Governance and Knowledge Exchange within and Between Epistemic Communities

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Governance and Knowledge Exchange within and Between Epistemic Communities

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Title: Governance and Knowledge Exchange within and Between Epistemic Communities
Author: Håkanson, Lars
Abstract: All knowledge is context dependent. The relevant context is the social community where it resides, i.e. the ‘epistemic community’ formed as groups of people define and legitimize the knowledge they possess. In the mutual engagement in a common enterprise, epistemic communities develop, maintain and nurture the codes, tools and theories that provide the basis of their practice. Commonalities of code, tools and theory facilitate both voluntary transfer and involuntary imitation of knowledge within communities, also ones spanning organizational boundaries. Conversely, knowledge transfer between different epistemic communities, whether desired or unintended, is often cumbersome and fraught with difficulties. In order to achieve effective integration and cooperation between its various professional communities and subcultures, firms must therefore undertake investments in boundary-spanning mechanisms. Since these investments are specific to the context in which they take place and to the transactions that they enable, they cannot easily be organized through arm’s length contracts. Firms exist because they have a relative advantage over markets in the integration of diverse knowledge. However, the associated capabilities need not translate into a relative advantage also in the transfer of knowledge, i.e. knowledge exchanged between members of the same epistemic community. Within communities, knowledge disseminates with relative ease both intentionally and through emulation. Knowledge thus acquired can generally be applied also outside the context of the exchange and the effort or investment expended in its acquisition is not transaction specific. The governance mode applied in such exchanges is therefore determined by strategic and contextual factors, including those of traditional transaction cost logic.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10398/6594
Date: 2004-12-27

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