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Transactive knowledge from communities of practice to firms: An empirical investigation of innovative projects performance

Maria Cristina Longo (Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Catania, Italy)
Alessandro Narduzzo (Faculty of Economics and Management, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to analyze to what extent and under which conditions R&D projects benefit from team members’ participation in spontaneous and work-related communities of practice (CoPs).


This is a quantitative empirical study. R&D projects are the unit of analysis. Data are collected through interviews to 121 informants who are members of 60 R&D projects and participants in 195 CoPs.


The participation of project team members in work-related CoPs positively affects the R&D project performance. This positive effect applies also to radically innovative projects. The diversity in the institutional affiliation of CoPs members is also highly significant and positively correlated with the project performance.

Research limitations/implications

The paper considers only work-related CoPs, thus neglecting the knowledge transacted through other types of CoPs.

Practical implications

Practitioners should support the autonomous participation of project team members to spontaneous and work-related CoPs that cut across the organizational boundaries. Team leaders may enhance team innovative capabilities and performance by ensuring diversity of knowledge and skills from CoPs whose members work for institutions that differ from each other.


First, this study provides quantitative evidence of the CoPs ability to support innovation. Second, this research is focused on spontaneous and work-related CoPs within business environments. Third, this study does not analyze CoPs performance, but it postulates a connection between innovative organizational units (i.e. R&D projects) and spontaneous CoPs that cut across the firms’ boundaries.



For valuable collaboration, the authors gratefully acknowledge companies and research labs which has kindly provided continuous support and information. For mindful insights, the authors express appreciation both to the anonymous reviewers and to Professors Carmelo Buttà, Fabrizio Castellucci, Giovanni Battista Dagnino, Joe Santos and Maurizio Zollo.


Longo, M.C. and Narduzzo, A. (2017), "Transactive knowledge from communities of practice to firms: An empirical investigation of innovative projects performance", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 291-311.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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