Motivation in Collaborative Knowledge Creation

Motivation in Collaborative Knowledge Creation

Paul H.J. Hendriks (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands) and Célio A.A. Sousa (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch515

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Category: Organizational Aspects of Knowledge Management



The basic reason for recognizing the key role of motivation in KM is the acknowledgment that knowledge does not just have explicit aspects, but is fundamentally embodied, tacit and inextricable from practices of individual human knowing (Hislop, 2005). An economically-inspired account of knowledge as an organizational resource that primarily builds on the explicit, theoretical and generalization sides to knowledge is bound to treat motivation as an external factor that may have an effect on knowledge processes, but that is not in center stage. An appreciation of the individual’s role as a member of epistemic communities with possibly conflicting collective worldviews shows that the ontological and epistemological foundations of knowledge cannot be separated from issues of motivation (Hendriks & Sousa, 2008). What Blackler (1995) describes as the embodied (or individual tacit) and encultured (or collective tacit) sides to organizational knowledge cannot be fully understood unless socially-mediated individual incentives for engaging in knowledge-producing or knowledge-using activity are included.

Notwithstanding its increasingly recognized relevance to KM, knowledge about motivation issues in the KM arena is scarce and scattered. Huber (2001, p. 72) argues that “the management practice literature is replete with reports of practices being used to motivate a firm’s knowledge workers…to participate with commitment in the firms’ knowledge management system.” Empirical research on the effectiveness of such practices, however, is in short supply. With respect to the connection between KM practice and motivation for knowledge work, our ignorance exceeds our knowledge (Huber, 2001). Whereas empirical research on the impact of KM practices on motivation is lacking, research does exist that addresses how motivation affects aspects of knowledge work. Studies show the role motivation plays in explaining knowledge worker turnover and career development (e.g., Tampoe, 1993; Kubo & Saka, 2002). Others address how motivation is linked to knowledge aspects of work, such as creativity and other facets of knowledge exploration, and cooperation and knowledge transfer in knowledge teams. Questions addressed in such studies are how motivation plays a role in the establishment of key mechanisms that will lead to knowledge becoming organizationally valuable (e.g., Amabile, 1997; Janz et al., 1997; Osterloh & Frey, 2000).

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