Communities of practice, knowledge acquisition and innovation: a case study of science-based SMEs

Steven Pattinson, David Preece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose – Recent research into communities of practice (CoPs) has focused on large organizations, suggesting they can be constructed for the purposes of knowledge acquisition and innovation. The present study found that, for science-based SMEs, CoPs are more likely to emerge unplanned to support incremental innovation in the form of problem-solving activities. This paper aims to discuss these points.
Design/methodology/approach – Deploying a social constructionist research methodology, thematic template analysis was used to analyze 25 in-depth interviews conducted with a range of employees in six science-based SMEs.
Findings – Both intra and inter-organizational CoPs were leveraged for a variety of purposes, including knowledge acquisition and the enhancement of the organizations’ ability to generate innovative solutions.
Research limitations/implications – Whilst there is no claim for the representativeness of the sample in relation to the wider population of science-based firms, the paper offers new material and theorizing in a domain which has been dominated to date by a focus upon large organizations and a managerialist orientation.
Practical implications – A contextualized framework for the construction of CoPs in science-based SMEs has been developed from the findings of this study.
Originality/value – The role of CoPs in science-based SMEs and the factors that influence their success or failure have been neglected to date, and thus have received little attention in the literature. Yet CoPs, as we found, can contribute to knowledge acquisition and innovation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-121
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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