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Discourses of knowledge across global networks: What can be learnt about knowledge leadership from the ATLAS collaboration?


  • Mabey, Christopher
  • Nicholds, Alyson


Writing on knowledge management (KM) and leadership studies tends to take place in parallel; both fields are prolific yet they rarely inform each other. A KM view tends to take a positional view of leaders and a functionalist view of firms: so it regards those with the ascription or status of leaders as pivotal, and knowledge as a commodity to be leveraged with the help of leaders to improve firm performance. But as the global reach of organizations in the knowledge-based economy become more stretched, as their operations become more networked and as their workforces become more mobile, the task of deploying and deriving value from knowledge becomes ever more challenging and calls for a qualitatively different approach which is termed knowledge leadership. In contrast to the instrumentalist approach of KM we offer some alternative discourses of knowledge and explore the implications of these for knowledge leadership. We then use interpretive discourse to examine the way knowledge activists enact and experience the exchange of knowledge in the ATLAS collaboration, part of the largest scientific experiment in the world at the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva. We find this apparently democratic and homogeneous global network to be populated by quite different perceptions concerning the way knowledge is viewed, the way knowledge leadership is exercised and the impact of this on the global collaboration. We discuss the wider significance of these findings for knowledge leadership in other international knowledge-based enterprises and R&D businesses.

Suggested Citation

  • Mabey, Christopher & Nicholds, Alyson, 2015. "Discourses of knowledge across global networks: What can be learnt about knowledge leadership from the ATLAS collaboration?," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 43-54.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iburev:v:24:y:2015:i:1:p:43-54
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ibusrev.2014.05.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. de Vasconcellos, Silvio Luis & Garrido, Ivan Lapuente & Parente, Ronaldo Couto, 2019. "Organizational creativity as a crucial resource for building international business competence," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 438-449.
    2. Abdelzaher, Dina & Fernandez, Whitney Douglas & Schneper, William D., 2019. "Legal rights, national culture and social networks: Exploring the uneven adoption of United Nations Global Compact," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 12-24.


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