The knowledge creation with view to innovation as a dynamic capability in competitive firms.

Author:Miguel, Lilian A.P.
 
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  1. INTRODUCTION

    The firms have different levels of competitiveness that turn them more competitive or less competitive. That could be related to intangible factors existing in the organizations, which create value, are rare and difficult to copied (WERNEFELT, 1984; BARNEY, 1991). Those intangible factors can be how the firms deal with the knowledge it has and creates. Two questions arise from that: which makes the firms be competitive nowadays, and which makes them deal differently with knowledge? One of the potential answers for those questions can be found in the literature, since several authors defend the innovation as a key factor to the competitiveness, what answers the first question (SCHUMPETER, 1934). The innovation is considered source of competitive advantage (PORTER, 1992). In order to innovation can happen, however, it is essential that the organizations are capable of dominate the organizational learning (NONAKA; TAKEUCHI, 1997). This answer conducted to the following research problem: How the organizational knowledge creation capability can become an organizational dynamic capability. As a technique it is considered the individual learning approaches, which lead to the organizational learning, that in turn conducts to the organizational knowledge, and finally to the innovation. The objective here is to verify if the knowledge creation with view to innovation acts as a dynamic capability and how it occurs.

    This study used an exploratory and quantitative research approach. It was necessary the comparison between organizations that had opposite competitive position in their markets. To determine that it was used the firm's official published information. A non probabilistic sample was used, for which it was applied a six-point Likert kind scale, assumed as an interval scale, and developed specially for this study. Descriptive statistics and factorial analysis were adopted to analyze the data gathered from the 105 questionnaires answered by the employees of prospected organizations in the product development area in eight different firms. The analysis permitted to point out predominant characteristics in the organizations considered more innovative, as well as in the organizations considered less innovative.

    The study corroborated the proposition that the organizational knowledge creation can be considered a dynamic capability as well as to outline an amplified organizational knowledge creation process in comparison to that proposed by Nonaka e Takeuchi (1997). This new process embodies the organizational learning inside a knowledge creation in a constructivist approach that contains two macro dimensions: the enabler conditions (challenge, commitment, decision process and orientation towards the external environment) and the knowledge conversion process.

  2. THEORETICAL SUPPORT

    Last century showed an increasing transformation. A Industrial Era claimed the capital and labor as the basic resources, which competences were based on technical aspects and fragmented work as the main source of productivity, emphasizing learning as a mere repository of information, as well as incremental changes DRUCKER, 1991, 1997, 2002; DAVENPORT, PRUSAK, 1998; STEWART, 1998).

    The Post-industrial Era reinforced the employment movement from the agricultural fields to the service area, amplifying the concept of work to something much higher than just surviving, given emphasis to the initiative attitude, to the risk consideration, to the continuous change and training. The globalization and the production offer lower than the market demand, promoted the change, i.e. the customers and consumers dictate the market rules, reinforcing the individual capacity of systemizing the knowledge as a main resource for the organizations, which saw the need of developing organizational competences based on the individual ones, to answer the transformation faced in the business environment (DRUCKER, 1991, 1997, 2002; DAVENPORT, PRUSAK, 1998; STEWART, 1998; PRAHALAD, HUMMEL, 1995).

    Later on, the Informational Era brought a revolution as a consequence of a world transformed in a global village, which the Canadian sociologist Marshal McLuhan anticipated almost three decades ago (SABBATINI, 1993). The globalization was consolidated through the electronic commerce and the Internet, emphasizing the knowledge as an element generator of technological innovation, now source of productivity. The man starts focusing his work in not only acquiring information, but also mainly in generating useful information, in order to produce the speed in the answer demanded by the market (DRUCKER, 1991, 1997, 2002; DAVENPORT, PRUSAK, 1998; STEWART, 1998; FLEURY, FLEURY, 2001; CAMPANARIO, 2002).

    The competitiveness implies the organizations need to create and renew their competitive advantages before their competitors, which occurs by the innovation in technologies as well as in management (PORTER, 1992). Innovation and competitiveness are related concepts coupled to firms and countries performance (FURTADO, 2001). The innovation capacity is an imperative so that the organizations keep their competitive level and grant they can survive. The organizations look for identifying internal and external competences difficult to be copied so that they can create and sustain their competitive advantages that require the existing competences besides the creation of new ones, as the markets change. A sustained competitive advantage demands that resources that are rare, valuable and difficult of being copied are developed by the organization, so that the firm can have a significant advantage before its competition. The phenomenon of replacing continuously the existing advantages for new ones was called by Schumpeter (1934) as "creative destruction", i.e. the competences must adequate to that change in the same speed they happen (SCHUMPETER, 1934; PENROSE, 1959; WILLIAMSON, 1975, 1985; BARNEY, 1986; NELSON; WINTER, 1982; TEECE, 1988; TEECE et al., 1994).

    As a counterpoint to Barney (1986) resource based view, with emphasis in the firm internal resources, Teece, Pisano and Shuen (1997) postulated that the resources that cannot be bought or sold without the firm is involved as a whole or in its units are considered strategic resources, since the essence of the competences and "capabilities"--term coined by those authors to define the combination of the ability with the organizational capacity--is embedded in the organizational processes. The appropriation of those capabilities by the firm transforming them in a competitive advantage depends on how the firm uses its assets (internal and market). Thus, those process outlined by the firm assets explain the "dynamic capabilities" essence and its competitive advantage (TEECE, PISANO, SHUEN, 1997). In the taxonomy created by those authors, the dynamic capabilities can be classified in three segments: positioning, process and orientation. The positioning capabilities relates to the organization alignment with its environment and has a strong component in the intellectual property, involving technological assets--intellectual property; complementary assets--e.g. commercialization; financial assets--e.g. cash flow; reputation assets--e.g. name, brand, image, structure--institutional assets--e.g. public policies, different in each country; and market assets (structure)--market positioning upon the market structure.

    The dynamic capabilities related to the management and organizational processes embody three holes: coordination and integration--information processing linking the market to the firm abilities; reconfiguration and transformation--the ability developed by the firm to change internally in order to reflect the changes in the environment; learning--considered the most important, since it enables the other ones to be effective and fast. The dynamic capabilities related to the firm orientation refer to the organization positioning--where the organization is able to go--it depends on where the organization is, the possibilities ahead and the technological opportunities--which can determine the firm positioning, as well as not being totally exogenous. The innovation is seen as a strong competitive advantage and it is based in the knowledge. To enable it the firm needs to have the ability of dominating the organizational learning process (NONAKA, TAKEUCHI, 1997), since the innovation base the knowledge and the continuous learning (LAZONICK, 2002; CASSIOLATO; LASTRES, 1998). To innovate, the organizations need to develop the capacity of creating knowledge--creation, diffusion and transformation in products, services and systems (NONAKA; TAKEUCHI, 1997; SABAN et al., 2000). The knowledge creation occurs through the learning process and nowadays it is critical mainly to the product life cycle shortening, as well as the aggressive demand for new products (HUGHES; CHAFIN, 1996).

    The organizations learning occur through the individuals (KIM, 1998). Mizukami (1986) suggested two sets of learning approaches, based on how the individual sees him/herself and the world around. The first one refers to the traditional-behaviorist approach that considers the existing knowledge transmission from one person to another and the man as a passive receptor, capable of accumulating and storage information. The second refers to...

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