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Organising the process of knowledge integration: the benefits of structural ambiguity


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  • Ravasi, Davide
  • Verona, Gianmario
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    In this article we examine how loose coupling between units and people can benefit a firm's ability to combine and recombine knowledge-based resources continuously in a creative and flexible way. An in-depth study of Oticon A/S suggests that loose coupling can be deliberately brought into the design of the organisation by introducing a certain structural ambiguity into the configuration of role systems and authority relationships. In the first part of the paper, we show how loose coupling among units and people is a distinctive feature of the way Oticon organises its administrative activities. In the second, we explore the structural properties of a loosely coupled arrangement. We develop the concepts of multipolarity, fluidity and interconnectedness and we show how these properties conduce to an increase in the effectiveness, efficiency and flexibility of the processes of knowledge integration. Structural ambiguity is thus proposed as a viable design principle for organisations operating in hypercompetitive environment, where flexible knowledge integration represents a critical condition of survival.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Scandinavian Journal of Management.

    Volume (Year): 17 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 41-66

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:scaman:v:17:y:2001:i:1:p:41-66

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    Keywords: Knowledge management Loose coupling Continuous innovation;


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    Cited by:
    1. Berends, J.J. & Debackere, K. & Garud,J. & Weggeman, M.P.C.D., 2004. "Knowledge integration by thinking along," Working Papers 04.05, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
    2. Fioretti, Guido, 2008. "Two Lyapunov Functions for Flexible Organizations," MPRA Paper 8204, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Kjærgaard, Annemette, 2004. "Internal corporate venturing during organisational change:," Working Papers 2004-19, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Informatics.
    4. Sluismans,Raf, 2003. "Looking for synergy in organizations: The role of the concept of configuration in contemporary theory," Research Memorandum 014, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    5. Guido Fioretti, 2012. "Two measures of organizational flexibility," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(5), pages 957-979, November.
    6. Berends, J.J. & Debackere, K. & Garud,J. & Weggeman, M.P.C.D., 2004. "Knowledge integration by thinking along," Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS) working paper series 04.05, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS).


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