Application of boundary objects in knowledge management research: A review

Saima Kanwal, Miguel Baptista Nunes, Muhammad Arif, Chen Hui, Andrew D. Madden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge is considered to be a corporate asset, but in practice it is grounded in different organisational functions and is stored in repositories and in individuals' memories. Boundary objects have an important role in promoting knowledge sharing and transfer within and across social boundaries. These objects help individuals to learn from each other and to share their knowledge between and within groups. This study explores the nature of boundary objects as socio-technical constructs that relate to the practice of knowledge management. The researchers used a critical literature review of boundary objects use in the context of the knowledge management landscape. Relevant articles published in English between 2008 and 2018 were retrieved from Web of Science. Analysis of the selected studies indicated that boundary objects contribute significantly to the development of shared understanding, knowledge creation and innovative thinking. These objects play different types of role in supporting knowledge practices within and across organisations. The findings also show that, while performing similar enabling roles in different contexts, the impact and use of different types of boundary objects (i.e., semantic, syntactic, pragmatic and metaphoric) varied significantly. Boundary objects may also help to coordinate interaction in the absence of intended coordination by the actors. It is recommended that, in order to get maximum benefit from the power of boundary objects and to strengthen their role, it is important for an organisation to identify, create and facilitate its use in knowledge management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-113
Number of pages14
JournalElectronic Journal of Knowledge Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Boundary Object
  • Critical Review
  • Knowledge Management
  • Knowledge Management Practice


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