DOI: 10.1287/orsc.13.4.442.2953 ISSN:

A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development

Paul R. Carlile
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management

This study explores the premise that knowledge in new product development proves both a barrier to and a source of innovation. To understand the problematic nature of knowledge and the boundaries that result, an ethnographic study was used to understand how knowledge is structured differently across the four primary functions that are dependent on each other in the creation and production of a high-volume product. A pragmatic view of 'knowledge in practice' is developed, describing knowledge as localized, embedded, and invested within a function and how, when working across functions, consequences often arise that generate problematic knowledge boundaries. The use of a boundary object is then described as a means of representing, learning about, and transforming knowledge to resolve the consequences that exist at a given boundary. Finally, this pragmatic view of knowledge and boundaries is proposed as a framework to revisit the differentiation and integration of knowledge.