Knowledge Integration in Inter-organizational Collaborations

by Ylva Hilmersson

Institution: Linköping University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Knowledge integration; inter-organizational collaborations; common knowledge; social capital; Engineering and Technology; Teknik och teknologier; Projektledning, Innovationer och Entreprenörskap; Project, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Record ID: 1334660
Full text PDF: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-107898


In industries in which high-tech and complex products are developed, firms maintain their competitive advantage and superior performance through collaborating with other organizations in order to access additional capabilities and combine separate knowledge. Several problems and challenges related to the integration of knowledge between the organizations have to be dealt with and overcome in order to fully benefit from these kinds of inter-organizational collaborations. Consequently, the purpose of this thesis is to explain how knowledge integration can be managed between a high-technology company and its partner. On the basis of two factors, that is, common knowledge and social capital, we have investigated how different knowledge integration mechanisms are used in inter-organizational collaborations between a high-technology company in Sweden and its suppliers. The investigation was done through analyzing and comparing empirical findings from two different cases with the help of literature findings from several different sources. In order to collect the empirical data, different company-specific processes were studied and several interviews were conducted face-to-face.   The study showed that common knowledge is a broad concept, and it turned out that having a common group culture in the project team, consisting of employees from both the high-tech company and its partner, is fundamental for the success of integrating knowledge. Through the establishment of a group culture in which honesty, openness and trust is encouraged, communication is facilitated in many ways and, by extension, so is also the knowledge integration. Having trust, which is an essential part of social capital, was also found to form the basis for a well-functioning collaboration. Since personal meetings enable the development and maintenance of social relations and trust, as well as the establishment of a common group culture, meeting face-to-face were highlighted as very important knowledge integration mechanisms. Due to the context in which the study was performed, i.e. inter-organizational collaborations amongst companies in different countries, personal meetings could however be difficult to arrange because of the physical distance. Nevertheless, a vital conclusion of this thesis was that personal meetings should be prioritized and arranged as early as possible in a project. If the social relations are good within the group, the employees are more likely to contact and help each other and actively communicate in order to integrate their knowledge. However, the social relations that are developed between the employees at the collaborating companies are highly dependent on the people involved, which means that the employees’ personalities and interests need to correspond and must be considered when recruiting personnel, in particular if the recruit concerns a key role.   An interesting finding was also that by using body language or a figurative language, such as metaphors, language difficulties…