Exploring the externalisation phase of knowledge creation in the medical technology sector

Michael O'Meara

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Organisational knowledge creation can be described as the process of eliciting, harnessing and amplifying knowledge created within the individual and linking this newly codified knowledge to an organisation’s existing knowledge system (Nonaka and von Krogh, 2009). The externalisation mode, which can be defined as the process of articulating tacit knowledge in to a more comprehensible explicit form in order for it to be understood by others, has been identified as a key area for future research. In light of the above, this study aims to explore the ways in which organisations manage the externalisation phase of knowledge creation in order to harness and codify tacit knowledge. The studied context is the medical technology sector. The research questions ask: How does the articulation and codification of tacit knowledge occur in the medical technology sector? What are the barriers and enabling conditions of the externalisation phase of knowledge creation? This study adopts an interpretive research method. As interpretive research involves interpreting and understanding experiences of people engaged in the knowledge creation process (Creswell, 1998), this approach offered the best opportunity to harness individual perceptions of the externalisation phase of knowledge creation (Robson, 2002). Guided by the literature review, a set of interview questions were created and piloted prior to interviewing 24 participants, across a selection of award-winning organisations in the Irish Medtech sector. The study syntheses a conceptual framework of the externalisation phase from existing literature (Figure 2.5) showing tacit knowledge as articulated by an individual and transferred to others through a series of shared understanding exchanges before it is codified. This framework is then refined following analysis of the findings (Figure 6.1) to identify articulation enabling conditions as the simultaneous presence of a knowledge sharing culture and an open communication environment and where the intersecting domain between articulation and translation enabling conditions is expanded. The study expands existing research relating to how the externalisation phase occurs including the barriers and enabling conditions that impact upon it within an organisational setting. The revised framework reasserts the perspective of knowledge as existing upon a continuum and details the environmental factors and articulation and translation enabling conditions required to make knowledge more explicit. The revised framework also expands the role of codification in promoting articulation and emphasises the involvement of employees in the process of recodification and in the refinement of existing codified knowledge in order that newly codified knowledge represents the original tacit meaning as accurately and as fully as is possible. The study offers a number of practical and theoretical recommendations. This research aligns with international research and investment strategy, which suggests that a manufacturing environment requires an innovative, skilled and adaptable workforce supported by a strong and efficient system for knowledge creation and diffusion, which helps companies respond more competitively to new global challenges. The research findings assist in harnessing transferrable and domain specific knowledge skills and may improve knowledge transfer. The research also aligns with the aims of the Irish Centre for Manufacturing Research (2016) as it moves to translate tacit knowledge within the workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Kelliher, Felicity, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Knowledge creation, knowledge management, medical technology sector


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