Exploration of Knowledge Sharing Challenges in Value Networks: a Case Study in the Finnish Grocery Industry


  • Hanna Timonen
  • Jari Ylitalo


knowledge sharing, knowledge sharing challenges, value networks, collaboration, case studies


Business activities are increasingly organized through networks. This article considers the value network of the Finnish grocery industry, a network where the web of relationships between two or more companies creates tangible and intangible value through the complex and dynamic exchanges. In value networks the relationships between the participants of the network tend to be more complex than the traditional make‑buy‑relationships, as companies create value together through different types of relationships such as deep buyer‑supplier‑relationships or strategic partnerships. This variance in the nature and level of collaborative relationships poses new challenges to knowledge sharing. Complementing previous research on the challenges to knowledge sharing in other network settings, this article explores the knowledge sharing challenges specific to value networks based on a qualitative case study about the value network of the Finnish grocery industry. The data consists of 32 thematic interviews of top and upper management representatives from 16 companies in the value network. The results show that the current collaborative relationships in the Finnish grocery industry are functional and working, but mostly just traditional "arms‑length" buyer‑supplier‑relationships. However, the challenges to knowledge sharing seem to be somewhat different to those present in other network settings. The challenges to knowledge sharing in value networks do not seem to concern so much the opportunities for knowledge sharing, but the motivational and cultural factors affecting what knowledge is shared and how much knowledge is shared. Based on these results, the knowledge sharing challenges of the value network can be crystallized under three points. First, the focus of knowledge sharing has been on information, and the organizational arrangements do not encourage the sharing of valuable know‑how. Second, the organizational cultures and top management directives do not encourage external knowledge sharing, and therefore knowledge is not shared. And third, the experiences of past abuses of trust and the retail groups renewed focus on price bargaining undermine the trust between the companies, thus inhibiting knowledge sharing.



1 Dec 2007



General Paper