Impact of Chinese Culture Values on Knowledge Sharing Through Online Communities of Practice

Impact of Chinese Culture Values on Knowledge Sharing Through Online Communities of Practice

Wei Li (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Alexandre Ardichvili (University of St. Thomas, USA), Martin Maurer (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Tim Wentling (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) and Reed Stuedemann (Caterpillar University, USA)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/jkm.2007070103
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Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how national (Chinese) cultural factors influence knowledge sharing behavior in virtual communities of practice at a large U.S.-based multinational organization. The data in this study come from interviews with the company’s employees in China, and managers who are involved in managing knowledge-sharing initiatives. The study results suggest that overall the influence of the national culture could be less pronounced in online knowledge sharing than what the literature has suggested. Although Chinese employees’ tendency to draw sharp distinctions between in-groups and out-groups, as well as the modesty requirements were barriers to knowledge sharing online, the issue of saving face was less important than expected, and attention paid to power and hierarchy seemed to be less critical than what the literature indicated. A surprising finding was that in the initially assumed collectivistic Chinese culture, the high degree of competitiveness among employees and job security concerns seem to override the collectivistic tendencies and are the main reasons for knowledge hoarding. The reasons for unexpected findings could be associated with differences between face-to-face and online knowledge sharing environments, the influence of the company’s organizational culture, and the recent rapid changes of the overall Chinese cultural patterns.

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