Knowledge diffusion in contemporary R&D groups: Re-examining the role of the technological gatekeeper

  • Whelan E
  • Donnellan B
  • Golden W
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Abstract

Knowledge flows are the lifeblood of any R&D organisation. These firms are increasingly discovering that the knowledge they require is often located beyond their boundaries. In this paper, we investigate how R&D groups acquire and diffuse external knowledge and the role Internet technologies play in this process. The focus of our study is on the technological gatekeeper. Previous studies have found that gatekeepers are key nodes in the innovation process. These sporadic individuals have the skills to identify useful knowledge outside the firm and disseminate this among their local colleagues. However, much of the seminal gatekeeper research has been conducted over two decades ago. In the time since, there have been huge advances in ICT and especially Internet technologies. These technologies have dramatically altered how knowledge workers source and share their information. Our objective is to advance the gatekeeper theory into an era where the knowledge worker is saturated with information. Using case study methods, we examine knowledge flows in the R&D group of an Irish medical devices firm. Our results indicate that due to advances in Internet technology, the traditional gatekeeper no longer exists to any great extent. Instead, the modern R&D group acquires and diffuses external knowledge through a combination of a “Web star” and a “knowledge transformer.”

Author-supplied keywords

  • Internet
  • Web 2.0
  • knowledge management
  • social networks
  • technological gatekeeper

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Authors

  • Eoin Whelan

  • Brian Donnellan

  • Willie Golden

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