The effects of global connectivity on knowledge complexity in the information age

John Cantwell, Jessica Salmon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Scholars have examined, in various ways, the complexity of knowledge in innovation. Recently, research has begun to focus on the role of a continuous process of knowledge recombination in our understanding of a changing structure of knowledge complexity and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, we also claim that this process may reflect changes in the underlying innovation paradigm, or in other words the arrival of the information age. Yet, little is known about how knowledge complexity is increasing in the broader context of globalization, in which the influence of a rising diversity of locational sources may feature more prominently. We consider how knowledge recombination that relies upon the global spread of innovation activities will affect our theory of the relationship through which earlier contributions to knowledge become inputs to subsequent knowledge building that generates more (or less) complex knowledge artifacts. We propose that knowledge complexity rises when recombined elements are sourced across two dimensions of distance simultaneously, namely when sources which are derived from (i) disparate knowledge fields and (ii) distinct geographic locations are combined. We thereby develop an international business perspective on knowledge complexity through recombination by better appreciating the processes that may be necessary when knowledge is combined along global value chains. We also suggest some implications for changing organizational forms by highlighting the value of connecting previously unconnected geographically distant elements, which suggests a greater potential for more informal and indirectly diffused knowledge-based connections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProgress in International Business Research
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProgress in International Business Research
ISSN (Print)1745-8862

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


  • Complexity theory
  • Global and local knowledge
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge complexity
  • Knowledge sourcing
  • Knowledge structures


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