Making sense of knowledge creation processes : the case of a Greek petrochemical industry
This thesis is concerned with knowledge creation processes within service organizations, specifically in relation to the maintenance function. While bearing in mind the particular context of the study, the thesis argues that maintenance service work, when seen from such a knowledge creation perspective, affords important insights into the dynamic interrelations, links and social interactions within the knowledge creation processes themselves. To date, the knowledge management and organization studies literature tends not to treat these practical topics and theoretical issues in an integrated, holistic manner. The thesis addresses this lack using an in- depth, situated case study of the maintenance division of a major Greek petrochemical refinery. The research adopts an interpretative perspective and makes sense of knowledge creation processes through the theoretical lens of the Unified Model of Dynamic Knowledge Creation (Nonaka et al. 2001), combined with the knowledge activism framework (Von Krogh et al. 1997). Nonaka's framework, which guides data collection and analysis, suggests an approach to the investigation using the so-called SECI process. This process explains how knowledge creation unfolds, utilising the Japanese concept of Ba (which represents the process context), and the concept of knowledge assets (which corresponds to the process content). The explanation of important individual and group roles within knowledge creation processes using Von Krogh's framework integrates these concepts. This use of a process view of knowledge creation helps explain a wide variety of complex and situated interrelations that demonstrate the existence of different modes of knowledge creation. Thus, the approach to process inquiry along with the research design fertilize methodological discussions about research on knowledge creation processes. The core theoretical contribution of the research concerns the provision of a process view of knowledge creation. Other theoretical implications of the research findings relate to insights on the complex nature of the knowledge creation process within a work environment, extensions to the research framework, and recommendations for further conceptual developments. The research also contributes practical implications and insights into, and specific conclusions about, knowledge creation processes and how they might be effectively managed in service organizations more generally.