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The Role of Knowledge Management and Innovation in Challenging Times – A View on the Leisure Boat Industry

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The Role of Knowledge Management and Innovation in Challenging Times – A View on the Leisure Boat Industry

Authors: Siva Ekambaram, Carl Christian Røstad, Bjørnar Henriksen.

Presented at the 14th European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM) 2013, Kaunas, Lithuania.


The leisure boat industry in Norway has faced with several challenges in recent years. In 2007, there was much optimism. And, there was a common understanding that year 2007 would be a record-breaking year in terms of boat sales. What happened next was an unexpected turn of events. In 2008 the market collapsed and workers were laid of, companies discontinued or changed their focus from production to service and off-season-storage (which is often the case with small companies). The same trend was seen on a global scale in the period of 2009 to 2011 that started optimistic, but yet another financial crisis hit the market. One important explanation for the abyssal development with the leisure boat industry is that leisure boats are the first thing that people stops buying in financial challenging periods, and is the last thing they start to buy when an economic upturn manifests itself.  Year 2012 has also been a very difficult year for the world wide leisure boat industry.

This paper will look at the relevance of innovative approaches and concepts, which incorporate elements of knowledge management, in dealing with the challenges that the leisure boat industry has been facing with. The study related to this paper is a part of a research project called Eco-Boat MOL. The project has four industrial partners and three R&D partners. It started in 2011.

This is a conceptual paper that reflects on the studies conducted in the research project so far. Methods that were used in these studies were of qualitative nature. Based on the reflection of these studies and on the conduct of a literature study, this paper presents the following: (1) different aspects of innovation and knowledge management, (2) interrelation between the aspects of innovation and the aspects of knowledge management, and (3) conceptual models that can be used to look at the improvement possibilities for the leisure boat industry.

Concepts such as business process reengineering (BPR) and lean thinking are taken into account to describe the importance of understanding customer needs and of delivering the expected results effectively and efficiently. Relevant industrial examples are given in order to illustrate the description. Considering this description as a starting point / background, discussion on the aspects of knowledge management and innovation is presented. Finally, conclusion winds up the whole discussion.