Knowledge transfer in knowledge-intensive organizations: the crucial role of improvisation in transferring and protecting knowledge
Journal of Knowledge Management
Article publication date: 12 September 2016
This paper aims to answer the question: how do knowledge workers’ improvisation processes promote both knowledge transfer and protection in knowledge-intensive organizations (KIOs)? A model is proposed identifying how effective improvisation can strengthen the effect of four specific knowledge transfer mechanisms – an experimental culture, minimal structures, the practice of storytelling and shared mental models – on knowledge transfer inside the organization and knowledge protection outside of it.
The paper builds on a knowledge translation perspective to position improvisation as intrinsically intertwined with knowledge transfer and knowledge protection.
Improvisation is proposed as the moderating factor enhancing the positive impact of an experimental culture, minimal structures, storytelling practice and shared mental models on knowledge transfer and knowledge protection.
The paper argues against a “plug-and-play” approach to knowledge transfer that seeks to replicate knowledge without considering how people relate to the routines and the context and highlights to leaders of KIOs the importance of developing awareness, understanding and motivation to improvise to internalize new knowledge being transferred and to create imitation barriers.
The paper proposes that KIOs’ success in transferring and protecting knowledge emerges not directly from formal knowledge transfer mechanisms but from knowledge workers’ improvisation processes.
Krylova, K.O., Vera, D. and Crossan, M. (2016), "Knowledge transfer in knowledge-intensive organizations: the crucial role of improvisation in transferring and protecting knowledge", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 1045-1064. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-10-2015-0385
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