Title: Organisational manoeuvres for exploring and exploiting external knowledge

Authors: Inga Rössing; Stephan Kaiser

Addresses: Human Resources and Organizational Studies, University of the Bundeswehr München, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany ' Human Resources and Organizational Studies, University of the Bundeswehr München, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany

Abstract: The present paper explores how organisations pursue explorative and exploitative learning when using highly skilled dependent or independent contractors as external knowledge workers. It investigates why and how organisations balance stable exploitative and flexible explorative relationships with contractors, and examines the factors that influence this balance. To do this, it develops a conceptual framework that represents organisational manoeuvres for explorative and exploitative learning in the context of boundary-spanning organisational learning. The findings presented herein are based on a qualitative empirical analysis of engineering and IT areas across seven industries, and show that the exchange of existing contractors for new ones leads to a restructuring of the contractor portfolio of the firm. Further, this exchange process can be considered to be an experimental practice that results in organisational learning between exploitation and exploration.

Keywords: knowledge workers; organisational manoeuvres; external knowledge; knowledge exploration; knowledge exploitation; explorative learning; exploitative learning; highly skilled contractors; dependent contractors; independent contractors; stable relationships; exploitative relationships; flexible relationships; explorative relationships; conceptual frameworks; boundary-spanning learning; engineering; ICT; information technology; communications technology; existing contractors; new contractors; contractor portfolios; exchange processes; experimental practices; experimental manoeuvres; automobile industry; financial services; knowledge management; KM; organisational learning; strategic learning; ambidexterity; absorptive capacity.

DOI: 10.1504/IJKMS.2012.051947

International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, 2012 Vol.5 No.1/2, pp.89 - 108

Accepted: 17 Sep 2012
Published online: 05 Feb 2013 *

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