The purpose of this paper is to present a holistic interpretation of the scope of knowledge management processes whose intent is to enhance the effectiveness of new product development (NPD).
The paper reviews key concepts in NPD and knowledge management (KM), leading to propositions about the effective management of NPD‐relevant knowledge. It develops a structured, holistic model of organizational KM including practical mechanisms and processes for managing knowledge transfer.
Effective knowledge management needs to: acknowledge the multiple organizational levels at which knowledge is deployed; support the production, elicitation and exchange of tacit knowledge as well as explicit, codified information; hence accommodate and enable both informal and formal, typically IS/IT enabled knowledge processes.
KM is work‐in‐progress, not a one‐time search for an idealised state. Computer‐enabled information systems are necessary but not sufficient elements of a comprehensive approach to KM. Holistic KM should be integral to the organization, working with not against the grain of its technical, social and cultural processes. Senior managers with titles such as “chief knowledge officer” may be crucial in establishing strategic priorities and change programmes, but all NPD personnel bear responsibility for effective KM.
The paper combines propositions about the effective conduct of KM for NPD with a model of holistic KM that involves multi‐level flux and constructive knowledge transition. It identifies practical mechanisms, IS/IT enabled and otherwise, in this context. It suggests that new research to identify effective KM practices in NPD is a priority for KM researchers.
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