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Innovation typology in tourism

Some implicit knowledge, however, is difficult to transform into explicit information. Trust and other social and personal relationships are seldom transferable (Lundvall 2004). Therefore, there is a need to invest in this type of tacit knowledge, which is acquired in experience-based relationships.

Jensen et al. (2007) also point out that not all tacit knowledge can be written down. It is difficult to transform expert skill into explicit information (Lundvall 2004). Explicit knowledge, however, is easier to transfer. Nevertheless, codification is not the only way to transfer knowledge. For instance, education and training embody knowledge in individuals (Jensen et al. 2007). With the mobility of human resources knowledge is transferred between organizations as well.

Explicit knowledge can be more appropriate for some activities, while other industries may rely more on tacit knowledge. In this respect, the tourism industry tends to produce more tacit knowledge than explicit. This is mainly influenced by the structure of the sector, which is principally formed by SME’s. At the macro level, however, tacit knowledge can be transformed into explicit, generalized knowledge.

Knowledge flows contribute to innovation performance. Therefore, production, identification, adaptation and transfer of relevant knowledge are crucial for competitiveness. Nevertheless, valuable knowledge requires an effort to be acquired. This can be applied to tacit knowledge, but also to codified. Several authors have indicated that the absorption of codified knowledge is seldom automatic (Jensen et al. 2007, Powell and Grodal 2005). Absorptive capacity or the capacity of identifying relevant knowledge, acquiring it and applying it plays here a major role. In this matter, innovative performance and absorptive capacity are correlated. Indeed, if innovative activity is improved inside organizations, this influences the capacity of organizations to adapt external knowledge.

Another classification that contributes to the subject of knowledge types is the one made by Asheim and Gertler (2005). They distinguish between synthetic knowledge base and analytical knowledge base. The approach of Asheim and Gertler is especially relevant because it takes into consideration knowledge characteristics, such as is tacitness or explicitness, as well as innovation characteristics, such as the degree of innovativeness. Furthermore, it relates each knowledge base with different types of industries.

First, synthetic knowledge base is usually used in industries that innovate through incremental changes. It is habitually generated in the interaction with customers and suppliers. Applied research is more relevant than basic research and tacit knowledge is more relevant than codified, since knowledge is habitually the outcome of learning by doing, using and interacting. Moreover, routines are not varied in a radical form through the use of this type of knowledge.

Next, analytical knowledge base can be found in industries that carry out science-based research. These industries tend to rely on the inputs from universities as well. The knowledge used is habitually codified. Knowledge processes are usually structured and organized. The creation of radical innovations is more frequent than in industries based on synthetic knowledge.


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