Leveraging Learning Behavior and Network Structure to Improve Knowledge Gatekeepers’ Performance
Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp. 635-658, 2010
24 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2011 Last revised: 30 Apr 2013
Date Written: 2010
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how universities’ learning behavior (explorative or exploitative) and network structure (weak or strong inter-organizational ties) can affect their capability to collect and diffuse knowledge, and thus to act as knowledge gatekeepers.
Design/methodology/approach – The research methodology is based on the longitudinal study (from 2000 to 2007) of three UK universities (University of Cambridge, London’s Global University, and Imperial College London), located in the area of London and selected on the basis of their knowledge mobility. In particular, to evaluate the knowledge mobility for each university, the paper considers the collaborative R&D relationships established by each university, in terms of joint-patents registered at the European Patent Office (EPO).
Findings – The analysis has revealed that the universities’ knowledge mobility is positively affected by both the explorative learning behavior and the establishment of strong inter-organizational ties. Moreover, results have shown that an increase of the explorative speed can entail a less positive effect of the exploration on the universities’ knowledge mobility, since they can become less able to consolidate and implement the acquired new knowledge.
Research limitations/implications – On the basis of these results, the present research provides interesting implications. In fact, recognizing the importance of explorative learning mechanisms, universities should enlarge and diversify their competencies and technological bases in order to be more effective knowledge sources and gatekeepers. Nevertheless, this shift towards new technologies and scientific fields should occur gradually, for instance towards more similar and contiguous technologies, so guaranteeing the necessary strengthening of skills and capabilities. Referring to the universities’ network structure, the research suggests the importance of strong inter-organizational ties as mechanisms that enable the transfer of knowledge. Hence, universities should promote the formation of stable and long-lasting alliances and collaborations for favouring the creation of a trustworthy environment where knowledge can be exchanged and innovations rise.
Originality/value – The study contributes to the existing literature on knowledge gatekeepers, identifying its main performance, measuring it, and analyzing the impact exerted by two factors, as learning behavior and network structure.
Keywords: Learning, Performance management, United Kingdom
JEL Classification: D83, O31, O32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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