Experience vs expertise. The role of implicit understandings of knowledge in determining the nature of knowledge transfer in two companies

Publication Date01 Mar 2001
AuthorMerle Jacob,Golaleh Ebrahimpur
SubjectAccounting & finance,HR & organizational behaviour,Information & knowledge management
Journal of Intellectual Capital,
Vol. 2 No. 1, 2001, pp. 74-88.
#MCB University Press, 1469-1930
Experience vs expertise
The role of implicit understandings of
knowledge in determining the nature of
knowledge transfer in two companies
Merle Jacob
Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, and
Golaleh Ebrahimpur
Volvo Car Corporation, Gothenburg, Sweden
Keywords Knowledge transfer, Knowledge management, Tacit knowledge, Networks,
Product development
Abstract This article builds on data from case studies of two companies in two different
industries to show how local and tacit notions of what is knowledge determine what types of intra-
organizational mechanisms for knowledge transfer are preferred in a given company setting. The
article proposes that these tacit and informal views about knowledge constitute a knowledge
culture which may in turn be used to assist managers in making informed choices with respect to
knowledge management tools. A number of other conceptual and practical management
implications are derived from this comparative case study.
One of the central insights of Lyotard's (1984) The Postmodern Condition is
that knowledge in computerized societies is becoming ``exteriorised'' from
knowers and that this exteriorisation presaged a new view of knowledge as a
commodity. The academic discourse and practice of knowledge management
are two sites at which Lyotard's predictions about the evolution of the role of
knowledge in modern society are unfolding. The corporate world today is
characterized by an intense interest in technologies and techniques which
would allow managers to effectively manage the creation, transfer and
dissemination of knowledge within their respective companies. At first sight
the notion that knowledge is a source of competitive advantage appears
obvious and one wonders why it took managers so long to appreciate this fact.
Closer examination reveals however that capitalizing on the insight that it is
about knowledge is not an easy task. The academic literature is full of advice
and descriptions of the advantages to be gained from emphasizing knowledge
while practitioners' accounts alternatively reflect excitement and frustration at
the costs and time taken to realize benefits. The two groups are often not quite
in agreement about which are the most pressing problems and the order in
which they need to be tackled. For instance, much of the academic literature
points in the direction of bottom up and people oriented approaches to
knowledge management (HellstroÈm et al., 2000) while the greater share of
money invested in the practice of knowledge management has gone to high
cost information management techniques and technologies.
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