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Proposition of a participative method to elicit and enrich ACAP’s organisational routines

enPublié en ligne le 26 février 2018


L’absorption de connaissances externes joue un rôle fondamental pour favoriser l’innovation dans les projets collaboratifs impliquant des petites et moyennes entreprises. La connaissance externe va toutefois être acquise puis intégrée à travers différentes pratiques et routines qui sont le plus souvent mises en œuvre de manière inconsciente. L’objectif de nos travaux est de favoriser le développement de la capacité d’absorption des entreprises (PME en particulier) en permettant aux acteurs de développer une compréhension collective et partagée de leurs pratiques et routines organisationnelles liées à l’absorption des connaissances.

Dans ce but, nous proposons une méthode participative intitulée ISEACAP (Identification, Simulation, Evaluation et Amélioration de la CAPacité d’absorption). Cette méthode permet de modéliser les connaissances acquises et transformées à chaque étape du projet innovant, puis d’éliciter les routines et les pratiques avec lesquelles ces connaissances ont été acquises, transformées et exploitées durant le projet pour pouvoir les enrichir si besoin dans la perspective de projets futurs.


Interdisciplinarity in action within innovation research projects

During collaborative innovation projects within Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), external knowledge plays an important role to foster innovation in current as well as future projects. External knowledge can be integrated via different practices and routines. However, actors of organisations often perform these routines unconsciously. Thereby enhancing knowledge absorption requires highlighting applied routines to acquire, transform and exploit external knowledge.

To this end, we propose a participative method called ISEACAP (Identification, Simulation, Evaluation, and Amelioration of absorptive CAPacity) in order to map acquired and transformed knowledge in each part of the project, then elicit and enrich practices and routines by which knowledge is acquired, transformed and exploited during the project. Actors can integrate these routines in their process or in their future projects.


1It has become widely accepted that organisations’ abilities to create, retain, communicate, and use knowledge are critical to their success (Nonaka, Toyama, & Nagata, 2000). To this end, Cohen & Levinthal defined the concept of absorptive capacity as the ability of a firm to identify, assimilate, transform and exploit external knowledge to achieve organisational outcomes (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990). Later in 2002, Zahra and George redefined absorptive capacity as a set of organisational routines and processes by which firms acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit knowledge to produce dynamic organisational capabilities (Zahra & George, 2002). According to the literature, organisational routines are understood as activity patterns (Becker, 2004) that are repetitive and recognisable between interdependent actions and carried out by multiple actors (Feldman & Pentland, 2003). Therefore, identifying organisational routines related to the absorptive capacity fosters innovation (Tu, Vonderembse, Ragu-Nathan, & Sharkey, 2006).

2As a part of ANR-ACIC research project, we start from the assumption that “absorptive capacity is in particular active, through innovative projects that are developed in collaboration with external organisations”. ANR-ACIC aims to enhance this capacity within small and medium sized companies (SMEs) that are embedded in collaborative networks to develop innovative projects. As a part of this research project, we propose a participative method called ISEACAP (Identification, Simulation, Evaluation, and Amelioration of absorptive CAPacity). The method aims to elicit and enrich ACAP’s organisational routines via mapping acquired and transformed knowledge during innovative project. Highlighted and enriched routines can be integrated in the process or in the future projects of organisations. Besides, the method provides a reflexive space for the actors of the innovative project to yield consensus results.

3This paper presents the context and objectives of ISEACAP through a virtuous cycle and overviews the examples of other participative methods. Then, it illustrates the way we constructed ISEACAP and sketches out different phases of the method. In addition, the paper provides a summary of conducted experimental sessions and method validation.

2.The foundations of ISEACAP

2.1.Context and objectives

4A key factor to enhancing the firm’s ability to benefit from externally acquired knowledge is its absorptive capacity (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990). Nevertheless, having access to external knowledge does not necessarily mean that an organisation will assimilate that knowledge efficiently (Scaringella & Burtschell, 2015), and organisations should also contain the ability of firms to apply knowledge (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009). Therefore, to enable absorptive capacity, it is required to identify and better understand organisational routines that can help to acquire, communicate, and assimilate relevant external knowledge and improve these routines continuously (Tu et al., 2006).

5Scholars view continuous improvement as an approach to enhance creativity and achieving competitive excellence in today’s market (Oakland, 1999). To this end, continuous improvement is defined as a culture of sustained improvement and involves everyone working together to make improvements without necessarily making huge capital (Bhuiyan & Baghel, 2005, p. 761). Organisations achieve improvement via dedicated tools and techniques. However, organisations run improvements throughout longitudinal procedures and should integrate these procedures within their organisational culture (Bhuiyan & Baghel, 2005, p. 765).

6To address these challenges and enable absorptive capacity in the organisations, we propose a virtuous cycle shown in figure 1 that actors of organisations can accomplish through ISEACAP method and continue to apply with their organisation. ISEACAP follows four main objectives (i) model the process of the project (ii) map mobilised knowledge during the project (iii) elicit organisational routines by which external knowledge is acquired and assimilated and (iv) enrich elicited routines. Enriched routines can be ideally integrated in the future projects or used for replaying the same project. The later relies on As-is/As-if approach (Cortes-Cornax, Front, Rieu, Verdier, & Forest, 2016). In this paper, we detail process modelling, knowledge mapping, routines elicitation and enrichment via ISEACAP. Nevertheless, applying or replaying enriched routines will be developed in our future publications. The method follows four principal objectives corresponding to the four phases of ISEACAP:

• Model collaborative innovation project process. During the Process Modelling phase, we identify actors of the project, performed individual and collective activities during the project as well as created or reused documents.

• Map and characterise mobilised knowledge during collaborative innovation projects. During Knowledge Mapping phase, we apply series of knowledge elicitation techniques to map and characterise mobilised knowledge during the project process. At the end of this phase, we propose a map of knowledge that shows where external knowledge is mobilised in the project.

• Elicit organisational routines that allow acquiring, assimilating, transforming and exploiting knowledge. During Routine Eliciting phase, we use elicitation techniques to identify and characterise organisational routines that have been performed to acquire and transform an external knowledge.

• Enrich organisational routines by comparing them with best practice of knowledge absorption. During Routine Enriching phase, the actors have collective reflection to enrich organisational routines with the goal to integrate them in their future innovation projects or to replay the same projects with these enriched routines.

Figure 1: Virtuous cycle of enriching ACAP’s routines


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8The ISEACAP method relies on participative aspect that allows actors of innovation projects conduct the method autonomously and yield consensus results.

2.2.Participative methods

9One of the most important focus centres for participative methods is process improvement. Participative methods are mainly based on quality tools such as flow charts, Ishikawa diagram, checklists, control charts, affinity diagrams, relational diagrams etc. (Barjis, 2009). These tools provide means for self-reflection and analysis that help users to solve problems and to propose creative solutions (Front, Rieu, Santorum, & Movahedian, 2015). In this respect, participative methods are defined as set of quality tools that tend to involve the stakeholders of a process in the proposition of ideas for process improvement (Barjis, 2009; Sandkuhl, Stirna, Persson, & Wißotzki, 2014; Front et al., 2015).

10Moreover, several participative methods rely on requirement and knowledge elicitation techniques to accomplish their various objectives such as EKD proposed by Rolland et al. (1997), 4EM by Sandkuhl et al.(2014), while some of them such as ISEA method proposed by Front el. (2015) combine elicitation techniques with gamification to enhance the implication of actors. Therefore, we define participative method as series of gamified elicitation techniques to apply in collective level and involve participants to yield results consensually (shown in Figure 2). Gamification or in other words gamifying the elicitation techniques makes the method playful and increases actors’ involvement.

Figure 2 : Foundations of participative method


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2.2.1.Knowledge elicitation techniques

12Knowledge or requirement elicitation techniques can be applied to elicit individual experts’ knowledge (Tunnicliffe & Scrivener, 1991). The use of these techniques is based on the type of knowledge that we want to elicit. Therefore, the initial step in knowledge elicitation is the identification of the knowledge typology and then the selection of appropriate tools or techniques to elicit it.

13One of the usual knowledge classifications is based on two general types, namely “Conceptual” knowledge and “Procedural” knowledge. Conceptual knowledge is about the way in which things (called ‘concepts’) are related to one another and about their properties. An important form of conceptual knowledge concerns taxonomies, i.e. the classification of elements of a domain or a science. Procedural knowledge is in general about processes, tasks and activities, which requires particular steps.

14Another well-known way of characterising knowledge was proposed by Nonaka (1995) and refers to two general types: explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge (Nonaka et al., 2000). Explicit knowledge, as the name suggests, is at the forefront of an expert’s brain and is thought about in a deliberate and conscious way. This type of knowledge is generally not too difficult to explain or express (Tsai, 2009). In contrast, tacit knowledge is at the back of one’s brain, highly personal, unconscious, and hard to formalise (Polanyi, 1966). Subjective insights, intuitions and hunch fall into this class of knowledge. Tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in actions, procedures, routines, commitments, ideals, values and emotions (Schon, 1983). It is often built up from experiences rather than being taught and it is the type of knowledge that someone gains when he/she practices something. Hence, tacit knowledge is difficult to communicate since it requires a kind of simultaneous processing to be elicited (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995).

15According to these two usual classifications, Milton (2007) proposes a mapping of various knowledge elicitation tools and techniques. This ranges from interviews that capture explicit knowledge to commentary techniques that are useful for capturing tacit/procedural knowledge (Figure 3). In the following, we detail the techniques that are used in ISEACAP.

Figure 3 : Classification of knowledge elicitation technics adopted from Milton (2007)


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17Interviews provide an efficient way to collect large amounts of data quickly. The results of interviews, such as the usefulness of the information gathered, can vary significantly depending on the skill of the interviewer (Goguen & Linde, 1993). There are fundamentally three types of interviews being unstructured, structured, and semi-structured, the latter generally representing a combination of the former two. Unstructured interview is the best technique to explore when there is a limited understanding of the domain while Structured interview are useful to gather specific information (Zowghi & Coulin, 2005). Interviews provide explicit knowledge and thereby to elicit tacit knowledge complementary techniques are required.

18Timeline is a diagram that shows time along the horizontal axis and contains concepts as nodes. The width of each node shows when the concept starts and finishes. This can be used to show the phases of a project or the order of events or tasks.

19Process map shows the way a task (process, activity) is performed. The main elements on a process map are the sub-tasks of the task that is being modelled (Milton, 2007). These sub-tasks are placed on the map in the order in which they are performed.

20In Teach back, stakeholder explains something to the elicitor who explains in turn the same thing back to the stakeholder for verification (Milton, 2007).

21Concept mapping is a diagram that shows an arrangement of nodes linked by arrows. Each node represents a concept in the knowledge base and each link represents a relationship between a pair of concepts.

22Scenarios are used to place the stakeholder in specific situations in which he/she performs a task or set of tasks that are of interest to the project. There are two types of scenarios: (i) Real situations that have occurred to the stakeholder or to other stakeholders; (ii) Realistic situations that could occur in the future.

23Commentary involves the stakeholder describing a task as it is performed. The basic technique here is the self-report, in which the stakeholder provides a running commentary of his/her thought-processes as a problem is solved or a task is performed.

24Concept (Card) sorting requires the stakeholders to sort a series of cards containing the names of domain entities into groups according to their own understanding (Zowghi & Coulin, 2005). Furthermore, the stakeholder is required to explain the rationale for the way in which the cards are sorted. It is important for effective card sorting that all entities are included in the process.

25In our method, we focus on knowledge in a group level of actors of an innovative project. Therefore, for motivating actors to participate and transfer their knowledge to the group level, we applied gamification to enhance elicitation techniques and make the method application more dynamic and participative.


26Gamification can be described as the integration of game mechanisms into a non-game environment in order to give it a game-like feel (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). The essential purpose behind designing and implementing gamification within different types of services or applications (e.g., customer-oriented applications and online services) is to increase the customer’s engagement, enjoyment and loyalty (Matallaoui, Hanner, & Zarnekow, 2017, p. 5).

27Deterding et al. (2011) defined gamification as an informal umbrella and an innovative approach for using game mechanisms in non-gaming systems to improve user experience (UX) and user engagement (Deterding et al., 2011). It acts as a mediator that enables conveying game mechanics to users in order to motivate them to accomplish their tasks in a given context (Matallaoui et al., 2017, p. 4). Studies have shown that game mechanics can have a significant effect on motivation and participation in non-playful contexts. McGonigal (2011) presented four fundamental features a game must have:

• Clearly defined goals that provide players with a purpose for playing the game;

• Consistently defined rules that represent the limitations and boundaries of how to achieve the given goals;

• A steady feedback system that guarantees the players that the goals can be reached, if the game rules are respected;

• The free will of accepting participation in the game and thus following its rules to reach the goals.

2.2.3.Examples of participative methods

28EKD approach (Enterprise Knowledge Development) proposed by (Rolland, Nurcan, & Grosz, 1999) focuses on reasoning on change in organisations and it tackles different aspects of organisations: who does what, how and why. The claim is that EKD engineers are repeatedly faced with situations that need them to make decisions. In fact, it is a repeatable process which is made of steps resulting from the application of a pattern for decision making (Rolland et al., 1999). The EKD approach provides various representations such as a matrix (columns of the matrix are intentions and rows are techniques). The EKD engineer performs and customises the representation by questioning practitioners (decision makers) within the organisation. Through EKD approach, an integrated knowledge elicitation technique is “Critical Decision Making-CDM”. CDM is defined by Milton (2007) as a technique that focuses on a particular situation such as a problem or challenge in the organisation. Then the knowledge engineer uses this technique to elicit the details of the situation and the way that participants made decision to cope with it. CDM should be conducted through semi-structured interviews.

29For Enterprise Modelling Method (4EM) is an evolution of EKD (Sandkuhl et al., 2014). The advantages of this method are a defined procedure for the modelling, conduction of the modelling in the form of a project with defined roles, and a Participative mode of practice (Sandkuhl et al., 2014). Through 4EM, elicitation techniques make it possible to obtain knowledge from different stakeholders about the aspects and parts of an important situation within the enterprise. 4EM should be applied during participative workshops where the elicited knowledge is immediately discussed and incorporated into an enterprise model (or discarded, if not relevant). The workshop should be conducted based on the predefined protocol by a knowledge engineer. One of the steps in the protocol is “card questions” which is similar to the “repertory grid” to cluster the elicited concepts. Another step, called “evaluation” is comparable with “concept sorting”, and aims to cluster concepts based on their importance. Based on Milton (2007), Concept sorting allows clustering the concepts based on the proximity of their content and one of the simplest ways is cards sorting. In addition, via repertory grids, this sorting can be based on the importance of the cards.

30ISEA (Identification, Simulation, Evaluation and Amelioration) is a participative method dedicated to business process elicitation and improvement (Front et al., 2015). “Process mapping” technique is integrated in ISEA method. Through this technique, the knowledge engineer identifies the nodes, which can be “activities”, or “tasks” and participants make connections between them based on their chronological order. Through ISEA, process mapping is conducted by letting functional actors of a process design together, in a gamified, fast and simple way, a consensual process representation. In other words, thanks to ISEAsy, the support tool for ISEA, participants are autonomous and they highlight their tasks and make connections without needing a knowledge engineer (Front et al., 2015). The tool is based on gamification to stimulate participants and make people committed to the process modelling and improvement.

31ISEA method is in addition based on scenario techniques. Scenario is used to place expert in specific situations in which he/she performs a task or set of tasks (Milton, 2007). There are two types of scenarios: (i) real situations that have occurred, that the expert met, and (ii) realistic situations that could occur in the future. ISEA is based on the first type “real situation” to elicit and improve business processes.

32We have adapted ISEA method to perform the modelling of innovative project process as the preliminary phase of ISEACAP. In the following, we describe our approach to construct ISEACAP.

3.Research methodology and method construction approach

33Our research methodology, and the ISEACAP method as the result of this research, relies on collaborative research. Besides an intensive collaboration between researchers coming for different disciplines, there was collaboration with practitioners from companies gathered in the ANR (French National Research Agency) project for understanding and improving their absorptive capacity’s organisational routines leading innovation.

3.1.Method construction approach

34Figure 4 illustrates the process of ISEACAP construction. Researchers used a test case study alongside the construction and development of the ISEACAP tool (two researchers of the project contributed in test case study and provided all the supports and required information). The test case study was about an innovative project on “Additive Manufacturing for reinforcing airplane seats”. Besides the test case study, we conducted experimental sessions through ISEACAP within three companies in France, Alpha, Beta, LVB, and two SMEs in UK, PRG and CSL. Table 1 presents summary of our experimental sessions to explore, co-construct and validate different phases of ISEACAP method.

Table 1 : Summary of experimental sessions


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36ISEACAP V1: For the starting point, we used ISEA to model the process of the Test Case study and explore alternatives for the knowledge-mapping phase. We applied captured alternatives during two experimental sessions with the test case study and proposed the first version of ISEACAP (method and tools) for process modelling and knowledge mapping.

37ISEACAP V2: We contacted two French companies that are embedded in the same collaborative network to develop an innovative project about Silicon Textile. We call these two companies Alpha and Beta for confidentiality reason. We had two experimental session in Beta, one for process modelling and the second for knowledge mapping. In addition, we conducted an experimental session within Alpha Company using the same tools. Based on the result of the sessions in Alpha and Beta and participants’ feedback, we improved ISEACAP, in particular tools used during knowledge mapping.

38We applied improved process modelling and knowledge mapping phases on two other SMEs (CSL and PRG) located in UK. They are embedded in two different collaborative networks and develop different innovative projects. Through these two experimental sessions, we implemented and assessed the second phase of the method (knowledge mapping).

39In all the experimental sessions within Alpha, Beta, CSL and PRG, we (as researchers) started to explore and test potential ideas for the third and fourth phases of ISEACAP.

40ISEACAP V3: Between the previous version of the method and theV3 one, we had several focus groups and brainstorming with researchers involved in other work packages of the ANR-ACIC project. Resulting from these meetings, we developed the third and four phases and tested them internally among researchers. We applied the version 3 of ISEACAP in a SME called LVB that develops an innovative project on a new domestic small appliance. We applied all the phases of the ISEACAP on this case study and collected the participants’ feedback to improve ISEACAP.

Figure 4 : ISEACAP construction


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42ISEACAP is constructed based on user-centred design (UCD), and in particular the user-oriented validation cycle, which is specifically applied to method development. The UCD is based upon identified needs of end-users, and end-users are involved throughout the design and development (Norman & Draper, 1986). The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation (Mandran et al., 2013). Scholars define the UCD in three stages: analysis, design and implementation.

43The analysis stage should make it possible to identify users’ practices, and to know their environment, theirs needs and expectations. In our research, the activities related to testing ISEA for the first time on an innovative project and defining the first version of ISEACAP, can be considered as the analysis stage. Testing the first version of the method and analysing the results continued this stage. The product of this stage is the protocol of the method.

44The design stage is the one that leads to propose the necessary elements for developing a method. A method often used is the focus group that allows the confrontation of ideas. As a group of researchers develops the ISEACAP method, it is more appropriate to speak of a co-design stage than a simple design stage that does not highlight the collaborative and interdisciplinary dimension of the work. In our example, the process of ISEACAP development, we provided a first experimental session with end users to collect their feedback and we formalised the method with meta-models (Movahedian, et al., 2017, p. 5). In addition, through focus groups and internal/external meetings, we enriched the method by new ideas. Through analysis of collected feedback and ideas, we completed the protocol (the process of ISEACAP application) of the method and validated it. The product of this stage is the formalisation of the method with map formalism, meta-models and graphical notations presented in (Movahedian, et al., 2017, p. 5).

45The Implementation stage is in particular related to the tool development, evaluation and validation. In the case of ISEACAP development, after a validation of the method within the design stage, the implementation stage is done through the tool development and validation. The product of this stage is the tool ISEAsy supporting the ISEACAP method.

46Each stage of UCD is made of a cycle called “evaluation cycle” with three steps involving end-users (Mandran et al., 2013): Exploration, co-construction and validation (so being user-centred). Figure 5 illustrates the UCD by considering the “evaluation cycle” that should be applied during each stage. Exploration relies on a state of the art in the considered field, which is depending of the objective of the stage, but must also takes into account specific needs of future potential users. Co-construction consists in making a collective proposal for problems emerged in the first step. Validation is a final step where end-users implement the proposal and evaluate it by responding to interviews or questionnaires (validation forms).

Figure 5 : User-centred evaluation cycle for the development of a method


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48While this approach was initially proposed for software development, Mandran, et al. (2013) conclude their paper with the intention to apply their approach to the development of a method a (method as the product and output of a research). Therefore, we fulfil their intention by following their approach and adapting it for developing the ISEACAP method. An important remark has to be highlighted: during each stage of our method development, experimental sessions with end users are led with the purpose of validation, but also exploration and co-construction with the future users as proposed by (Front et al., 2015). Table 2 presents the summary of ISEACAP development through different versions and various experimental sessions.

Table 2 : ISEACAP development


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3.2.Case study

50As explained, ISEACAP was constructed through several case studies. The final version of the method was fully applied in the LVB case study. We will use and describe this case study through this paper. It is a collaborative innovation project that aims to propose a small domestic appliance for growing a specific food plant. Two small companies are the holders of this project (A and B) and they collaborate with a large company (C) specialized in designing and producing small domestic appliances. Another partner is a small company specialized in growing the specific food plant (D). In addition, two research centres collaborate in this project to provide required technical and scientific supports (RCA and RCB). The participants of the experimental sessions are members of companies A and B and they are considered as internal actors. The four key internal actors are Innovator (who initiated the idea from B), Project manager from A, Technical manager from A and Cooking expert from B. All the four actors participated in the experimentation sessions.

51In the following, we present the method ISEACAP in its V3 version.

4.ISEACAP method

52ISEACAP aims to elicit and enrich ACAP’s routines. To this end, the method proposes to draw a map of knowledge for highlighting mobilised knowledge during the project, with a particular focus on external knowledge. To access this map of knowledge, we propose to model the process of the innovative project during which the knowledge was implemented. In order to accomplish these objectives, we defined four phases for the ISEACAP method: (i) process modelling (ii) knowledge mapping (iii) routine eliciting (iv) routine enriching.

4.1.Process modelling

53The first step of our method is based on ISEA method (Front et al., 2015) and its tool ISEAsy, in order to replay the process of an innovative project in a participative way while all the key actors play their real role during the project. This modelling session allows participants (actors of the project) to replay their common history along the project and to remember and collect the documents they created and used during the process. For this purpose, a first participative session is organised. We conducted a process modelling session in LVB by following the protocol presented in Table 3 using the ISEAsy tool. The actors of the project who participated in the process modelling phase are the four key internal actors of LVB : the Innovator, the Project manager from A, the Technical manager from A and the Cooking expert from B. The session was carried out in two hours and was leaded by a facilitator. Before playing, the session begins with the following activities shown in Table 3.

Table 3 : Process modelling protocol


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55Results. Figure 6 shows the result of process modelling session via the ISEAsy tool. Participants identified six performed activities during the most important part of the project in terms of innovation. For example, the project starts with the kick-off meeting launched by the innovator. Interactions with external partners are highlighted (e.g. TS: Technical specification) as well as created or reused documents. In addition, two types of activities are distinguished in the model:

o Individual activity: describes what an internal actor performed and starts with “I…” (e.g. Innovator: I launch the kick-off meeting).

o Collaborative activity: describes what several actors performed collaboratively and starts with “We…” (e.g. Technical manager, project manager and Innovator: We consult different experts to identify potential constraints for food plant)

56This starting point allows participants to review their common history of the project and collect important documents of the project. The second experimental session is dedicated to mapping mobilised knowledge throughout the process.

Figure 6 : Process model of LVB case study (ISEAsy interface)


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4.2.Knowledge mapping

58The second step of ISEACAP aims at (i) mapping mobilised knowledge through and process of the project, (ii) identifying when and where external knowledge is acquired and transformed. This part is also conducted with the key actors from companies’ A and B (Innovator, Technical manager, Project manager, Cooking expert) around a table. As in the previous step, the facilitator leads the session during two hours. Table 4 presents the protocol of knowledge mapping phase.

Table 4 : Knowledge mapping protocol


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60Document fragmentation and Information elicitation by information cards activities rely on “limited information tasks” elicitation technique. Collective discussion activity is based on “commentary” technique and fragment grouping relies on “concept sorting”. Knowledge identification activity relies on ‘repertory grid’ by attributing a knowledge card to each group of information cards.

61Results. The result of this phase was constructed with the participants in format paper. It has computerised by the researchers a posteriori of the experimental session, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7 : Knowledge map of LVB case study


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63ISEAsy tool was extended for this phase of ISEACAP method and Figure 8 presents the interface of the online tool for knowledge mapping via the map of LVB case study. It illustrates where external knowledge is integrated in the project and transformed into other project specific knowledge. This knowledge map allows the actors and the facilitator to identify where was the crucial area of the project process in terms of external knowledge mobilisation (where there is a branch of external knowledge). Then they can focus on this area to investigate and better understand how and through which practices they acquired the knowledge and transformed it into a project specific knowledge. In addition, via this map, the facilitator can track knowledge life cycle with participants and understand how it has been exploited in terms of innovation.

Figure 8 : Map of knowledge LVB case study (Interface of extended version of ISEAsy)


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4.3.Routine elicitation

65The third step of ISEACAP aims at eliciting practices and routines that have been performed to acquire and transform external knowledge.

66Facilitator conducted this part during less than one hour with the same participants as in the previous sessions. The starting point of this session is focusing on the transformation points identified in the knowledge map (points 1, 2, 3 and 4 on Figure 7 or Figure 8). As this research focuses on absorptive capacity, the most interesting point is in particular where there is a branch of external knowledge (dotted-border highlighted in Figure 7 or Figure 8). Table 5 presents the protocol of the Routine elicitation phase.

Table 5: Routine elicitation protocol


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68Game board: In order to stimulate actors and help them to remember, a “game board” (Figure 9) is used. The “game board” is made of four different cells: Verbs, Artefacts, Actors, Idea cells. These cells are proposed to inspire the participants and help them to remember what they performed for acquiring, assimilating, and exploiting the external knowledge. However, “Idea cells” are proposed to provide a free willing for participants to add their ideas.

69In this step, we apply gamification techniques to highlight practices and routines that are implicit and hardly explicable in normal situation. To this end and for encouraging participants, we use scoring technique and buzzer to stimulate and encourage actors to complete the story and explain their practices and routines in details.

Figure 9 : Practices ans routines elicitation session – Game board and storytelling


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71Result: the result of this session is an Excel file including organisations’ practices. These organisations’pratices are then transferred on yellow post-its for the next phase of the method (Enriching routines). Figure 10 presents a part of Excel table, filled out by facilitator. Emerging characteristic represents the practices, whereas systematised characteristic represents routines (practices that are systematic and routinised). Collectively/individually characteristic is about the actors who performed the practices (done by an individual or by a group of actors). Shared/not shared characteristic points out if the practice was shared among actors.

Figure 10 : Snapshot from Excel table filled out by facilitator


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4.4.Routines enrichment

73This phase aims to enrich elicited routines by comparing them with best practices for knowledge absorption and provide a reflexive space for the participants to think about how they can improve them. The starting points for this part of experimental session are the yellow post-its filled out by facilitator in the previous phase (shown in Figure 10). Table 6 presents the protocol of ISEACAP for Routine Enrichment phase.

74Best practices for knowledge absorption are issued from literature. These practices were extracted from the developed literature review in Work Package 2 (WP2) of ANR-ACIC project (Sadafiyine Benhayoun, Le Dain, & Dominguez-Perry, 2017). In the WP2, researchers have identified about 120 best practices for knowledge absorption from the literature. During three focus groups among the researchers of the ACIC project, we adapted and concretized for our needs these 120 best practices into 26 practices organized in three packages as shown in Figure 11: before the project, during the project and after the project.

Package 1: Preparation practices should be applied before the project. (E.g. Carrying out a systematic monitoring ahead of the project).

• Package 2: This package contains three sub-packages:

- Acquisition practices during the project should be applied for acquiring external knowledge (e.g. Consulting via partners about their requirements and constraints regarding to the project).

- Assimilation practices during the project should be applied for assimilating acquired knowledge (e.g. Involving actively the clients or potential users to integrate relevant knowledge to the project).

- Application practices during the project should be performed to apply external assimilated knowledge (e.g. Testing innovation with client or potential users during the project).

• Package 3: Learning from the project concerns practices that actors of the project have learned from this project and can apply in future projects (e.g. Organizing steering meetings to collect experiences feedback).

Table 6: Routines enrichment protocol


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Figure 11: Three packages of practices


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77Results: Table 7 presents all the 26 standard practices adapted from literature in ANR-ACIC (ACIC, 2015), and identified organisation’s practices. It provides a global view on the practices applied/not applied during the project and can be useful for future project.

Table 7: Result of routine enrichment phase

78Download the table


79At the end of the application of the ISEACAP method, actors have a global vision of the project about their current routines and can compare them with the best practices identified from literature. Thereby, this result allows participants to reflect collectively on their practices and find alternatives to improve their organisational routines. This improvement can be achieved either by replaying the same process and considering “If” they performed not-applied routines that should be applied, or integrating enriched routines in their future projects.

Table 8: Synthesis of validation forms


Image 10000201000001F4000000FE72F2D067.png

81In addition, we questioned the actors concerning the use of the method to improve their organisational practices. Table 9 presents some examples of the verbatim from each company.

Table 9: Summary of verbatim on the contribution of ISEACAP method


Image 10000201000001F40000010C12079979.png

83In each experimentation session, some parts (Table 8) were performed less easily than others such as fragment grouping and knowledge cards in company Beta. Therefore, we revised the protocol based on the feedbacks and hopefully in the next experimentation within companies Alpha, PRG and CLS, these parts were perceived as easier to perform. Finally, all the participants considered the proposed method as useful, effective and powerful for understanding and improving the organisational innovation process.

6.Discussion and conclusion

84Many researchers treat the specific routines that constitute a firm’s absorptive capacity as a “black box” (Duchek, 2013). Pentland and Feldman argue that identifying and capturing a particular routine is difficult and require complex qualitative methods (Pentland, Feldman, Becker, & Liu, 2012). Researchers must participate in organisational life and therefore need to conduct longitudinal researches that are timely and costly (Charreire Petit & Huault, 2008). In addition, the empirical analysis of absorption practices poses a great challenge for researchers, because it is an attempt to understand complex, embedded, and context-dependent patterns of knowing and acting (Duchek, 2013). Practices are usually distributed over time and space (Pentland & Feldman, 2008).

85The ISEACAP participatory approach allows both researchers and practitioners to study routines at a micro-level through the identification of actors’ actions, their interactions and the different artefacts they use in their daily practices (Fauré & Rouleau, 2011). It facilitates the elicitation of the ostensive dimension of routines (Feldman & Pentland, 2003) by providing actors a reflective space to have collective reflection on their past experiences (Bucher & Langley, 2016). The reflective space helps them to discuss about confronted challenges and obstacles during the project and tackle them through enriched routines and practices.

86Besides, ISEACAP brings interesting perspectives for future research for observation of the mechanism of creation and enrichment of routines and dynamic capacity building. In this respect, the method considers ACAP by reconciling two analysis levels: individual (actions conducted by the actors) and collective (capacity developed in a group level as the project actors or an organisation).

87In this research, we emphasis on fine analysis of actions and mechanisms (e.g. Dionysiou & Tsoukas, 2013). The analysis takes place at individual level that makes possible to understand better the creation and evolution of ACAP’s organisational routines related and how they can develop and renew at organisational level.

88Through a collective and participative analysis on the ACAP’s practices and routines, conducted by actors of organisations, the method helps them to enhance their individual or organisational routines towards an ACAP developed at organisational level.

89From managerial lenses, ISEACAP provides the means of communicating and socialising among stakeholders of innovative project as they formalise their process and map knowledge in a consensual way. In addition, the method helps them to enhance organisational learning collaboratively and provides continuous improvement in the organisation.

90ISEACAP has been developed through an interdisciplinary collaborative research between different fields (computer science, industrial engineering and management science). In addition, the research was conducted through user centre validation cycle approach proposed by Mandran et al. (2013). However, this approach was applied previously for language development and we have newly applied it for method development (method as the outcome and product of research).

91Obviously, this method is not without limitation and one of the most challenging difficulties is to organise experimental sessions (participative workshops) with companies. In particular, applying method from its starting point (process modelling) to its final point (routines enriching) needs to organise four sessions between one and two hours each, with all the key actors of the project around the table, which is very difficult in practice. In the same line, if the number of participants exceeds more than six persons, the experimental session would last more than two hours, which is difficult to arrange. Another observed limitation during some experimental sessions is the fact that having participants with different characteristics and roles can bias the results (e.g., with actors from different hierarchical levels, there is a risk of limited self-expression of the actors who are from lower hierarchical level).

92For future steps, we will conduct more experimental sessions to validate third and fourth phases of the method, which are identifying and integrating enriched organisational routines within the companies. This will facilitate for companies to carry out the renewing and integrating new routines within their project processes and in consequence, enhance their absorptive capacity. In addition, we will improve the ISEACAP method to make it easier to develop for participants based on the collected feedbacks in validation part.


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Fatemeh MOVAHEDIAN, Agnès FRONT , Dominique RIEU , Armelle FARASTIER , Franck POURROY , Guy PRUDHOMME (2018). "Proposition of a participative method to elicit and enrich ACAP’s organisational routines". - innovatiO | Numéro 5 – L'interdisciplinarité en action au sein des projets de recherche en innovation.

[En ligne] Publié en ligne le 26 février 2018.

URL : http://innovacs-innovatio.upmf-grenoble.fr/index.php?id=453

Consulté le 11/12/2018.

A propos des auteurs


Doctorante dans le domaine du management et de l'ingénierie des systèmes d’information. Sa thèse est financée par le projet ANR-ACIC et porte sur une méthode participative pour l'amélioration de la capacité d’absorption des connaissances dans le cadre des projets innovants collaboratifs. Dans le cadre de sa thèse, elle travaille au sein du laboratoire des Sciences de Gestion de Grenoble (CERAG) et de l’équipe SIGMA du Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble (LIG). Avant la thèse, elle a suivi des études en génie électrique et télécommunication en Iran, pour ensuite poursuivre des études en management international en France, à l’IAE de Grenoble.



Maître de Conférences HDR à l’Université Grenoble Alpes. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en informatique en 1997 et son Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches en 2011. Elle est membre du Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble. Ses principales activités de recherche concernent l’ingénierie de méthodes, plus principalement la proposition de nouvelles techniques basées sur les approches participatives, la créativité et les serious games pour l'amélioration continue de systèmes d’information ou de projets d’innovation. Elle est actuellement Chargée de Mission Systèmes d’Information dans l’équipe de direction de l’IUT2 de l'Université Grenoble Alpes, et co-responsable de l’équipe SIGMA du Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble.


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Dominique RIEU

Professeure à l’Université Grenoble Alpes. Elle est membre du LIG (Laboratoire d'Informatique de Grenoble) et effectue sa recherche dans l’équipe SIGMA. Ses travaux de recherche portent sur l’ingénierie des systèmes d'information et l’ingénierie des méthodes. Durant ces dernières années, cet axe de recherche a été développé suivant plusieurs thèmes : la traçabilité des modèles, l’amélioration continue des processus métier et l’ingénierie sociale des méthodes participatives. Elle a été présidente de l’association INFORSID et est co-directrice de la Fédération de Recherche Innovacs.


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Maitre de Conférences à Grenoble IAE et membre du laboratoire CERAG de recherche en Sciences de Gestion - Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA). Ses recherches portent principalement sur la gestion des connaissances au sein des organisations, la gestion de projet en systèmes d’information et les routines organisationnelles. Elle s’intéresse notamment à la manière dont les routines organisationnelles se créent et évoluent dans le temps sous l’effet des interactions sociales au sein des organisations et en relation avec d’autres organisations.



Maître de Conférences à l’Université Grenoble Alpes où il enseigne dans le domaine de l’ingénierie mécanique. Ses activités de recherche sont rattachées à l'équipe Conception Collaborative du laboratoire G-SCOP (Grenoble, Sciences pour la Conception, l’Optimisation et la Production). Dans ce domaine de la conception de produits, il a participé à divers projets de recherche en partenariat avec l’industrie dans des contextes d’innovation (produit, process, organisationnelle…). Au sein du projet ANR ACIC, il s’intéresse plus particulièrement aux démarches de conception innovante et au cycle de vie des connaissances dans les projets d’innovation.



Maître de Conférences dans le domaine de l’Ingénierie Mécanique et enseigne à l’Université Grenoble Alpes. Il mène ses recherches au Laboratoire G-SCOP (Grenoble, Sciences pour la Conception, l’Optimisation et la Production) dans l’équipe Conception Collaborative. Ses recherches portent sur la compréhension du processus de conception dans des environnements intégrés dans le but de fournir des outils de collaboration. Une attention particulière est accordée à la formalisation et à la propagation des problèmes de conception en contexte collaboratif et au rôle des objets et des connaissances en tant que moyens d'améliorer l'efficience du processus. La fabrication additive est une nouvelle technologie prometteuse qui l'amène à faire face à ces défis collaboratifs dans ce nouveau contexte.




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