How does an individual who absorbs external knowledge affect the organizational learning in an inter-organizational cooperation? A qualitative study of Volvo Trucks knowledge acquisition in the CERC cooperation

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Graduate School

Author: Lotta Sjösten; [2020-09-10]

Keywords: Absorptive Capacity; Organisational Routines;

Abstract: Background & Purpose:As the technology landscape of today is very complex there are many technological fields that cannot be covered by one single company. Instead joint cooperation’s between different stakeholders is needed to solve the complex technological challenges facing us. One type of joint cooperation that is aiming at building up technological knowledge is governmental or EU subsidized cooperation’s between the university and the industry.The Combustion Engine Research Center (CERC) is one of these cooperation’s and it is a cooperation between Chalmers University of Technology and three Swedish automotive companies, namely Volvo Car Cooperation, Scania and Volvo Trucks. As this research is pursued as a master thesis the time frame is limited and therefore the author chose to only include Volvo Trucks in the study.The purpose of this research has been to gain a deeper understanding regarding how a cooperation between the industry and the university can strengthen knowledge build-up and foster innovation in the technological field. This has been done through a qualitative study where employees at Volvo Trucks has been interviewed in a semi-structured way.MethodologyAs there were not any prior literature in this specific case the author chose a qualitative study approach. The study is built on semi-structured interviews and the interviewees were chosen by purposive sampling. Originally eleven interviews were scheduled but due to the Corona virus close down of Volvo Trucks it was not possible to perform them all. Instead the nine semi-structured interviews that were conducted before the close-down is used as base for this master thesis and according to Bell, Bryman & Hartley (2019) this is sufficient in order to perform a qualitative study. A literature review was performed in a systematic manner. The analysis work was performed as a thematic analysis with constant iteration between empirical data and theory.ivEmpirical findings & ConclusionsThe empirical findings and data analyses found three different ways that the individual position of an individual that absorbs external knowledge is affecting the internal learning of an organisation. Those three were:Hierarchical position, organisational position and physical position. The hierarchical position affects the information that is absorbed and thereby the internal learning, the organisation position affects how the knowledge is spread within the organisation and how much external knowledge that is absorbed and finally the physical position affects the knowledge acquisition and the spread of the knowledge.The analyses also found two organisational routines patterns in which the individual that absorbed external knowledge affected higher level entities. Those two were the overarching organisational routines that affect the knowledge build-up strategy and the internal Volvo Truck advance engineering routine which affect the technological strategy.

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