Knowledge Management and Innovation in Health Care

H. Scarbrough, M. Robertson, and J. Swan (UK)


knowledge, innovation, community, healthcare


This paper aims to explore the relevance of different approaches to Knowledge Management (KM) for the management of innovation. It begins with a discussion of the links between the increasing pressures for innovation and the rise of KM practices, and highlights the relative effectiveness of IT-based versus community-based approaches to the innovation process. Through an analysis of the innovation process we seek to identify the implications of a community-based approach and analyse its most critical characteristics. In particular we discuss the inter-community interactions involved in innovation and the importance of what can be termed `knowledge communities' in advancing innovations. This account is then further developed through a case-study of the development of a process innovation in a UK hospital. In our case-study, a knowledge community was developed around the innovation which enabled the sharing of knowledge across professional communities. This was critical to the success of the innovation. The case cannot be seen as a test of the value of IT-based approaches to KM since IT systems were relatively insignificant in this innovation. However, by highlighting the social processes involved in inter-community knowledge-sharing, the case does suggest that there are many instances where tacit knowledge, trust and the development of a community approach may be more valuable for innovation than the capture and transmission of explicit knowledge.

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