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The nature and process of knowledge cycling: A study of labor mobility among technical consultants
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Knowledge transfer is fundamental to the successful performance of firms in a range of sectors. Technical consulting constitutes an industrial domain where the transfer of knowledge is perhaps particularly important. This article centers on the relationship between labor mobility and knowledge transfer. Based on a single-case study of a leading Scandinavian technical consulting firm, this article focuses on the technical consultant’s role in the transfer of knowledge among organizational contexts. The article draws upon field data comprising a large number of interviews with managers and consultants in the studied firm. Emerging from the case study is a knowledge process that we label the knowledge cycling process. The notion of knowledge cycling refers to the intentional and scheduled rotation of individuals among problem-solving contexts to allow for the transfer of knowledge. The article contributes to the literature on knowledge transfer in technical consulting, especially by recognizing the role of the individual as an agent in the transfer of knowledge, and the rotation among assignments as a critical component to stay current and be able to participate in the process of knowledge cycling.

Keyword [en]
Temporary organizing, technical consultants, knowledge transfer, labor mobility, knowledge cycling
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118495OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-118495DiVA: diva2:814962
Available from: 2015-05-28 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Swift transition and knowledge cycling: A study of knowledge transfer in technical consulting
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Swift transition and knowledge cycling: A study of knowledge transfer in technical consulting
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The prominent shifts towards greater flexibility in work arrangements as well as in organizational forms have had profound effects on the labor market for engineers, and given rise to the technical consulting industry. The technical consulting firm is becoming increasingly important in many technology-based industries, as a growing number of technology-based firms rely on technical consulting firms to produce their outputs. In that respect, the technical consulting firm is an important actor for the organization and development of engineering knowledge, as well as for the transfer of knowledge to and among technology-based firms. However, despite its growing importance, the technical consulting firm has received scant scholarly attention. Hence, the purpose of this thesis is to enhance the understanding of the roles of the technical consulting firm and the technical consultants for the transfer of knowledge among problem-solving contexts and client organizations.

This thesis is comprised of a compilation of three papers and an extended summary. It draws upon a qualitative single-case study in one of Scandinavia’s leading technical consulting firms. This thesis takes a multilevel perspective, and utilizes an embedded case study design to study both the organizational and the individual level of analysis. In total, it builds on 54 interviews with managers and consultants, 14 observations of a competence development program for engineers who are in the beginning of their careers as technical consultants, and 2 workshops with managers.

This thesis identifies two primary capabilities, developed through the interaction between the firm and the individual level: swift transition and knowledge cycling. The findings indicate that the link between the respective capabilities creates the foundation for the successful organization of engineering knowledge. Hence, these capabilities illustrate that the technical consulting firm has other roles to play than merely solving the problem of numerical and functional flexibility. Moreover, this thesis develops the process of knowledge cycling. The knowledge cycling process addresses the role of the individual consultant in the transfer of knowledge within and among problem-solving contexts, and consists of three distinct knowledge processes found prominent during the different phases of a consulting assignment: (1) knowledge acquisition, (2) knowledge integration, and (3) knowledge transfer. Furthermore, this thesis provides insight into how formal training affects the technical consultants’ ability to transfer knowledge. The findings suggest that this ability is developed through a three-stage process: (1) identifying the core of an assignment, (2) broadening the scope of action, and (3) becoming more self-confident in the role of consultant.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. 70 p.
Series
FiF-avhandling - Filosofiska fakulteten – Linköpings universitet, ISSN 1401-4637 ; 114
Keyword
Professional service firm, technical consulting firm, technical consultants, mobile engineers, knowledge transfer, mobility, swift transition, knowledge cycling, formal training
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118497 (URN)10.3384/lic.diva-118497 (DOI)978-91-7519-044-0 (print) (ISBN)
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-05-29 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29Bibliographically approved

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Pantic-Dragisic, SvjetlanaSöderlund, Jonas
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