The role of knowledge sharing in fostering innovation in higher education : a case study of Tallinn University


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Høgskolen i Oslo. Avdeling for journalistikk, bibliotek- og informasjonsvitenskap

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Joint Master Degree in Digital Library Learning (DILL)


The system of higher education is undergoing heightened evaluation and reform in a number of countries. These reforms have included embracing knowledge sharing to improve organizational performance. Realizing that in this era, innovation would be counted as being part of organization success for the higher education sector, this study was aimed at investigating whether higher education institutes have taken knowledge sharing on board for its own sake or for the sake of fostering innovation to maximize competitive advantage. This study was guided by the interpretivist theoretical perspective and therefore followed a qualitative approach. The case study method was employed in order to profoundly understand the phenomenon of knowledge sharing and how it fosters innovation in a public university. In-depth interviews were used as the principle data collection technique alongside observation and document analysis. Snowball sampling was used for obtaining the sample for the study, whereby each participant pointed to the next potential interviewee as the study progressed. Sampling was terminated when no new information was obtained via new interviewees. This happened after the researcher had interviewed 15 interviewees. The constant comparative method of analysis was used for analyzing the data. The formation of categories was done basing on raw data as illustrated in the grounded theory of Glaser and Strauss. The findings show that staff at Tallinn University share knowledge but also acknowledged that they can do better. According to the results, staff not only share knowledge with colleagues at the university, but also with colleagues from other universities and professionals in the private sector. The results also revealed that they shared knowledge in different ways which included face to face communication, using digital tools and by use of non digital tools. Most interviewees‟ perceived innovation mainly as something new that never existed before but also as something that has been redesigned or modified from its original state. The results showed that innovations in form of products are as important as innovation in form of processes. The findings further revealed that innovation is easily achieved when people of different professional backgrounds share knowledge. The findings show that knowledge sharing does not stop at contributing to the realization of innovation but also continues after the innovation is achieved to effect its implementation or adoption. The findings also highlighted the factors that affect knowledge sharing at the university and these included organizational culture, incentives for innovation, availability of social meeting places commitment from management and sensitization.


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