This article illustrates our concept of knowledge networks for growth, i.e. social networks that support companies’ growth strategy by their ability to share and create knowledge. We adapted the framework of intra-organizational networks to set up networks in three different growth areas: growth through the acquisition of external knowledge and its integration through merger and acquisitions; the support of internal innovation processes through the coordination of the innovation activities of independent business groups or units, and, lastly, growth through the integration of customers’ tacit knowledge in the internal innovation process.
The article first discusses which growth fields can be supported by special knowledge management activities and which prerequisites they require. Thereafter the reasons for knowledge networks being the correct choice with which to support companies’ growth strategy are elaborated on. Simultaneously, the organizational forms of communities of practice, communities of interest, project teams and formal knowledge networks are compared according to certain characteristics.
The next section describes how knowledge networks for growth function in practice. Three examples, derived from our research, illustrate the respective cases of a customer integration network, a post-merger integration network and an innovation coordination network. The examples are discussed according to the general components of knowledge networks and point out certain obstacles linked to the specific growth fields investigated. The section concludes by pointing out important components and their adaptation that might make the difference between success and failure.