Developing Systems to Support Organisational Learning in Product Development Organisations


  • Brian Donnellan


Organizational Learning, New Product Development, Knowledge Management, Knowledge Management Systems


There are aspects of New Product Development (NPD) business processes that pose particularly difficult challenges to Organizational Learning systems. Short product and process life cycles compress the available time window for recouping the expenses associated with product development. Cross‑functional collaboration in product development organizations requires the merging of knowledge from diverse disciplinary and personal skills‑based perspectives. Cross‑institutional collaboration leads a requirement for knowledge to be combined from participants across multiple collaborating organizations. Transient existence in teams and high turnover results in a reduction in organizational knowledge unless there is a repository for knowledge rather than a dependence on knowledge which is situated in the minds of individuals. High rates of change in turbulent industries, such as electronics, motivates participants in NPD processes to effectively overcome these Organizational Learning challenges. The potential payoff includes time saved by not repeating mistakes and reuse of knowledge that leads to successful products and processes. IS research has paid little attention to NPD processes despite the fact that some IS appears to have the potential to have an impact in that area. Recent research completed by these researchers in Analog Devices Inc identified Organizational Learning challenges encountered by engineering teams in product development. This paper will report on these challenges and will describe how systems were developed to support organizational learning to support the product development process.



1 Dec 2003