The knowledge management literature offers knowledge ‘transfer’ and ‘transformation’ as mechanisms to tap into the diversity of knowledge that lies dispersed over organisations. However, it is difficult to transfer and transform knowledge across epistemic boundaries and, even if these processes were to unfold, specialisation could well be compromised. Based on in-depth studies carried out within two industrial research organisations, we describe an alternative mechanism for tapping into knowledge across boundaries. We call this ‘thinking along’, an interactive process that allows a person with a problem to tap into someone else’s knowledge base without them having to get involved in each others’ ways of knowing. In contrast to knowledge transfer and knowledge transformation, thinking along circumvents interpretative barriers, while retaining specialisation.
Keywords: industrial research, knowledge management, knowledge sharing, communities-of-practice, organisational knowledge, specialisation