An empirical investigation into the antecedents of knowledge dissemination at the strategic business unit level

J.D. Bij, van der, X.M. Song, M.C.D.P. Weggeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge dissemination is of crucial importance for the strategic planning in new product development. Many new ideas stem from recombination of previously successful, disseminated actions, and knowledge dissemination offers a clear overview of market needs, technology developments, and competitors' actions. Moreover, in dynamic environments, where strategic planning has to be added by some kind of improvisation, knowledge dissemination leads to a high quality of improvisation. It leads to a quick awareness of external or internal surprises, gives an opportunity to learn quickly from the past, and compensates for a coordination mechanism instead of planning. The dissemination of knowledge does not always happen spontaneously. Especially, people with a technical background often are highly individualistic and do not disseminate knowledge naturally. So, this must be fostered by the organization. In management research, particularly on technology and innovation management, many facilitating factors have been identified that enhance communication. Intuitively, they also would seem useful in enhancing knowledge dissemination; however, these factors have not been tested empirically for this specific use. Research on knowledge and its management has not given much attention to the way knowledge in an organization is disseminated and the factors that can facilitate it. If such factors are mentioned, they are not tested empirically and their relative impact is not addressed. In this study we identified 17 important factors in enhancing knowledge dissemination and validated 10 of these factors empirically and determined their relative impact. We focused on technological knowledge in new product development—not on the project level but on the level of the strategic business unit. The field research comprised three parts. In the first step, we conducted in-depth interviews with research and development (R&D) managers and their supervisors to select the most important potential facilitating factors. In the second step, in-depth interviews with senior executives, information technology (IT) officers, and R&D experts were conducted to determine whether the constructs regarding knowledge dissemination and the potential facilitating factors had face validity. Finally, the potential factors were tested empirically in 277 U.S. high-technology firms at the strategic business unit (SBU) level. It was our intention to examine potential factors beyond the level of the particular project, so we looked for antecedents in an SBU environment with a longer-term impact. Our results indicate that individual commitment to the firm is very important to facilitate knowledge dissemination as well as organizational crises and risk-taking behavior. Individual commitment was found to have the greatest impact on the level of knowledge dissemination, followed by organizational crisis and risk-taking behavior. It is thus up to management to find new ways to control individual commitment. More research, however, is required to better understand the ways by which managerial interventions stimulates knowledge dissemination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-179
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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