Chinese Culture and Virtual Knowledge Sharing in a Multinational Corporation

Chinese Culture and Virtual Knowledge Sharing in a Multinational Corporation

Wei Li (University of Illinois, USA), Alexandre Ardichvili (University of Minnesota, USA), Martin Maurer (University of Illinois, USA), Tim Wentling (University of Illinois, USA) and Reed Stuedemann (Caterpillar University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-140-7.ch015
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Abstract

The goal of this study was to explore how national (Chinese) culture influences knowledge sharing in virtual communities of practice at a large U.S.-based multinational organization. The study involved qualitative interviews with the company’s employees in China, and managers who are involved in managing knowledge-sharing initiatives. The study findings suggest that 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 despite widely assumed collectivistic nature of the Chinese culture, the high degree of competitiveness among employees and job security concerns seemed to override the collectivistic tendencies and resulted in knowledge hoarding. The reasons for these 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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Theoretical Framework

This section will present key ideas/literature related to the theoretical discourse applied in this article in the following areas: CoPs, knowledge sharing, and national (Chinese) cultural values.

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