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Inter‐organizational knowledge management in complex products and systems: Challenges and an exploratory framework

Jin Chen (College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University, Hang Zhou, China)
Liang Tong (School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hang Zhou, China)
Eric W.T. Ngai (Department of Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Journal of Technology Management in China

ISSN: 1746-8779

Article publication date: 5 June 2007




The vast majority of evidence about knowledge management (KM) is based on studies within a mass‐producing context and at intra‐organizational level. Little has been reported in the complex products and systems (CoPS) literature about KM processes across firm boundaries. To contribute to this gap, this paper reviews the literature of CoPS, inter‐organizational collaboration and KM, discusses some challenges of inter‐organization KM faced by CoPS manufacturers, and explores a research framework which is helpful to provide a preliminary understanding of inter‐organizational KM within a CoPS context.


Literature review and research experience are presented.


The study has identified some challenges faced by CoPS manufacturers when they try to manage knowledge from an innovative network, and developed a framework extending KM processes into an inter‐firm collaborative network for CoPS development. Both, project level collaboration and firm level linkages need to be taken into consideration when attempting to implement KM at inter‐organizational level. Knowledge acquisition from network, knowledge integration, and knowledge sharing in the network are the main inter‐organizational KM activities in a CoPS context.


As KM based on inter‐organizational collaboration has received little attention in prior studies, especially in CoPS conditions, this study is an exploratory discussion of KM issues within a CoPS context, combining the cross‐school theories of inter‐organizational linkages, KM and CoPS innovation. This paper tries to account for knowledge‐related activities involved in CoPS development, identifying some challenges in CoPS innovation.



Chen, J., Tong, L. and Ngai, E.W.T. (2007), "Inter‐organizational knowledge management in complex products and systems: Challenges and an exploratory framework", Journal of Technology Management in China, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 134-144.



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