Purpose – This paper aims to discuss how knowledge-pull from external knowledge sources could systemise knowledge exchange as a knowledge management (KM) initiative and to argue how it could contribute to successful application of innovative techniques. Design/methodology/approach – Soft System Methodology (SSM) used to carry out a case study on a specific innovation diffusion initiative within an organisation. Findings – Construction organisations need to actively participate in knowledge activities possibly organised through universities or other research bodies. This interaction bridges the gap between research and its practical implementation. Much useful academic research goes unnoticed because of a lack of interest by construction organisations in attending knowledge events such as conferences, symposiums or run joint research programs with the academia. Research limitations/implications – Study recommendations have specific relevance to the organisation under study rather than being more widely generalisable. Only one innovation diffusion example was focused on. However, the SSM approach is generalisable in the study of problems and issues raised and to identify a proposed solution. Practical implications – This research highlights the gap that exists between academic knowledge and its practical use by construction organisations. Construction organisations and external knowledge sources (e.g. academia) need to think positively about how to make collaboration more practically useful to organisations. Originality/value – The research provides a template of how one major construction contractor benefited from its approach to participating in external knowledge activities and explains using SSM how it successfully used knowledge-pull for delivering significant benefit from diffusing an externally developed innovation.