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Differentiation in knowledge-creating organizations

By M. Begoña Lloria

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to focus on the analysis of the influence of organizational design variables on the creation of knowledge within the organization. The impact that enablers have on knowledge creation has been widely demonstrated and established in the relevant literature. Using this assumption as a starting-point, the main aim of this study is to consider and explore the role of differentiation – horizontal and vertical – in knowledge creation using enablers as mediator variables. Design/methodology/approach – The paper has created a model of relations of the design variables that correspond to differentiation – horizontal job specialization, vertical job specialization and number of hierarchical levels; the enablers – autonomy, redundancy and variety; and knowledge creation. This model is then contrasted with an empirical investigation of a quantitative nature, using a sample of 167 large Spanish firms. Findings – The findings in the paper confirm both the impact of enablers on knowledge creation, as defined in the literature, and the fact that vertical specialization is shown to be a suitable design variable for creating knowledge through the autonomy enabler. However, the relation between the horizontal specialization of work and the number of hierarchical levels is not confirmed as being significant in terms of knowledge creation. Research limitations/implications – This paper considers the main limitation of this research to be that the questionnaire was answered by only one respondent, which forced one to consider the outcomes of this research with a certain degree of caution. Practical implications – The results in the paper may be relevant for managers in decision making with regard to organizational design. Herein, reference is made to variables relative to job design and the number of hierarchical levels. Originality/value – The value of this paper lies in two aspects. First, it overlaps two fields of research; organizational design and knowledge creation. Second, although there is a lot of literature on knowledge creation, there are very few empirical studies, especially of a quantitative nature.Decision making, Knowledge creation, Labour

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