Chapter 2: Networks as the Organization Form of the Knowledge Economy
Ard-Pieter de Man This chapter provides a general background to the relationship between networks and knowledge. It argues that networks are the organization form of the knowledge economy for two reasons. First, competition in knowledge forces companies to focus on increasingly narrow areas of knowledge in which they are able to maintain a competitive edge. This simultaneously increases the need to collaborate with other companies in other knowledge areas in order to deliver a complete product or service to customers. Knowledge access links are suﬃcient to achieve this. This leads to modular networks. Second, learning from other companies has become a necessity to upgrade existing competencies. This requires more intense forms of collaboration with other companies to achieve knowledge exchange. Learning may lead to either social capital or structural hole types of networks. TOWARDS A NETWORK ECONOMY An increasing number of innovations are not developed inside one company, but require collaboration between companies. More and more, collaboration leads to an economy in which networking becomes the most characteristic feature of business organization. Intensive supply relationships, joint ventures, outsourcing, minority holdings and contractual alliances have become so common that many companies have become interconnected, either directly or via partners. This phenomenon is called a network. Networks exist when companies are directly or indirectly related through one or more collaborative agreements between them. The trend towards networks can be found back at industry level. An example is the ﬂat screen industry. Figure 2.1 shows the collaborative agreements announced between companies in...
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