Neither Hierarchy nor Identity: Knowledge-Governance Mechanisms and the Theory of the Firm
Building on existing empirical research on knowledge transfer, sharing and integration in inter-firm and intra-firm relations, it is argued that there is little evidence and theoretical reason for assigning exclusive properties to internal or external organization, as such, in a knowledge-governance respect. A more micro framework is then theoretically developed, in which a portfolio of knowledge-governance mechanisms is evaluated according to two criteria: the cognitive `possibility' to sustain certain types of knowledge interchanges; and the comparative cost of the mechanism where more than one is applicable. The results of both the empirical and conceptual analyses conducted cast doubts on the possibility of having a `theory of the firm,' based on the deterministic presence/absence of certain attributes and the possession of exclusive properties – no matter if hierarchy or identity – and call for a more `continuous' (rather than `discrete') and `combinative' (rather than mutually exclusive) notion of governance forms. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001
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