Exploration of Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing: An Empirical Study on Student Virtual Teams

Exploration of Social Capital and Knowledge Sharing: An Empirical Study on Student Virtual Teams

Ying Chieh Liu (Chaoyang University of Technology, Taiwan) and FengChia Li (JenTeh Junior College, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/jdet.2012040102
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Although research on virtual teams is becoming more popular, there is a gap in the understanding of how social capital affects knowledge sharing and creating, and their impacts on virtual team performance. To fill in this gap, this study establishes a framework by incorporating social capital with the SECI model and further examines it with an experiment on 65 student virtual teams. The results show that three factors of social capital, namely network ties, shared vision and trust are positively related to the four SECI modes, namely socialization, internalization, combination and externalization, and the latter three factors are found to be positively related to virtual team performance. The contributions of this study are twofold. The framework examines the relationships between social capital and the SECI model, which brought a broader prospective of studying knowledge management in a virtual team context. Moreover, leaders and managers of virtual teams should be made aware of enhancing the effects of social capital to improve the processes of knowledge sharing and creating, and encouraging internalizationn, combination and externalization to substitute the role of socialization.
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Knowledge sharing has been identified as a major issue for knowledge management and an important factor for evaluating the performance of organizations (Hendriks, 1999). Cramton (2001) reported that knowledge sharing is hindered by inefficient communication, such as the failure in retaining contextual information, distributing information unevenly, understanding the salience of information, accessing information efficiently, and interpreting the meaning of silence. This inefficient communication may occur due to the lack of close personal relationships (Walther, 1996). Recent empirical studies reported that social relationships were important for knowledge sharing (e.g., Chang & Chuang, 2011; Fang & Chiu, 2010).

Past scholars conceptualized knowledge sharing as knowledge integration (Robert et al., 2008), knowledge sharing quality and quantity (Chiu et al., 2006) and knowledge contribution (Wasko & Faraj, 2005). These attempts only informed us the resultant achievement of knowledge sharing but failed to formulate the dynamic process of knowledge sharing. Thus, we conceptualize knowledge sharing as four behaviors from the SECI model: socialization, externalization, combination and internalization. With these, a deeper exploration of knowledge sharing is feasible.

Moreover, how social capital affects knowledge sharing and how knowledge sharing affects the virtual team performance remains largely unknown. To address this gap, we draw on the notion of social capital to examine its impact on knowledge sharing and virtual team performance. The results provide an intact view of how knowledge sharing is engaged through social interactions and how they impact virtual team performance.

The purpose of this study is to provide a more detailed understanding of the relationships between social capital and the SECI model as well as their impacts on virtual team performance. The structure of this article is as follows. First, the philosophy of building the framework is introduced. Then, an experiment conduced in a Wiki platform and the surveys are described. Next, the analysis and results are presented followed by discussions. Finally, suggestions are proposed for managers to improve virtual team performance. In the future research section, diagrams depicting further paradigm of how social capital and SECI model affect performance are drawn by integrating the validated model and the inferences of hypotheses as the directions of future study.

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