Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-Based Organizations: An Empirical Study

Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-Based Organizations: An Empirical Study

Chay Yue Wah (SIM University, Singapore Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Cambridge, UK University of Bonn, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-140-7.ch008
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The study aims to understand the social and organizational factors that influence knowledge sharing. A model of knowledge management and knowledge sharing was developed inspired by the work of Nahapiet and Ghoshal. Data on KM processes and various social capital measures were collected from a sample of 262 members of a tertiary educational institution in Singapore. Rewards and incentives, openmindedness, and cost-benefit concerns of knowledge hoarding turned out to be the strongest predictors of knowledge sharing rather than prosocial motives or organizational care. Individuals who are highly competent in their work abilities are less likely to share what they know when they perceive that there are few rewards or when sharing is not recognized by the organization. The findings provide evidence for the importance of social capital as a lubricant of knowledge sharing and engaging performance management systems in knowledge-intensive organizations.
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There has been a proliferation of literature on knowledge management with the advent of the knowledge economy (Beck, 1992; Evers & Menkhoff, 2004; Stehr, 1994; Von Krogh, 2003) as indicated by an increasing body of work in organizational studies, information systems, marketing and the social science disciplines of sociology, psychology, and economics. However, notwithstanding the substantial insights generated about knowledge management issues in contemporary business organizations (Menkhoff, Chay & Loh, 2004; Nonaka, 1994; Von Krogh, 1998,) the development of robust theoretical concepts and models, which could explain why members of organizations do share knowledge, has been slow. It seems that the phenomenon of knowledge sharing, identified as an important component in the management of knowledge workers in organizations, is still something like a black box.

This essay1 seeks to address this gap by theorizing about knowledge sharing in contemporary organizations based on empirical data collected in a tertiary educational institution in Singapore. The theoretical arguments we are developing in this chapter are rooted in the concept of social capital, and draws together perspectives from the sociology of organizations, economic sociology, social psychology, and the broad umbrella of organizational studies, which encompass literature such as knowledge management, organizational behavior, and strategic theory of the firm (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Wenger et al., 2002). In understanding the social and organizational factors that influence knowledge sharing, a model of knowledge sharing was developed based on the work of Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998). The key objective of the essay is to identify some of the key antecedents of knowledge sharing behavior in organizations (see Figure 1) and to test respective hypotheses empirically.

Figure 1.

A model of the antecedents of knowledge sharing


Knowledge Sharing

Helmstadter (2003) defines knowledge sharing in terms of “voluntary interactions between human actors [through] a framework of shared institutions, including law, ethical norms, behavioral regularities, customs and so on … the subject matter of the interactions between the participating actors is knowledge. Such an interaction itself may be called sharing of knowledge” (p. 11). His definition of knowledge sharing highlights the role of social interactions which lends support to the theory of social capital where participation in groups and the deliberate construction of sociability is a prerequisite for the purpose of creating resource, in this case knowledge.

However, Helmstadter’s definition of “voluntary interactions” is not unproblematic as it fails to consider issues of politics and power in such interactions. While knowledge sharing, particularly in the context of economic organizations, is often encouraged through incentive systems (Bartol & Srivastava, 2002), the corollary also holds when involuntary interactions in the sharing of knowledge are often enforced by appraisals and incentive systems whereby employees who do not share their knowledge may be penalized and risk retarding their career advancement in the organization. Studies on knowledge sharing have thus far been “heavy on notion of negotiation and trust between members of the network and exceptionally light on domination and power-relations-independent relationships based on reciprocity and mutual trust, where self interest is sacrificed for the communal good” (Knights, Murray, & Willmott, 1993, p. 978). The writers further argue that such interactions are often embedded in institutional power relations that are hierarchical, competitive, coercive and exploitative (see also Aldrich & Whetten, 1981; Walsham, 1993). This aspect of politics and power in knowledge sharing will be considered later in this section as one of the conditions whereby involuntary knowledge sharing can occur.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Murray E. Jennex
This is the third volume in the Advances in Knowledge Management and I thought it appropriate to start this volume with some reflection on where KM... Sample PDF
Reflections on Knowledge Management Research and Practice
Chapter 2
Peter Keen, Margaret Tan
The chapter proposes a simple framework termed ‘knowledge fusion’ to extend the rigor and relevance of knowledge management (KM). It points to some... Sample PDF
Knowledge Fusion: A Framework for Extending the Rigor and Relevance of Knowledge Management
Chapter 3
Hazel Taylor
This chapter explores the concept of ‘tacit knowledge’ and how organizations can foster the sharing and exchange of tacit knowledge. Various views... Sample PDF
Tapping Tacit Knowledge
Chapter 4
Andrea Hornett, Eric W. Stein
This chapter adds to our understanding of knowledge management as an evolving body of concepts, relationships, strategies and practices. Using... Sample PDF
Advances in Knowledge Management: Mapping Ideas that Shape Practice
Chapter 5
Clyde W. Holsapple, Kiku G. Jones
Just as Porter’s value chain model identifies classes of business activity that can be performed in ways that contribute to a firm’s... Sample PDF
Knowledge Chain Activity Classes: Impacts on Competitiveness and the Importance of Technology Support
Chapter 6
Rahinah Ibrahim, Mark E. Nissen
Tacit knowledge attenuates particularly quickly in organizations that experience discontinuous membership: the coming and going of organizational... Sample PDF
Developing a Knowledge-Based Organizational Performance Model for Improving Knowledge Flows in Discontinuous Organizations
Chapter 7
Frank Land, Urooj Amjad, Sevasti-Melissa Nolas
The purpose of this chapter is to argue the case that the study of Knowledge Management should embrace considerations of ethics and accountability.... Sample PDF
Accountability and Ethics in Knowledge Management
Chapter 8
Chay Yue Wah
The study aims to understand the social and organizational factors that influence knowledge sharing. A model of knowledge management and knowledge... Sample PDF
Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-Based Organizations: An Empirical Study
Chapter 9
Charlie C. Chen, Rong-An Shang, Albert L. Harris, Zhi-Kai Chen
A knowledge management system (KMS) project transcends functional departments and business partners. The success of KMS implementation is highly... Sample PDF
A Structured Method for Evaluating the Management of a Knowledge Management System Implementation
Chapter 10
Murray E. Jennex, Stefan Smolnik, David T. Croasdell
This chapter explores knowledge management, KM, and knowledge management system, KMS, success. The inspiration for this chapter is the KM Success... Sample PDF
Toward a Consensus Knowledge Management Success Definition
Chapter 11
Elsa Rhoads, Kevin J. O'Sullivan, Michael Stankosky
This research chapter investigates the status of knowledge management (KM) practices implemented across federal agencies of the U.S. government. It... Sample PDF
An Evaluation of Factors that Influence the Success of Knowledge Management Practices in U.S. Federal Agencies
Chapter 12
Kevin Laframboise, Anne-Marie Croteau, Anne Beaudry, Mantas Manovas
This article reports on a study that investigates the knowledge transfer between an information systems/ technology (IS/IT) department and non-IT... Sample PDF
Interdepartmental Knowledge Transfer Success During Information Technology Projects
Chapter 13
Claudio Vitari, Jennifer Moro, Aurelio Ravarini, Isabelle Bourdon
The purpose of this chapter is to contribute to the improvement of the acceptance of information systems (IS) devoted to the codification and... Sample PDF
Improving KMS Acceptance: The Role of Organizational and Individuals' Influence
Chapter 14
Michael J. Zhang
While a great deal has been written about how information systems (IS) can be deployed to facilitate knowledge management for performance... Sample PDF
IS Support for Knowledge Management and Firm Performance: An Empirical Study
Chapter 15
Wei Li, Alexandre Ardichvili, Martin Maurer, Tim Wentling, Reed Stuedemann
The goal of this study was to explore how national (Chinese) culture influences knowledge sharing in virtual communities of practice at a large... Sample PDF
Chinese Culture and Virtual Knowledge Sharing in a Multinational Corporation
Chapter 16
Gilles Balmisse, Denis Meingan, Katia Passerini
In this chapter, we update earlier research on the state of the art Knowledge Management (KM) tools and present key evaluation criteria that can be... Sample PDF
Selecting the Right Knowledge Management Tools: Software Trends and Key Evaluation Criteria
Chapter 17
Jörg Rech, Raimund L. Feldmann, Eric Ras
Knowledge management is a relatively young discipline. It has accumulated a valuable body-of-knowledge on how to structure and represent knowledge... Sample PDF
Knowledge Patterns and Knowledge Refactorings for Increasing the Quality of Knowledge
Chapter 18
Paul Jackson, Ray Webster
This chapter is concerned with engaging end-users in the design and development of knowledge management systems. The identification, capture and use... Sample PDF
Knowledge Elicitation and Mapping: Ontology as an Instrument of Design and Organizational Learning
Chapter 19
Aurora Vizcaino, Juan Pablo Soto, Javier Portillo, Mario Piattini
Efforts to develop Knowledge Management have increased in recent years. However, many of the systems implanted in companies are still not greatly... Sample PDF
Helping to Develop Knowledge Management Systems by Using a Multi-Agent Approach
Chapter 20
Mirghani Mohamed, Michael Stankosky, Vincent Ribière
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the requirements of Knowledge Management (KM) services deployment in a Semantic Grid environment. A wide... Sample PDF
Adopting the Grid Computing & Semantic Web Hybrid for Global Knowledge Sharing
Chapter 21
Sineed Paisittanand, L. A. Digman, Sang M. Lee
The creation and the use of knowledge have increasingly been regarded as important issues for management. A wide range of studies have investigated... Sample PDF
The Effect of Knowledge Process Capabilities and Knowledge Infrastructure Capabilities on Strategy Implementation Effectiveness
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