Organising the process of knowledge integration: the benefits of structural ambiguity
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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Volume (Year): 17 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
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