The "documentation paradox" - on knowledge reuse through document repositories in R&D organizations
Paper i proceeding, 2014

Document repositories are a central tool for large R&D organisations. The purpose of those repositories is to be able to reuse information. Yet, it is common from an engineering perspective to consider them as “black holes”, i.e. countless documents go into them, but the leverage of the stored information is non-obvious. This paper intends to take a more critical stance towards the input of information into the repositories, especially regarding whether there is a clear recipient of the documents, which is not necessarily the case. The conditions for reuse of information are highly dependent on for whom the information is documented, and the recipient is pointed out as crucial in the reuse process. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the document creator’s awareness of the intended recipient when creating documentation. 35 in-depth interviews with engineers and managers at four large R&D organisations were conducted to investigate the potential for reuse of information. A main finding is that even though it is of great importance for successful information transfer to have a good perception of who the recipient is, a common reason for creating and storing documentation in repositories is that the recipient is unknown. In this paper, this is referred to as the “documentation paradox”. As identified in other studies, if the recipient had been known, a personalization approach had been preferred in most cases. The findings contribute empirically to theory on the use of document repositories, and provide R&D managers and Knowledge Management officers with a potential to improve the reuse of information.


Ludvig Lindlöf

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Supply and Operations Management

Proceedings of R&D Management conference 2014, Stuttgart, Germany

978-3-8396-0746-6 (ISBN)


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