Building on knowledge-based view and demographic diversity theory, the purpose of this paper is to re-conceptualize knowledge heterogeneity (KH) (i.e. diversity in individual or organizational knowledge) and to explore a broader set of relationships between KH and the multidimensional (i.e. dynamics and ambidexterity) innovation.
Case studies of organizational KH and innovation ambidexterity were conducted in four representative companies with variated characteristics. Similarities in the heterogeneity-innovation relationships were identified across four very different types of companies, providing a good exploratory base for future large-scale empirical studies.
Grounding on locus-of-knowing and timing-of-knowing dimensions, this paper utilizes an inductive approach that analyzes qualitative materials to construct the essential meanings of intraorganizational KH, and to explore the influences KH brings onto the ambidextrous innovation. A four-category typology of KH is emerged. Overall, KH is categorized into four distinctive but inter-related forms: individual professional backgrounds, collective profession backgrounds, individual evolving knowledge portfolio, and collective evolving knowledge portfolio.
Building on such typology, this paper discusses propositions for the differentiated influences of different forms of KH on dynamic and ambidextrous innovations.
Whereas individual knowledge benefits independent creativity, complex collective knowledge is more critical for organizational innovation. While research has placed more emphasis on the effects of knowledge accumulation or flow, it neglects the knowledge profile and structure for innovation. The present study explores the effect of heterogeneous knowledge structure on dynamic and ambidextrous innovation.
The author is grateful to Shih-Chieh Fang, Julia L. Lin, Andrew Delios, Terri Egan, Joe Galaskiewicz, Charles Galunic, Jia-Chi Huang, Tom W. Lee, T.K. Peng, Simon Rodan, D.C. Tarn, Stephen D.H. Tsai, and Wann-Yih Wu for their invaluable comments and suggestions for much earlier versions. Research is supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology (formerly National Science Council; Grant number: NSC98-2410-H230-005-MY3).
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