Knowledge and Knowing Revisited – A Diffractive Analysis of Service Delivery in an IT Consultancy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Despite their shared origin in the critique of the conceptualisation of organisational knowledge expressed in strategic management literature, common socio-constructionist ontological assumptions and initial enthusiasm towards inter-disciplinary dialogue, interaction between possession- and practice-based approaches to the study of organisational knowledge has been relatively limited and often alienating. This thesis attempts to reverse this historical tendency and reinvigorate discourse between them. It achieves this objective through a diffractive analysis of service delivery at an IT consultancy.

Diffractive analysis is an abductive approach to qualitative data analysis. It entails interpreting the same empirical material, which in the current study comprises interviews, documents and non-participant observations, using a selection of theoretical lenses. The lenses used in the current research are based on three theoretical perspectives derived from the extant literature. Drawing on their core concepts, I label them 'knowledge-creation theory' (KCT), 'communities of practice' (CoP) and 'landscape of practices' (LoP), respectively. KCT is associated with possession-based theorising, whereas the CoP and LoP perspectives are exemplars of practice-based theorising.

Each of the theoretical interpretations resulting from the analysis elucidates a different understanding of service delivery at the case study organisation, whilst also extending the theory from which it has been derived. The complementarity of the three interpretations, whereby they enable understanding service delivery in greater depth and, in doing so, help overcome each other's limitations, demonstrates that intellectually-stimulating dialogue between possession- and practice-based theorising is not only possible, but also desirable.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
  • Allen, Matthew, Supervisor, External person
  • Miozzo, Marcela, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Communities of practice
  • Knowledge-intensive business services
  • Diffractive analysis
  • KIBS
  • Knowing
  • Knowledge
  • Knowledge creation theory


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