Knowledge creation at the first tier level of the supply chain : an application of the SECI model

Kaplan, Lewis (2008-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


Nonaka and Takeuchi’s SECI model has been used as the theoretical basis for the analysis of knowledge creation and development within supply chains. The model has not been adjusted but utilised to examine the phenomenon of knowledge creation at the first-tier level of suppliers of food in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Strategically, knowledge creation and development could be viewed as a major competitive advantage within the local, national and global business environments. This study examined the convergence of supply chain management, strategy and knowledge management with a view to detecting common threads of importance for knowledge creation. The Nonaka and Takeuchi studies focus on knowledge creation intra-organisationally not inter-organisationally. Competition today is usually between supply chains, rather than between individual retailers or retail chains. Organisations who are not members of supply chains do not usually enjoy the same form of competitive advantages as those who are. The writers created an opportunity to investigate the validity of the model outside of Japan and outside of the boundaries of an organisation. The phenomenon of this study has been a focus at the supplier-buyer interface and their ability, whether consciously or unconsciously, to create and develop knowledge about each other’s operations in order to ensure a sustained and competitive business environment. The investigation was limited to the major food supply chains in the Durban Metropolitan Region of KZN, and conducted using a questionnaire as the main research instrument. A comparative study of two groups was undertaken, that of the suppliers and buyers. The initial questionnaire was tested in face-to-face interviews with a number of buyers and suppliers to seek their interpretation of the questions. As a result of the interviews, the syntax of a few questions was adjusted for improved understanding by future respondents. The suppliers were given very similar questionnaires to the buyers. The difference between the two groups of questionnaires was that each set of questions made references to the other group. The questionnaire was divided in two sections, namely biographical and the research questions. The suppliers and buyers were not made aware of the other respondents in the study. Approximately 300 questionnaires were handed out, with 220 being completed and returned for data capturing. The major difficulty was to encourage individuals to complete and return the questionnaires. SPSS software was used for the analysis data captured. The results which were developed illustrated a number of interesting and important outcomes of the thinking and actions of both groups of respondents. 1. Nonaka and Takeuchi’s SECI model was relevant as a theoretical basis for the study of knowledge creation, inter-organisationally. 2. Both groups showed that they developed knowledge in conjunction with first-tier organisations. 3. Organisational planning was not usually undertaken in isolation of the supply chain. 4. Continuing education and training is encouraged. 5. There was a strong correlation in the thinking and ideas of the respondents. The framework of the theoretical model has thus proven to be a useful tool for the examination of knowledge creation within supply chains.

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