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From knowledge to knowing, from boundaries to boundary construction

Claude Paraponaris (LEST CNRS, Aix Marseille Universite, Aix en Provence, France)
Martine Sigal (LEST CNRS, Aix Marseille Universite, Aix en Provence, France)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 14 September 2015




Knowledge management is shot through with complex questions. This is certainly the case with regard to boundaries, as they constitute both a bounding line that has to be crossed if the knowledge required for innovation is to be diffused and a form of protection for scientific and technological organisations and institutions. This examination of boundaries leads to a state-of-the-art review that begins with the question of knowledge transfer. The authors start with foundations of the knowledge dynamic within organisations. Nevertheless, certain gaps were identified in the theory, as it did not seem so easy to carry out transfers. This led in turn to attempts to identify the boundaries that were causing difficulties and that had to be crossed. This led to an examination of the role of boundaries. What status could boundaries have when knowledge was expanding enormously within communities? Finally, the authors come face-to-face with knowledge management systems that have tended to redefine the forms that boundaries take.


The paper uses a conceptual approach and is a meta analysis of the state-of-the-art review conducted to introduce the Special Issue “Knowledge Across Boundaries” JKM Volume 19, No. 5, 2015 (October).


The notions of transfer and boundary demonstrated their usefulness in the development of a new theory, namely the knowledge-based view. These concepts were then critiqued, with reference, first, to the contexts in which communication takes place and, second, to the cognitive dimensions of the activity. Finally, studies showed that the cognitive and organisational approaches can be linked and that they shed light on many knowledge-sharing situations. Boundaries are no longer the object of attention, the focus having switched to the collective process of creating new concepts.

Research limitations/implications

This state-of-the-art review is limited to the papers about Management Science.

Practical implications

Knowledge hybridization is possible but must be referred to resources made available by the division of labour between disciplines (Shinn, 1997). Expansive learning (Engeström, 2010) is close to boundary construction (Holford, 2015) to indicate the dialectical view between instituting and instituted society (Castoriadis, 1975, 1987). We are now perhaps at the point of transition between the interest in “boundary spanners” and a new concern with “boundary construction”.

Social implications

This paper introduces a methodology of knowledge transfer knowledge transfer in firms strategies of learning.


The paper provides the concept (with examples) of ‘boundary construction’.



Paraponaris, C. and Sigal, M. (2015), "From knowledge to knowing, from boundaries to boundary construction ", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 881-899.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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