Knowledge Innovation Theory: Applying Grounded Theory to Social Practice's Effect on Knowledge Creation in the Saudi Arabian Petroleum Industry

  • Mohammed Abdullah Almohammedali

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The petroleum industry in Saudi Arabia is not only crucial to the country's economy but also to the global economy. Scholars in the field of knowledge creation and management field, including Nonaka and Grant, Alavi, and Spender, have been intrigued by the idea that people possess knowledge beyond what they can articulate. Western philosophers, who founded the schools of knowledge, sought to determine what knowledge means, how it is created, and what affects its creation. Within these effects, social practice plays a significant role in organisational knowledge. This organisational knowledge, in turn, can serve as a foundation for innovation. Nonetheless, there is a gap in the literature regarding how social practice influences the creation of organisational knowledge and fosters innovation.

Consequently, this research aims to investigate the relationship between social practice and knowledge creation in the Saudi Arabian petroleum industry by proposing a knowledge innovation theory. The research utilised grounded theory methodology in an empirical investigation conducted in four phases. Phase One involved four exploratory interviews with employees and a manager in organisations of varying sizes, which revealed a relationship between stakeholders' social practices and organisational knowledge. These interviews led to a literature review in Phase Two, where the research method was designed to propose a theory capable of covering different aspects of social practices' effects. Phase Three comprised thirty interviews from six organisations with varying size, scope, gender representation, and employment levels, alongside employee observations and business consultation presentations for three organisations. In the final phase, a thematic and cross-group analysis was employed to scrutinise data gathered in the preceding stages.

The empirical investigation contributes to the social practice literature by delineating the concept of social practice and what it involves in relation to the knowledge. The findings disclose that positive social practices, encouraged by managers, can facilitate knowledge creation and innovation, whereas negative social practices may impede them. As a result, the research introduces a knowledge innovation theory that explains the factors that assist Saudi petroleum's managers in fostering positive social practices that positively affect organisational knowledge and eliminating negative social practices that negatively affect the organisational knowledge. This research also contributes to the literature by identifying three components of knowledge in the Saudi petroleum industry: understanding, know-how, and knowing. These components have different methods of creation, and the present research explains how social practice affects one or more components.

In summary, this research provides valuable insights into the relationship between social practice and knowledge creation in the crucial Saudi Arabian petroleum industry, and proposes a new theory that can assist organisations in better comprehending and harnessing knowledge creation processes. The findings have practical implications for managers seeking to enhance their knowledge creation and management capabilities, and the proposed theory can direct organisations towards creating and managing knowledge more effectively, potentially leading to innovation and competitive advantage.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorDavid Edgar (Supervisor) & Peter Duncan (Supervisor)

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