This article employs a qualitative approach to analyse the benefits of KIFs. It aims to determine and analyse factors relating to the integration of knowledge within an organisation to establish its level of relevance to the organisation. The article also draws inspiration from Human Resource policies of a firm and how they affect the barriers inherent in knowledge sharing in an organisation. The journal utilises information drawn from an inductive approach (interpretive perspective) (Gray 2004).
Do Knowledge Intensive Companies have a Competitive Advantage?
A number of theories have focussed on KIFs. Alvesson, (2007); Frenkel et al, (1999); Lei et al,( 1999) contend that companies which employ knowledge intensive skills often have a competitive advantage from the human and social capital involved in their trading assets. They contend that the human capital relates to the knowledge of the employees, while the social capital relates to the relationship that exists between those employees. KIFs are said to employ workers who have the intellectual know-how and high qualifications specific to the company which should give that company a competitive edge to others in the industry (Alvesson, 2000) Highly qualified employees of this nature are said to provide the human capital to the company which is most relevant to the its success. This implies that the company’s success relies on the tailored educational skills and knowledge of its employees. As reflected in the case study for Sofware Co, the company is aware that its business orientation relies heavily on the knowledge and skill of its employees and, as such, an investment in people management is highly important in order to structure business goals properly. A knowledge intensive firm can, therefore, be differentiated by its investment in human capital instead of physical capital. Bontis (1998) also agrees by suggesting that the quality of human capital is also highly important in providing innovation and new strategies in a company. The application of human capital makes an even more capital contribution to a KIF. However, the paper provides arguments against the notion of KIFs. Some researchers argue that the ability to share and distribute knowledge within a company to provide the social capital factor is impractical. The application of human capital has also been criticised, in that a company cannot be qualified as a KIF if its operations are standardised or if its operations are not highly problematic.
The case study examined depicts human resource management as important in the sharing and distribution of knowledge in the company. In Software co, knowledge networks were successfully created by recruiting the right employees, and the availability of specialist employees facilitated the ability for cultural and technical knowledge to be appropriately connected as a result of efficient decision making processes.
As mentioned earlier, the article employs grounded theory, which is consistent with the inductive approach to research: that is, moving from the specific to the general. This approach constitutes a non-statistical and non-quantitative method of inquiry and analysis of social phenomena. (Saunders et al, 2009) The inductive approach utilises themes drawn from an analysis of data collected through interviews, observations, videotapes, and even case studies. The sample for this approach is usually small and is selected on purpose. The qualitative approach uses detailed descriptions from the perspective of research participants to examine key issues and problems inherent in a study (Saunders et al, 2009). The journal demonstrates the relationship between KIFs and effectiveness in the market place by illustrating the case study of Software Co. The inductive approach allows the researcher to develop hypotheses based on the interpretation of human behaviour. (McRoy, ND). Taylor (1977) describes qualitative research as “naturalistic research” or “inquiry” into everyday living. In this case, it implies that human behaviour is studied by making direct observations in the everyday life of human beings. (Taylor, 1977; McRoy, ND). Based on the symbolic interaction theory postulated by Blumer (1969), it is a common belief among naturalistic researchers that knowledge gained through sources that have intimate familiarity with an issue is far better than the “objective distancing approach” that is employed in quantitative methods. (Haworth, 1984). Zurcher used this approach in 1983 to study the behaviour of passengers in an airplane and fans at a football game, (Zurcher, 1983). Another commonly used term associated with anthropology which is directly linked to qualitative research and thus the inductive approach is “ethnography”. (McRoy, ND). This term is used to describe a field study of a particular site or population undertaken with the objective of better understanding the culture from the perspective of that population. (McRoy, ND). Teams of researchers in ethnographic studies collect data from subjects by observing and interviewing the subjects over a period of time. (McRoy, ND). The study has employed grounded theory which is consistent with the inductive approach.
The research method utilised in this article, as earlier mentioned, is the inductive approach, by means of the case study. This approach is relevant to the study because it is based on analysing information from a company and obtaining results. However, the analysis was arguably not properly conducted as information included in the article about the case study was merely a description of the activities on the company. The article actually contains only the views of the manager of the company too, and it is obvious that these views may be biased; they are certainly limited because the views of other employees may also be important and even contradict the manager’s. A questionnaire would have been best suited for this purpose; a number of employees should have filled in well tailored questionnaires, for instance. This would have been appropriate, in that information provided would be extensive because of a huge number of respondents The strength of this paper is the fact that the information analysed was depicted in a coherent manner and arguments were provided for in the theoretical of discussion of KIFs. However, the paper fails to address the downside of utilising human capital in Software Co. The arguments in the theory provided in the case study are, however, unclear.
The paper meets its desired objective except for the fact that more information would have been gained by using a questionnaire to gather data from a range of people in the company. The study focused only on the management. Thus, the conclusions are based solely on the manager’s views and do not express the views of other employees. It is possible, or probable, that different results may be arrived at by collecting data from other employees of the company as well.
Saunders, M; Lewis, P; Thornhill, A (2009) Research Methods for Business Studies. 5th Edition Pearson Education Limited
Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
McRoy, R. G. (ND). Qualitative Research. Available online at: http://www.uncp.edu/home/marson/qualitative_research.html
Taylor, J. (1977). Toward alternative forms of social work research: The case for naturalistic methods. Journal of Social Welfare, 4(2–3), 119–126.
Zurcher, L. A. (1983). Social roles: Conformity, conflict, and creativity. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.