Tacit Knowledge Sharing in Project-Based Engineering Organizations - Catalyzing the firm’s product innovation capabilities
Abstract: Tacit knowledge is valuable because of its hard imitability, this also creates the challenge of spreading it to other employees in the organization. This study describes the phenomenon of tacit knowledge sharing (TKS) in project-based engineering organizations (PBEOs) and is directed at practitioners to allow them to improve their role as facilitators of TKS. PBEOs manage research and design projects in which tacit knowledge is highly relevant. When the project ends and the project team faces adjournment, the context of knowledge creation is often lost. TKS for PBEOs is therefore essential due to its effect on the product innovation capabilities and sustainable competitive advantage of the organization. This research follows an abductive approach from a critical realist perspective and incorporates the SECI model as the foundation for organizational knowledge creation. Qualitative semi-structured interviews provided empirical data to analyze the processes, mechanisms, and barriers for TKS within PBEOs. The bibliometric analysis indicates that the combination of these research topics has received little attention from previous researchers. This study’s theoretical framework and the empirical findings have shown that mechanisms used for sharing knowledge are considerably more tacit on the lower organizational levels as the project team. Towards organization-wide knowledge sharing, mechanisms in place are significantly more explicit, emphasizing the combination and externalization of knowledge. This study identified seven aggregate dimensions that describe the underlying dynamics of TKS in PBEOs: viscosity, velocity, and alignment; organizational structure; individual drivers; information systems; mapping and structuring of knowledge; prioritization; and management practices. Combining the different organizational perspectives indicated that PBEOs should focus on awareness of the benefits of TKS; finding curious, proactive, and flexible staff; facilitating knowledge sharing processes; and allocating responsibilities to the project team for knowledge sharing. Lastly, a set of focus points for practitioners has been identified, including the role of the project leader, the role of top management, and the hiring and retention of qualified staff.
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