UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creating knowledge in a small business: a qualitative case study Allan, Suzanne Christine


This study investigates how knowledge is created in a small business organization. Knowledge creation refers to organizational learning which results in innovation. The research design was a qualitative, single site case study of three firms in the point of sale industry. Data collection took place during a six month field study and employed multiple methods including participant observations, interviews, document reviews, and field journal entries. The study was informed by a conceptual framework which focused on the importance of both tacit and explicit knowledge forms, multiple modes of knowledge conversion (socialization, externalization, combination, internalization), and a knowledge spiraling process. Six themes emerged from the data. The first theme, "the people are the business" indicated that individuals become a knowledge creating structure that transcends office boundaries. A second theme, "we just spend tons of time talking", emphasized the importance of dialogue and informal communication structures to the sharing of tacit knowledge. A third theme, "there hasn't been a new idea in a million years", illustrated the predominance of incremental rather than radical innovation, the strategy of mimicking concept successes, and the importance of learning with other organizations through strategic alliances. A fourth theme, "you learn from your mistakes", represented the experiential nature of learning within the firm. A fifth theme, "it's one of those crystal ball kind of things" depicted the intuitive nature of personal knowledge and its limitations. Finally, the sixth theme, "a day late and a dollar short" explored how time and money pressures both enhance and hinder knowledge creation within a small business context. By comparing the themes to the conceptual framework the study concluded that small business organizations create knowledge in accordance with the nature of interpersonal interactions as they occur in context. The theoretical knowledge spiral was reconceptualized as a web structure in order to accommodate more diversity of approaches to knowledge creation and the complex nature of innovations.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.