A knowledge-based view of process improvement: a mixed methods study into the role of social networks and knowledge acquisition

Marzec, Peter Edward (2013) A knowledge-based view of process improvement: a mixed methods study into the role of social networks and knowledge acquisition. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The goal of this dissertation is to motivate a Knowledge-Based View of Process Improvement. In doing so, it advocates that acquiring and exploiting knowledge is the key to achieving and sustaining competitive advantage. The heightened competitive landscape firms now operate in, is not only driving the need for process improvement in order for firms to stay competitive, but also the need to acquire knowledge from external sources as firms may no longer have the luxury of developing solely from internally generated ideas. With the understanding that knowledge resides in and is created by individuals, and in line with broader trends towards more micro-views of the firm, the research looks at process improvement and knowledge acquisition at the individual level.

Based on a mixed methods design, founded on a comprehensive review of the knowledge-based view, process improvement, and social network literatures, eight case interviews were first employed. This qualitative work identified Absorptive Capacity, and notably Zahra and George’s (2002) interpretation, as the key underlying theory to this investigation. Furthermore, it identified three major dyads that govern the acquisition of knowledge: affective vs. competence-based trust; costs of searching vs. motivations for sharing; and individual attributes vs. firm culture. This conceptual framework was then empirically tested with a sample of 200 respondents. To analyse the quantitative data, the variance-based structural equation modelling approach of Partial Least Squares (PLS) was used in conjunction with three advanced techniques: higher-order formative measurement analysis, interaction analysis, and multigroup analysis.

The resulting contributions to knowledge are five-fold. Firstly and arguably the largest contribution, the research identifies and empirically verifies the “social integration mechanisms”, the factors that convert potential absorptive capacity (PAC) to realised absorptive capacity (RAC) in Zahra and George’s (2002) conceptualisation of Absorptive Capacity. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is one of the first empirical studies to do this and thus makes a significant contribution to this theory. Secondly, it empirically demonstrates the existence of three dimensions to our knowledge stocks: individually-held knowledge, network-based knowledge from strong ties, and network-based knowledge from weak ties. In doing so, it empirically illustrates the strength of weak ties hypothesis by Granovetter (1973) in addition to providing insight into the antecedents of Absorptive Capacity. Thirdly, following the trend towards the more micro-

foundation view, this research contributes to the discourse on the individual-level view of Absorptive Capacity (iCAP). Fourthly, it extends the knowledge-based view of process improvement by beginning to fill the dearth of literature on the exploratory and socially embedded aspects of knowledge acquisition. In addition, it endorses Absorptive Capacity as a useful theoretical lens by which to view this perspective. Finally, the outcomes of process improvement, and thus the outcomes of knowledge acquisition, are contextualised as cognitive and behavioural changes, which are in high contrast to the more traditional tangible outcomes such as number of new products, or physical improvements in products such as quality or cost.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Tan, K.H.
Pawar, K.S.
Keywords: Process Improvement, Knowledge Acquisition, Social Networks, Knowledge-Based View, Absorptive Capacity, Mixed Methods
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 13717
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2014 09:37
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2016 10:23
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13717

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