University of Oulu

Knowledge creation and organizational learning in communities of practice: an empirical analysis of a healthcare organization

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Author: Lämsä, Tuija1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2008
Publish Date: 2008-04-29
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of the University of Oulu, for public defence in Auditorium TA105, Linnanmaa, on May 9th, 2008, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Päivi Eriksson
Docent Pertti Tiittula


The purpose of this research is to study knowledge management in the context of organizational learning as a process in communities of practice. The aim of the study is to examine the ways in which knowledge is created and managed, and how organizational learning works as a process in communities of practice in order to offer some further insight into improving and developing the management of knowledge, know-how and organizational learning.

Knowledge and learning are at the heart of strategic thinking and success in the new economy. Much of knowledge is embedded in practice, and therefore professions have organized their learning processes in ways that facilitate the learning of tacit knowledge. By supporting learning and knowledge through fostering communities of practice, an organization can generate value for its business, in this case for the supply of effective rehabilitation work.

This study is inductive, emphasizing the fit between the grounded theory method and the exploratory case study research strategy. I have deliberately applied both in studying the phenomenon in question, organizational learning. Grounded theory is the inductive analytical approach used, whereas the exploratory case study strategy is utilized as a broader framework for drawing theoretical conclusions from the empirical material describing the organizational case under study.

The contribution of this study is both theoretical and empirical. The result is an abstract, refined and enriched picture of communities of practice. The multilevel framework of this study facilitated deeper understanding of the meaning of communities of practice in organizational learning and in managing knowledge and know-how. There exist two different worlds: the world of informal communities of practice and the world of the formal organization which interact with each other in many ways. Communities of practice are often also occupational communities. They perform various functions, but the ways in which these communities are structured and how they operate reveal that they focus mainly on one or two activities. According to the empirical findings, communities of practice are beneficial to the business in various ways, the community itself and to employees. My research highlighted that invisible, socially constructed knowledge has a greater tendency to flow within the case organization in comparison to explicit knowledge. The empirical results show that knowledge management is also inherently in the management of time — time was a critical factor in the efficient creation and sharing of knowledge and know-how.

The study developed a substantive framework to describe knowledge creation and organizational learning processes in communities of practice. By focusing on the social processes and seeing organizational learning as a process in communities of practice, I was able to look for new dimensions of learning as well as knowledge creation and utilization as local and emergent processes.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. G, Oeconomica
ISSN-E: 1796-2269
ISBN: 978-951-42-8779-4
ISBN Print: 978-951-42-8778-7
Issue: 32
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2008. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.