The Role of a Knowledge-centric Capability in Innovation: A Case Study (Book Chapter)


The ability to provide an organisational context for the creation, sharing and integration of knowledge, called the knowledge-centric capability, is a key strategic resource of an organisation and an enabler of innovation. This view is informed by dynamic capabilities, which focus on the ability of an organisation to modify and renew its resource base by creating, integrating, recombining and releasing its resources in order to adapt to current changes or to effect change in its environment. A knowledge-centric capability comprises three core elements that enable innovation. Organisational intent is the resolve of an organisation to provide the context in which knowledge can serve as a strategic resource in the organisation. Knowledge orientation is the way in which an organisation orientates itself towards its knowledge environment in terms of knowledge types and the role of knowledge in the organisation. Enactment includes elements of knowledge coordination, creation, use and integration. We review how the extent to which the three core elements are present in an organisation could give an indication of the organisation’s ability to innovate by comparing these insights with the practices of Fundamo, one of the world’s leading specialist mobile financial services companies.

 Marié Cruywagen, J. Swart, W.R. Gevers.


 Book Chapter

  2012. Knowledge Management Innovations for Interdisciplinary Education: Organizational Applications. IGI Global.

 knowledge management, knowledge-centric organisations, knowledge-centric capabilities

 Read book chapter here

Knowledge-centric Capabilities: A Configurational Approach (PhD Dissertation)


During the past 15 years knowledge management has emerged as a key new organisational practice with numerous organisations implementing processes aimed at facilitating knowledge creation, integration and sharing. With knowledge management positioned as a strategic imperative, numerous studies have explored its resource-base and management alternatives. These studies have played an important role in establishing knowledge management as a field of inquiry within the business sciences, but a number of weaknesses put knowledge management at risk of becoming another passing fad. Previous research tends to prescribe a tool, method or way of looking at knowledge while disregarding any differences in organisational context and displaying little attempt to differentiate organisations in a meaningful way. This assumed homogeneity constitutes a deficiency in knowledge management research. The knowledge-based view of the firm emphasises distinct knowledge as the key source of firm heterogeneity, and the role of the organisation as that of knowledge creation. This view largely ignores the personal and social nature of knowledge, and the role of the firm in providing the organisational context for creating, sharing and integrating knowledge. Knowledge management, as an embodiment of the knowledge-based view, thus also fails to explore organisational context as a possible source of competitive advantage, thereby limiting the potential of knowledge management initiatives. The central theme of the study is that the capacity to provide an institutional context for the creation, sharing and integration of knowledge, henceforth the knowledge-centric capability, rather than distinct knowledge, is the key strategic resource of the organisation. The objective of the study therefore is to understand how different knowledge-centric capabilities configure in different organisational contexts. The objective is achieved by addressing three research questions, namely what dimensions can be used to describe a knowledge-centric capability, what configurations of knowledge-centric capabilities emerge in different organisational contexts, and why do specific configurations of knowledge-centric capabilities emerge in specific organisational contexts? Considering the philosophical foundations of the study, namely knowledge as personal, social and context-specific and the organisation as an open, adaptive system, the study follows a social constructionist research philosophy. The study’s focus on identifying emerging patterns or configurations of knowledge-centric capabilities necessitates a configurational research approach. This allows the study to move beyond uncovering relationships that hold across all organisations, affording the opportunity to identify multi-dimensional constellations of conceptually distinct characteristics that commonly occur together. A sequential mixed-method research methodology is employed to address the research objective and research questions. First a conceptual framework is developed from the extant literature in order to identify the dimensions of a knowledge-centric capability. Next a theorydriven survey, based on the dimensions of the conceptual framework, is employed to obtain data from which the configurations of knowledge-centric capabilities are derived using cluster analysis. Finally, four case studies are presented to explain the emergence of the configurations within specific organisational contexts. This research is important for two main reasons. First, it addresses the identified shortcoming of existing research by providing a mechanism to explore an organisation’s knowledgecentric capability following a context-sensitive approach. Second, the research demonstrates that knowledge-centric capabilities can indeed be used to differentiate between organisations at a strategic level.

 Marié Cruywagen, J. Swart, W.R. Gevers.


 University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

  Thesis: PhD – Business Management,

 knowledge management, knowledge-centric organisations, configurational approach, systems thinking

 Download thesis here

One Size Does Not Fit All - Towards a Typology of Knowledge-centric Organizations (Published Paper)


Organisations are increasingly turning their attention to the creation and use of knowledge as a strategic resource. Too often however, knowledge management initiatives fail to deliver the competitive advantage expected from a strategic resource. The knowledge management literature is characterised by frameworks for knowledge management implementation which tend to prescribe best-practice methods to a large range of companies. Although useful, a key weakness of these frameworks is their inability to account for contextual differences. Consequently many organisations attempt to apply a knowledge management framework that simply doesn’t fit the organisational context resulting in little or no benefit from their efforts. A shift in focus from best practice to best fit is necessary to account for the difference in organisational contexts.

Systems thinking emphasises context as an important element in understanding a system, and five concepts from systems theory are used to define the criteria for establishing a best-fit approach. A social constructionist approach to the research further affords the opportunity to identify areas of significant variation in knowledge management context and practices within knowledge-centric organisations. A multi-method research strategy, comprising cluster analysis and case study research, is proposed to develop insight into the emergence of different configurations of knowledge management capabilities within different organisational contexts.

The proposed conceptual framework forms the foundation for building a typology of knowledge-centric organisations which will enable organisations to choose the most appropriate approach to knowledge management based on their specific context which varies along the dimensions of their knowledge-orientation, knowledge management intent and knowledge management enactment.

 Marié Cruywagen, J. Swart, W.R. Gevers.


 4th International Conference on Knowledge Mangement, Cape Town.

  2008. Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management. Volume 6, Issue 2, p 101-110.

 knowledge management, knowledge-centric organisations, typology, social constructionism, configurational approach, systems thinking

 Download paper here

A systems approach to knowledge management The contribution of a case-based approach in redressing the assumed homogeneity in knowledge management research (Conference Paper)


A knowledge management framework based on a systemic approach could redress the problem of assumed homogeneity in knowledge management research.  Such a systemic knowledge management framework will enable organisations to choose a knowledge management approach based on their own unique context and to design a knowledge management strategy that is based on the principles of systems theory.  A multi-method research strategy will allow for the development of the framework using both a questionnaire and a number of field studies.  Even though an inductive approach will be followed the credibility of the framework could still be asserted using the criteria set forth in the paper.

 Marié Cruywagen, J. Swart, W.R. Gevers.


 Paper read at the 15th EDAMBA Summer Academy, Soréze, France.

knowledge management, systems thinking, inductive research, multi-method approach

Understanding the Role of Enterprise Portals in Knowledge Management (Published Conference Paper)


Enterprise portals have grown well beyond their original use as simple gateways to information. Initially enterprise portals provided role-based access to content and applications, but today they provide the infrastructure to build communities of practice, shared team environments and communication and collaboration environments. These enterprise portal features seem to overlap with knowledge management requirements such as the ability to create, use and disseminate knowledge throughout an organisation. But does this apparent overlap constitute knowledge management? And if the answer is no, what else is required to implement knowledge management successfully? This paper investigates the complex nature of knowledge and presents the requirements for managing knowledge using an integrated knowledge life-cycle model as framework. The mapping of enterprise portal features to the requirements for managing knowledge is subsequently used to clarify the role of enterprise portals in knowledge management. This analysis highlights that enterprise portals are just a component within the technology dimension of knowledge management. Some of the other important dimensions of knowledge management include a strategically aligned knowledge management strategy, strong knowledge leadership within the organisation, a knowledge-creating and sharing culture, measurement of the performance of the knowledge management strategy, continuous learning within the organisation, a recognised body of organisational knowledge, and integrated organisational knowledge processes.

 Marié Cruywagen, L.C.H. Fourie, W.R. Gevers.


 7th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. Cape Town, South Africa.

 enterprise portals, knowledge management, knowledge management life-cycle