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Discourses on knowledge and innovation : stories from shell global solutions

This thesis departs on a trip into discourses of knowledge and innovation in postindustrial societies and knowledge-based organizations, and investigates the value of knowledge and the question of innovation management in a fully commercial environment. The gaining momentum the discourses on the value of knowledge in today's post-industrial societies and on the significance of innovation for knowledgebased organizations has attracted the attention of both practitioners and academics. The structural and discursive transformations it has caused so far indicate that it is a phenomenon that needs be further studied. This thesis explores the transformations the disciplinary discourse of knowledge and innovation management causes in the research language game and the practices organizations develop in order to support the creation of new knowledge, and questions whether innovation can be adequately supported in a fully commercial environment. In contrast with most of the mainstream approaches to study innovation management, which assume the rationality of managers and the controllability of knowledge and of the related processes, this research chooses as starting point to critically examine these assumptions before we proceed with further suggestions on how to manage knowledge. Thus, the project starts by examining the nature of knowledge and the disciplinary discourses that shape our understanding of what knowledge is, and consequendy how it should be supported. The research clearly adopts a discourse-centered approach to both the study of these phenomena and the interpretation of the empirical findings. In other words, it assumes that discourses are constructed by social and organizational realities, as well as in local interactions, and recursively they transform them. Through these theoretical lenses, the influential discourse that describes knowledge in organizations as their most valuable asset to improve performance and profits, in other words, the discourse that equals knowledge to power creates a contested arena, where the groups and individuals involved want to take control over this valuable resource. Thus, the rhetoric of the free knowledge-sharing, which is based on the assumptions of trust and collaboration, is flawed, together with the technical models it suggests for innovation management. This thesis argues for the significance of addressing the political games and power struggles enacted in managing innovation processes, which result from the opportunity certain groups see to acquire or extend their control over valuable resources; the rationalistic models so far neglect this dimension of organizational life, or when they address the politics of innovation, they reduce it either to the individual's ability to negotiate and convince others about the value of the innovation, and/or to the social network that supports the 'innovation hero'. The empirical part of the project, conducted in two Business Groups of a technology knowledge-based organization, i.e. Shell Global Solutions, studies two different innovation mechanisms, which were based on two different models of innovation management, and demonstrates that both mechanisms fail to achieve the expected results, because they neglect the political dimension of organizational reality. The research applied a range of qualitative data collection techniques, i.e. in-depth interviews, non-participant observations and documentary analysis, seeking the way multiple realities are discursively constructed and co-exist within the same context. Finally, the thesis discusses the conditions under which long-term and uncertain innovation can be supported in a fully commercial environment.
Date January 2004
CreatorsAsimakou, Theodora
PublisherUniversity of Manchester
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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