The purpose of this paper is to develop the concept of cognitive proximity, by studying it as a process in groups and dissecting how cognitive proximity is related to knowledge creation that results, for example, in articles and technological applications. Cognitive proximity, i.e. similar knowledge bases, is essential in creating knowledge in groups whose members have different professional and cultural backgrounds, which is often the case in internationalizing universities and companies.
The case study includes four top‐level international academic groups from Finnish universities that have a foreign leader. The groups were followed from 2007‐2009. Interviews and diaries are analysed using mental mapping.
According to the results, cognitive proximity is achieved through cooperation and suitable tasks. Knowledge is created during cognitive friction – when members are becoming cognitively proximate through knowledge base content, but developing a cognitive distance through a knowledge base structure.
This paper is one of the earliest efforts to study cognitive proximity as a process in groups. Cognitive proximity has especially raised interest in the fields of knowledge management and economic geography.
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