Mounir Kehal
Information Technology and Decision Making Research Group, International University of Monaco
2 Avenue Prince Albert II, Principality of Monaco, 98000
Keywords: Knowledge Management, Corpus-based Analysis, Observational Study, Knowledge Diffusion, Text
Abstract: Formats to handle knowledge of innovative organizations may prove to be complex, as such is assumed to
be one of the main variables whilst a distinguishing factor of such organizations to survive within a
marketplace. Their main asset is the knowledge of certain highly motivated individuals that appear to share
a common vision for the continuity of the organization. Satellite technology is a good example of that. From
early pioneers to modern day mini/micro satellites and nanotechnologies, one can see a large amount of risk
at every stage in the development of a satellite technology, from inception to design phase, from design to
delivery, from lessons learnt from failures to those learnt from successes, and from revisions to design and
development of successful satellites. In their groundbreaking book The Knowledge Creating Company
(1995), Nonaka et al laid out a model of how organisational knowledge is created through four conversion
processes, being from: tacit to explicit (externalisation), explicit to tacit (internalisation), tacit to tacit
(socialisation), and explicit to explicit (combination). Key to this model is the authors’ assertion that none
are individually sufficient. All must be present to fuel one another. However, such knowledge creation and
diffusion was thought to have manifested and only applied within large organizations and conglomerates.
Observational (questionnaire-based) and systematic (corpus-based) studies – through case study elicitation
experiments and analysis of specialist text, can support research in knowledge management. Organizations
that manufacture, use, and maintain satellites depend on a continuous exchange of ideas, criticisms, and
congratulations. One can regard such organisations from NASA to SSTL as amongst a class of knowledge-
based organizations. Through selective use of the previously stated approaches, and concise reporting for
the purposes of this paper we are to show how knowledge flows in a finite organisational setting and could
be modelled by specialist text.
In order to investigate the gap in knowledge
diffusion within an organization we did carry an
observational study, within an SME (Small to
Medium Enterprise) in satellite manufacturing, a
specialist domain. Inline with a study of the
language used in satellite engineering in general, and
that stemming from SSTL (Surrey Satellite
Technology Limited) and Surrey Space Centre in
particular. Both studies have an empirical basis. The
observational study (mainly questionnaire-based)
was designed to ask questions related to knowledge
diffusion within the company and was initially based
on Liebowitz (Liebowitz, 2000). The questionnaire-
based studies were not based on intuitions on how
knowledge is managed, rather based on a set of
empirical questions, partitioned under five sections
1- Awareness and Commitment
2- External Environment
3- Information Technology
4- Knowledge Maintenance and Protection
5- Organizational Issues
We have investigated the diffusion of knowledge
within SSTL, based on the practice within SSTL, as
articulated through the questionnaire. There were
two sets of questionnaire-based observations. The
pilot study was conducted with managers and
whereas the second run of the questionnaire was
intranet-based, and more widespread. SSTL, is a
small knowledge-based organization, for
minimalism, a knowledge based organisation is one
where knowledge is being the dependent input
Kehal M. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - AIDSS, pages 49-56
DOI: 10.5220/0002344100490056
variable, as the need would exist for organisational
resources to acquire such knowledge from physical
entities (i.e. knowledge workers) and convert it as
input for electronic storage medium (s), making it
easier for retrieval and dissemination of information.
Thus, knowledge (encompassing data and
information) would be needed for creating and
offering a product and service line mix, including
that contained in individual employees and that in
SSTL (as a collective entity, expertise accumulated
over time). SSTL’s principal assets are its engineers,
its project managers and its researchers.
Collectively, the engineers, managers and
researchers are sometimes called knowledge creating
crew (Nonaka et al, 1995). In a rapidly developing,
high-technology field like satellite engineering, it is
important to communicate, share and validate
knowledge. We aim to describe in this paper our
understanding of the nature of a specialist
organization in a quantifiable manner, and the
constructs of a knowledge management audit
conducted through the observational study within a
satellite manufacturing SME, based in the UK. We
have examined how knowledge flows and is adapted
between commercial and research types of corpora.
One of the major results deduced from the
observational study was that knowledge diffusion is
paramount within the lifetime of an organization,
and could be supported by information systems.
Leading us to investigate on how knowledge
diffusion takes place, in an empirical way. Our
analysis shows that research papers (created within
educational institution) and commercial documents
(created within spin-offs of such higher education
institution) can be distinguished rather on the basis
of single word and compound terms. These two
specialist lexis show the potential for identifying
points of mutual interest in the diffusion of
knowledge from the research institution to the
commercialization process, thus to application(s)
within a domain.
Nonaka et al’s (1995) knowledge conversion model
is intuitive. It is based on long experience and
judgement. Such model emphasizes the importance
of practice, knowledge amongst knowledge workers.
The case studies produced were between
researchers, practitioners, and managers. There was
transfer of knowledge from researchers to
knowledge workers. Such has yielded a contingency
table for the transfer of knowledge, so-called
knowledge conversion model that generates four
knowledge conversion modes. Such model is
plausible but remains largely intuitive. Our interest
is tacit to explicit knowledge conversion
(externalization) and explicit to explicit knowledge
conversion (combination). The reason we have
studied an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise)
because it would appear that knowledge would be
shared because smaller groups would get together
easily, i.e. no logistics involved. As well as it
appears that in a SME knowledge bottlenecks which
are characteristic of large organizations would not
exist. Being in relation to the size of SMEs,
managers are expected to interact with and
understand needs and requirements of knowledge
workers. Consider an organization like SSTL,
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, we focused on
the interaction between knowledge engineers and
knowledge practitioners, and were aiming to see
how knowledge is shared. In order to investigate the
gap in knowledge diffusion within SSTL, we did an
observational study, and a study of language used in
satellite engineering in general. Both studies have an
empirical basis. A bimodal research method was
followed within the specialist domain of satellite
manufacturing applied within SMEs [Small to
Medium Enterprise]. Inclusive of:
- Observational study: questionnaire and interview
- Corpus-based study: analysis of text repositories.
Involving extraction and modelling of specialist
terminology collated from: public domain
publications (i.e. NASA, British Standards
Institute – Terminology Specification, and BMP -
Best Manufacturing Consortium database), and
specialist domain publications (i.e. Surrey Space
Centre and SSTL).
Knowledge Adaptation
Knowledge Flow
Figure 1: Knowledge diffusion through flow and
adaptation processes.
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Figure 1 represents a relational view of the
methodology, integrated within the possible set of
agents for knowledge diffusion, being composed of
a 2-tier process. Whereby knowledge is assumed to
flow among or across from knowledge workers, to
the organization, then to worldwide (horizontally),
but the adaptation phase comes into place once
knowledge is personalised and applied (vertically).
However, such methodology was implemented in
the specialist nature of the domain of investigation.
Yin (1994) identified five components of research
design that are important for case studies: the study's
questions, its propositions, its unit (s) of analysis, the
logic linking the data to the propositions, the criteria
for interpreting the findings.
The above components were integrated within the
observational study, as guidelines to the formulation
of the different stages involved within the conduct of
this research, from the pilot run of the survey study,
to the intranet-based survey and historical studies. In
which the intranet-based survey seemed to generate
interest, impact and a set of internal actions.
Table 1: Knowledge diffusion in the environment of a
small organization.
Agent A Agent B Artefact Technique
Person Person
l structures
based study
Person Organization
Text Analysis
Organization Organization
(i.e. technical
Text Analysis
Organization Worldwide
(i.e. technical
Text Analysis
Supported as well by over 30% participation rate for
the intranet-survey, and being composed mostly by
middle to senior managers. Evidence of knowledge
diffusion and support for it was manifested as
outlined in the table below.
Table 1 shows how knowledge bottlenecks have
been looked upon during the flow and adaptation of
knowledge amid agents involved in its diffusion.
Through the observational study and the historical
study, behaviour between agents was modelled using
the techniques prescribed below.
The intranet-based survey study had 5 sections,
stretching to cover possible areas of applications and
implications for knowledge diffusion within an
organization, namely - Knowledge Management
Awareness and Commitment, External Environment,
Information Technology, Knowledge Maintenance
and Protection, and Organizational Issues. On the
other hand, for our historical and special corpus, we
followed where applicable and pertinent, Atkins et
al’s (1992:2), five principal stages for corpus
building. Outlined in table 2:
Table 2: Stages for building a corpus (Atkins et al,
Stage Description
Specification and
Corpus type is identified taking into
account sample size, language
varieties and the time period to be
Hardware and
Hardware and software needs for
the corpus project are estimated.
Data capture and
The data/texts are captured and
transformed/transferred to electronic
form, keyboarding, or audio
transcription. The captured files are
then marked-up with embedded
codes containing text features.
Corpus processing
Includes basic tools, i.e. word
frequency lists, concordance, and
interactive standard query tools and
tools for lemmatization, tagging,
collocation etc.
Corpus growth and
New materials may be added to the
corpus or some of the old materials
may be deleted according to
feedback from previous analysis to
reach a balanced and enhanced
Specification and design of a corpus and its
processing are the most important steps in building
the corpus and for any kind of subsequent study.
Second and fourth stages are not so important due to
the technological advances in computer hardware
and software. The importance of the last stage
depends on the nature of the study. Studying the
state of the specialist terminology is considered
important for the study of the language discourse.
Corpus-based studies are empirical and depend on
both quantitative and qualitative analytical
techniques (Biber et al, 2002). Therefore to get
results have an important effect, the corpus must be
sampled and created carefully: “the decisions that
are taken about what is to be in the corpus, and how
the selection is to be organized, control almost
everything that happens subsequently. The results
are only as good as the corpus” (Sinclair, 1991:13).
The term knowledge management is used to
articulate the concept that knowledge is an asset on a
par with the tangible assets of any organisation -
land, capital, plant and machinery. Management
involves the management of assets; ergo knowledge
should be managed from its inception through its
nurturing to maturity to exploitation and to ultimate
obsolescence. The term was also coined to indicate
that knowledge within organisations is
communicated not only through the typical
organisational hierarchies but also through
interaction between members of the organisations
across the hierarchies and the different structures
(divisions/departments and their functions,
management style, communication culture,
computer-mediated processes, practices and so
forth) contained with an organization. The
questionnaire portrays through its five sections,
some of the concepts raised within the Knowledge
Management field, outlined in Section 1. Two runs
for the questionnaire-based study were conducted, a
pilot study, and an intranet-based study. The
majority of the respondents were knowledge
practitioners (i.e. team members). Over 80% from
the intranet-based questionnaire were as such, like
reported from the respective representative of the
study onsite, head of Research and Development at
SSTL. The key point was that the managers were
more optimistic and confident about extent of
knowledge sharing. Our analysis has been supported
by the feedback received from one of the key
managers cited previously. Our method is no more
then holding a mirror to an organization and what is
reflected is the management of knowledge within the
organization when looked upon from the five
different facets of the questionnaire sections (i.e.
awareness and commitment, external environment,
information technology, knowledge maintenance
and protection, and organizational issues). The
questionnaire study raises the need for a knowledge
map through both the pilot and intranet-based
observational studies, one that is specialist in nature.
That can represent the domain language providing
an environment for querying and validation for the
knowledge worker, and thus containment of both
elements of such knowledge (explicit and tacit).
Allowing as well for the knowledge conversion
modes (Nonaka, 1995) to take place, and hence
knowledge to be created and utilized. This may act
as basis for the research conducted on whether
SMEs do create the dynamics of innovation, as such
dynamics may need to encapsulate the sharing of the
domain knowledge (touted and supported by
knowledge workers), and thus embedded within the
domain’s ontology – referring to the explicit formal
specifications of the terms in the domain and
relations among them (Gruber, 1993). This part of
the research (observational/introspective) has
focused on the organizational structures
(management hierarchies, attribution and validation
of knowledge, and so forth) in place, enabling or
facilitating the diffusion of knowledge. Our
conclusions from this survey; based on the feedback
and responses received, affirm that knowledge
sharing is encouraged. As well as innovation being
encouraged either through collective or individual
effort(s), and facilitating knowledge sharing is
possible through availability of knowledge maps and
communication channels between multi disciplinary
teams for specialist areas. The above results, from
either the pilot study or the intranet-based studies;
have encouraged us to explore how a collection of
specialist documents will facilitate knowledge
diffusion and perhaps to construct knowledge map.
Text analysis should be taken to mean the analysis of
text by algorithmic processing, and that may involve
the computation of specialist lexis within a given or
emerging domain. An algorithm may be defined as a
step-by-step procedure capable of being run on a
computer, hence rendered automatic or
semiautomatic. Before it can actually be run,
however, the algorithm must be coded in some
computer language as part of a software program.
The tool currently used for the purposes of this
research is System Quirk, a computational linguistic
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software system providing a computer-mediated
environment for text analysis created by the
Artificial Intelligence Group, University of Surrey.
The compound terms generated through System
QUIRK/Ferret (Artificial Intelligence Group,
University of Surrey), illustrate to a certain extent
the composition and acceptance of frequent
specialist words within a text repository. As well
within the language of the domain and the domain
knowledge; since latent clusters of concepts, may be
represented by each of the compound terms (a
hierarchy of concepts through morphological
productivity of terms).
Table 3: Ranking of select compound terms in
SSTL/Surrey Space Centre corpora.
Rank Compound Term Rank Compound Term
1 low cost 32 doppler shift
4 propulsion system 33 swath width
6 remote sensing 33 satellite platform
7 surrey satellite
technology ltd
33 narrow angle
8 surrey space centre 34 sstl microsatellites
9 board computer 34 control system
10 low earth orbit 34 satellite missions
15 spectral bands 34 data products
17 disaster monitoring
34 disaster monitoring
18 attitude
35 multiple satellites
19 earth observation 35 satellite
21 launch site 35 radiation
22 remote regions 35 space science
23 ground station 35 board processing
24 launch vehicle 35 satellite design
28 board computers 35 mission lifetime
29 satellite
35 system design
30 synchronous orbit 36 satellite
30 satellite technology 36 synthetic aperture
30 band downlink 36 board data
31 solar panels 37 data storage
31 global coverage 38 space technology
Whereas each term’s relevance to a collection of
documents is erratic, it may be validated (combined
and/or externalized knowledge) by the knowledge
worker as it composes toward a given terminology.
That signifies being of use to the individual
knowledge worker or group of them. Thus,
achieving acceptance based on consensus within an
organization, and growing to be part of it and its
external environment (ontological spectrum). We
have used these and other sets of compound frequent
terms extracted based on a statistical criterion (in
relation to the BNC); for comparative purposes,
sometimes referred to as “Lexical Signatures” to
index collections of text to be contained within a text
repository. Frequent compound terms extracted from
the collection of documents (Source: Surrey Space
Centre corpus) listed below, illustrate the specialist
nature of the organization and the domain of the
knowledge within aspects of satellite technology
encompassed by the research and possibly of the
commercial activities of the organization.
The compound terms selected below, from the
corpus of SSTL and Surrey Space Centre is from a
listing of over 50.000 compound terms within the
corpus. Such contains all collated research
publications of the organization (s) aforementioned.
The above table is illustrative of the morphological
productivity (Bauere, 2001) of single word terms,
like: cost, satellite, system, launch, sensing, et
cetera. Whereas, their compound word formations
may be representative of a morphological process
based on which knowledge of the domain flows and
adapts to the organizational setting in which it is
created. Sometimes similar terms that were ranked
differently have appeared within the collection of
documents collated from the Swedish Space Corp
satellite technology news corpus, as shown below in
table 4. Being possibly illustrative of wider
ontological spectrum (knowledge sharing), of the
knowledge of the satellite technology domain and
corresponding research and commercial activities.
That could as well happen to be dependent on the
source of authorship; thus biased. Implying in turn a
wider epistemological spectrum (knowledge theory),
as suggested by Nonaka et al (1995).
Table 4: Ranking of select compound terms in Swedish
Space Corp corpora.
Rank Compound Term Rank Compound Term
2 launch vehicle 40 resolution images
3 geostationary orbit 40 proton launch
8 launch pad 41 reusable launch
10 geostationary
transfer orbit
43 satellite
15 shuttle mission 44 remote sensing
17 surrey satellite 46 satellite
19 rocket boosters 48 meteorological
20 shuttle missions 49 spy satellite(s)
22 satellite launch 50 satellite launched
24 remote sensing
52 mobile satellite
27 manned spaceflight 53 manned
29 satellite launcher 54 satellites
30 geostationary
satellite launch
54 geosynchronous
31 satellite launches 55 satellite payloads
32 launch initiative 58 remote sensing
36 synchronous orbit 60 disaster
38 launch vehicles 60 launch mission
38 remote manipulator 60 launched
Examining compound terms within collections of
PhD Theses, from Surrey Space Centre. These
compound terms have appeared to present some
dominant terms within, thus knowledge created and
utilized. As shown in Table 5 below, select
compound terms are listed, relating their frequency
behaviour to the number of total compound terms
generated from the corpus in percentage value
(frequency / total number of compound terms
found). The data presented in the table below
(composing 20.96% of the total compound terms
found) is presented as such to see lexical
composition of such collection of documents – the
extent to which each compound term contributes to
the total number of compound term. Nonetheless,
terms like: mobile satellite, satellite communication,
satellite network, leo satellite, satellite constellation,
remote sensing, and last but not least geostationary
satellite orbit. Though all exist in satellite
technology corpora, which were collated from
sources prescribed previously. Some common
ground is possibly available for such concepts to be
shared across such specialist domain, and
organizations within. This is assumed to facilitate
the diffusion of knowledge within such domain (s).
However, level of adaptation and further flow of the
knowledge involved, is related to technological
implications for the knowledge worker or
Table 5: Compound terms within a listing of PhD theses
mobile satellite 2.94%
1.47% IP multicast 0.37%
IP telephony 0.74%
leo satellite 0.74% thrust orbit 0.37%
mobile satellite
satellite orbit
inertia matrix
gravity gradient 0.74%
orbit satellites 0.74% sstl satellites 0.37%
remote sensing 0.74%
novel orbit
satellite imaging 0.37%
The observational and historical studies carried out,
have provided better understanding into the field of
investigation. Such studies provided the basis and
validation for inferences made. Based on Nonaka et
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al’s (1995) terminology used within the knowledge
conversion model, portraying creation of knowledge
and corresponding conversion processes. It is
believed that knowledge undergoes a combination
and socialization conversion process (for knowledge
flow) within an organization or across a (sub)
domain (s), and undergoes an internalization and
externalization conversion process (for knowledge
adaptation) within an organization or across a (sub)
domain (s).
Figure 2: Knowledge diffusion through the knowledge
conversion model (Nonaka et al, 1995).
Figure above expands Nonaka et al’s (1995)
knowledge conversion model, to include
consideration for how knowledge flows and is
adapted within research and commercial documents.
Within the case of an SME, Small to Medium
Enterprise, such knowledge flow and adaptation
through a knowledge conversion model may be a
framework that could stimulate innovation through
conversion of knowledge amongst the Knowledge
Creating Crew (Nonaka et al, 1995) and stemming
from an organization.
The case study is a method of learning about a
complex instance through extensive description and
contextual analysis. The product is an articulation of
why the instance occurred as it did, and what may be
important to explore in similar situations, in our case
the specialist knowledge and its diffusion is the
product. As the observational study laid the
framework for the conduct of our research, it was
focused on examining knowledge flow, and
corresponding practices and information technology
support in place. Results from the observational
study have indicated that knowledge bottlenecks
may exist, in particular were technological support
could be needed. The transmutation of science into
technology is a complex process when one sees
unique ideas highlighting the past scientific
landscape and beneficial technological artefacts in
the present. The notion of satellite technology or
space technology, with variable scope and scale, was
an ostentatious idea that has led to a range of remote
sensing and earth observation instruments for
instance. The unique idea is a key reference point
for forecasting how the idea will metamorphose into
an artefact. Knowledge is communicated through so-
called semiotic systems: written text, images,
mathematical and chemical symbols, and so on. The
knowledge of emergent domains is yet to
standardize its symbol systems which simply add to
the (creative) chaos inherent in such emergent
systems. The analysis of change in written text,
amongst the most changeable semiotic system at the
lexical level at least, may reveal a consensus or
dissension in the use of terms. Terms denote
concepts and textually help us to understand how
knowledge evolves in an emergent domain. The
emergent domain of small satellite technology was
studied as an exemplar. This is our attempt to
establish a method, which covers a broad range of
texts, research articles, commercially-driven
documents and state-of-the-art papers representative
of research and development conduced within an
organization, to observe the emergence of a new
We have by design focused on an innovative
organization to establish our method which is driven
by knowledge workers, document-based and guided
by terminology utilized. The method will facilitate
the construction of knowledge maps in an objective
and systematic fashion. This method will help in
establishing knowledge visualization studies in the
realm of decision making focused on how research
is exploited and how such a process can be
facilitated, at lexical and knowledge worker levels.
Whilst aiming to model sustainability of an
organization through its continuous knowledge
diffusion processes from persons composing such
organization. It is an intuitive statement that research
Documents (1…n)
systematic diffusion
Documents (1…n)
chaotic diffusion
Flow of knowledge
(Combination &
Socialization of knowledge)
Adaptation of
(Internalization &
Externalization of
ideas and experimentation form the basis of new
technologies, products, and practices. The research
effort leads to the creation of new knowledge, and to
the suspension of ‘obsolete’ knowledge, and this
knowledge crosses over into technology. Perhaps a
comparative analysis of the choice of terms (lexical
signature) will indicate the extent of this cross-over.
In this spirit of specialist knowledge still in the
realms of research and not quite making it into the
construction of artefacts and vice versa, we have
compared the rank order of the most frequent words
in the research corpus of SSTL/SSC papers with that
of the Swedish Space Corp satellite technology news
corpus, or between Surrey Space Centre PhD
research theses and SSTL research publication, for
Our analysis shows that research papers and
commercial documents can be distinguished
somewhat on the basis of single word and compound
terms that were generated automatically. These two
lexical signatures show the potential for identifying
cross-over points in the diffusion of knowledge from
the research arena to applications domain. The
metamorphosis of science into technology is a
complex process when one sees innovative ideas
highlighting the past scientific landscape (i.e. in the
form of PhD theses and state-of-the-art research
papers) and beneficial technological artefacts in the
present. The notion of satellite technology, with
variable applications, was a unique idea that has led
to a range of remote sensing devices for example.
The innovative idea is a key reference point for
forecasting how the idea will metamorphose into an
artefact. Knowledge is communicated through so-
called semiotic systems: written text, images,
mathematical and chemical symbols, multimedia
and so on. The knowledge of emergent domains is
yet to standardize their symbol system which simply
adds to the (creative) chaos inherent in such
emergent systems. The analysis of change in written
text, amongst the most changeable semiotic system
at the lexical level at least, may reveal a consensus
or dissension in the use of terms. Terms denote
concepts and textually help us to understand how
knowledge diffuses in a domain. The specialist
domain of satellite technology or space technology,
specifically an organization in such a domain was
studied as an exemplar. This is our attempt to
establish a method, which covers a broad range of
texts, PhD theses, journal articles, technical reports,
and state-of-the-art review papers, to observe the
emergence of a domain and hence specialist
diffusion of knowledge.
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