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Transferring, Translating, and Transforming: An Integrative Framework for Managing Knowledge Across Boundaries

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  • Paul R. Carlile

    () (Information Systems Department, School of Management, Boston University, 595 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215)

Abstract

The paper examines managing knowledge across boundaries in settings where innovation is desired. Innovation is a useful context because it allows us to explore the negative consequences of the path-dependent nature of knowledge. A framework is developed that describes three progressively complex boundaries—syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic—and three progressively complex processes—transfer, translation, and transformation. The framework is used to specify the practical and political mismatches that occur when innovation is desired and how this relates to the common knowledge that actors use to share and assess each other's domain-specific knowledge. The development and use of a collaborative engineering tool in the early stages of a vehicle's development is presented to illustrate the conceptual and prescriptive value of the framework. The implication of this framework on key topics in the organization theory and strategy literatures is then discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul R. Carlile, 2004. "Transferring, Translating, and Transforming: An Integrative Framework for Managing Knowledge Across Boundaries," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(5), pages 555-568, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:15:y:2004:i:5:p:555-568
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1040.0094
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1040.0094
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul R. Carlile & Eric S. Rebentisch, 2003. "Into the Black Box: The Knowledge Transformation Cycle," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(9), pages 1180-1195, September.
    2. Ikujiro Nonaka, 1994. "A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 5(1), pages 14-37, February.
    3. Marcie J. Tyre & Eric von Hippel, 1997. "The Situated Nature of Adaptive Learning in Organizations," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 8(1), pages 71-83, February.
    4. John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid, 2001. "Knowledge and Organization: A Social-Practice Perspective," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(2), pages 198-213, April.
    5. Deborah Dougherty, 1992. "Interpretive Barriers to Successful Product Innovation in Large Firms," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(2), pages 179-202, May.
    6. Paul R. Carlile, 2002. "A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(4), pages 442-455, August.
    7. Camerer, Colin & Loewenstein, George & Weber, Martin, 1989. "The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1232-1254, October.
    8. Jody Hoffer Gittell, 2001. "Supervisory Span, Relational Coordination and Flight Departure Performance: A Reassessment of Postbureaucracy Theory," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(4), pages 468-483, August.
    9. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1994. "Methodological Individualism and Social Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 1-9, May.
    10. Beth A. Bechky, 2003. "Sharing Meaning Across Occupational Communities: The Transformation of Understanding on a Production Floor," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(3), pages 312-330, June.
    11. Kevin Crowston, 1997. "A Coordination Theory Approach to Organizational Process Design," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 8(2), pages 157-175, April.
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