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School of Business | Department of Management and International Business | International Design Business Management (IDBM) | 2014
Thesis number: 13531
Beyond borders: Supporting virtual communities of practice for creating knowledge with stakeholders - Case: Martela Oyj
Author: Vettenranta, Inka
Title: Beyond borders: Supporting virtual communities of practice for creating knowledge with stakeholders - Case: Martela Oyj
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management and International Business
Academic subject: International Design Business Management (IDBM)
Index terms: johtaminen; management; yhteistyö; cooperation; tietotalous; knowledge economy; tietämyksenhallinta; knowledge management; yhteisöt; communities; verkostot; networks; virtuaalitodellisuus; virtual reality; arvoketju; value chain; huonekaluteollisuus; furniture industry; design management; design management
Pages: 117
Key terms: communities of practice; virtual communities of practice; value creation; inter-organizational collaboration

Knowledge, or the ability to create and assimilate it, plays a critical role in business success. However, as much if not most of the valuable knowledge companies need exists with customers and other stakeholders, a need has risen to tap into the knowledge assets beyond organizational borders. Communities of practice (CoPs) offer a useful tool in finding a solution to this problem by uniting people on the basis of shared interest, not organizational affiliation, focusing on collaborative knowledge creation and their ability to exist in virtual platforms overcoming restrictions of time and space.

This thesis, conducted as a case study for Martela Oyj, set out to investigate the potential of building a virtual community of practice (VCoP) between the company and its stakeholders and the putative added value provided for the actors involved.


The qualitative study used an abductive approach focusing on theory development rather than testing an existing model. The theoretical background of this thesis was built from several sources requiring an extensive investigation on the pertinent literature.

Empirical data was collected through participant observation, fourteen semi-­structured interviews with employees of the case company and their stakeholders, and a review of the results with two key case company representatives. The focus group of interviewees consisted of architects, interior architects and designers. The goal of the interviews was to map their current knowledge sharing needs and practices, how their relationship with Martela is built up, and to gain an understanding on the potential value the community could provide them and the company hosting it.


The data clearly indicates that the potential for supporting the development of a boundary-­spanning VCoP exists. In line with the theory of CoPs, communities were shown to form naturally within the organizations and across their boundaries due to the collaborative nature of the practices, and Martela was shown to act as one facilitator in this process. The proposed VCoP was considered potentially important and several ways for it to assist in meeting the challenges interior architects and architects face in finding and sharing knowledge and developing their skills and in providing value for Martela were uncovered. The main challenges in VCoP development remain organizational barriers potentially hindering knowledge sharing and motivating practitioners to participate.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.