The Effects of Individual and National Cultures in Knowledge Sharing: A Comparative Study of the U.S. and China

The Effects of Individual and National Cultures in Knowledge Sharing: A Comparative Study of the U.S. and China

Yu-Wei Chang (China Jiliang University, China), Ping-Yu Hsu (National Central University, Taiwan), Wen-Lung Shiau (Ming Chuan University, Taiwan) and Yun-Shan Cheng (National Central University, Taiwan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0417-8.ch025
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A major challenge for multinational companies is to motivate employees with different individual cultural characteristics and national cultures to share knowledge. Although comparative studies across different countries have been conducted, little is known about the effects of individual cultural differences in this context. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of individual and national cultures in knowledge sharing. The individual cultural characteristics of power distance, individualism/collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance are incorporated into the model as antecedents of knowledge-sharing motivations (organizational rewards, image, and reciprocal benefits). National cultural differences are examined by subjects conducted in the U.S. and China. Results show that power distance is significantly related to reciprocal benefits for the U.S. but not for China. Individualism/collectivism is related to organizational rewards and image for the U.S. but not for China, while individualism/collectivism is significantly related to reciprocal benefits for China but not for the U.S. Uncertainty avoidance is significantly related to reciprocal benefits for the U.S. but not for China. This study provides knowledge-sharing practices and managements for multinational companies attempting to motivate U.S. and Chinese employees to share knowledge.
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1. Introduction

In today’s knowledge-based business environments, a mass of knowledge are growing and increasing in organizations. Knowledge can be viewed as the most valuable resources because it helps organizations increase competitive advantage (Huang et al., 2008; Wasko & Faraj, 2005). As knowledge is critical for organizations, how can organizations motivate their employees to share knowledge? Based on Social Exchange Theory (Blau, 1964), knowledge sharing can be driven by motivational factors, such as organizational rewards, image, reciprocal benefits, knowledge self-efficacy, and altruism (Bock & Kim, 2002; Bock et al., 2005; Chen et al., 2012; Huang et al., 2008; Hung et al., 2011; Hung et al., 2011; Hsu & Lin, 2008; Kankanhalli et al., 2005; Lin, 2007). If knowledge-sharing motivations can be provided for employees, will all employees be willing to share their knowledge? According to prior results, the answers seem to be equivocal. For example, U.S. samples show that image has a significant impact on knowledge-sharing intentions (Wasko & Faraj, 2005), but Chinese samples do not (Hung et al., 2011). In another case, reciprocal benefits positively affect knowledge-sharing intentions for Chinese employees (Lin, 2007) but not for U.S. employees (Wasko & Faraj, 2005). This implies that even if organizations provide the same motivations, employee’ behavioral intentions do not universally hold across cultures and countries (Srite & Karahanna, 2006).

To deeply understand cultural contexts, some existing studies have employed Hofstede’s (2001) multidimensional national cultural framework to analyze the main knowledge-sharing differences (Chow et al., 2000; Griffith et al., 2006; Jiacheng et al., 2010; Posey et al., 2010). The cultural dimensions include individualism/collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity/femininity (Hofstede, 1980). Also, Hofstede’s country scores are lent to theorize differences between countries. For example, the U.S. and China can be classified as individualistic and collectivistic countries (the U.S. has a score of 91 and China has a score of 20). China and the U.S. can be classified as high and low power distance countries (China has a score of 80 and the U.S. has a score of 40).

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