one driven by
consultancy companies rather than academic research in which there is a disconnect
between the theory and practice and lacking in the form of systematic,
evidence-based review (Grifths and Morse, 2009) and in-depth qualitative research
(O’Brien, 2013a). The author agrees with Grifths and Morse (2009), in that
practitioners should be treated as partners in the research process, especially where
the research is focused on solving problems embedded in practice. From 1996 to
2008, the literature unearthed 71 (as many as 160 currently) models and frameworks,
and of this group, redundancy, clarity and practical value were identied as issues
(Grifths and Morse, 2009;Heisig, 2009). With that in mind, this research offers a
practical lens grounded in the relatively unexplored industry setting of medical
devices. The objective of this study is to use two in-depth case studies to highlight
the key ndings of an exploratory knowledge assessment framework surrounding
the areas of knowledge creation, acquisition, sharing and reuse.
Literature review: theoretical areas for exploration within the case
When the author began work with the case companies, the necessity for the study to look
at the knowledge life cycle became clear as a primary need of the companies.
Case A:
As we implement the new inventory project, I think it would be a fantastic opportunity to get
an overview of the whole situation around knowledge, and maybe see what we can nd
(Respondent 4).
Case B:
We really feel as though visibility around the life of knowledge within the Centre is poor […]
if you can help us with that, it would be benecial to us, but to other departments also
(Respondent 17).
The KM literature focusing on the knowledge life cycle (O’Brien, 2013a;Minonne
and Turner, 2009) emphasises the capability to create, acquire, share and reuse
explicitly documented knowledge, potentially articulable implicit knowledge and

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