Organizational Conditions as Catalysts for Successful People-Focused Knowledge Sharing Initiatives: An Empirical Study

Organizational Conditions as Catalysts for Successful People-Focused Knowledge Sharing Initiatives: An Empirical Study

Josune Sáenz (University of Deusto, Spain) and Nekane Aramburu (University of Deusto, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1873-2.ch015
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Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of different organizational enablers on the degree of success of different people-focused knowledge sharing initiatives. Considering company size and technology intensity as two of the most relevant contingent variables in terms of organizational conditions (Mintzberg, 1979), the moderator role of these variables will be examined. For these relationships to be tested, an empirical study has been carried out among Spanish manufacturing firms with more than 50 employees which carry out R&D activities. Structural equation modelling (SEM) based on partial least squares (PLS) has been applied in order to test the main hypotheses of the research. The results obtained show that organizational design and organizational culture play a substantial role when it comes to explaining the degree of success of implementation of people-focused knowledge sharing initiatives. Conversely, the influence of information and communication technologies (ICT) is less relevant. Some interesting differences arise depending on technology intensity and company size.
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Introduction

Since the mid 90’s, the study of knowledge has become an important topic in the management arena (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Davenport & Prusak, 1998). Indeed, we are supposed to live in a “knowledge economy”, where intangible assets – and knowledge in particular – are the key sources for value creation (Brooking, 1996; Edvinsson & Malone, 1997; Stewart, 1997). This idea is clearly reinforced by the relationship existing between knowledge creation and innovation (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Along these lines, it is generally assumed that innovation consists of an ongoing pursuit of harnessing new and unique knowledge (Subramaniam & Youndt, 2005).

According to Nonaka, von Krogh, and Voelpel (2006), by interacting and sharing tacit and explicit knowledge with others, the individual enhances the capacity to define a situation or problem, and apply his or her knowledge so as to act and specifically solve the problem.

In the case of organizational knowledge creation, this means making available and amplifying the knowledge created by individuals as well as crystallizing and connecting it to the organization’s knowledge system (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka et al., 2006). Therefore, knowledge sharing and diffusion are both essential in order to create new knowledge (Dalkir, 2005).

In order to make knowledge sharing possible, several researchers have focused on the study of different mechanisms and initiatives which could act as facilitators. Many of these mechanisms take advantage of information and communication technologies (i.e. they are “ICT-based”) (Dalkir, 2005; Davenport, 2007) whereas, in other cases, personal interaction between individuals is the key (i.e. “people-focused” knowledge management) (Wiig, 2004). The former (i.e. ICT-based mechanisms) have been deemed worthy of more attention in research than people-focused initiatives (Swan, Robertson, & Newell, 2001).

Taking this into consideration, the aim of this paper is to analyze the impact of different organizational enablers on the degree of success of people-focused knowledge sharing initiatives. On the other hand, considering company size and technology intensity as two of the most relevant contingent variables in terms of organizational conditions (Mintzberg, 1979), the moderator role of these variables will be also examined.

As a result, companies will be provided with a basic framework in order to shape their knowledge management strategies and to enhance their capability for creating new knowledge.

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