Trust as an Aspect of Organisational Culture: Its Effects on Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities

Trust as an Aspect of Organisational Culture: Its Effects on Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities

Abel Usoro (University of the West of Scotland, UK) and Imran U. Khan (University of the West of Scotland, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2648-5.ch013


Knowledge sharing is of much interest to both practitioners and researchers because of its potential to quicken learning, enhance innovation, reduce costs, and place organisations on a competitive edge. A principal tool for knowledge sharing has been identified by researchers to be virtual communities in which research collaboration and other knowledge sharing activities easily take place. Some key factors examined in literature as influencing knowledge sharing are technological, economic, and cultural. This paper concentrates on organisation culture with specific focus on trust as its component. While trust has been researched in other contexts, it has not been researched as an organisational cultural component that could affect knowledge sharing in virtual communities. This gap in knowledge is what this paper aims to fill. A conceptual framework is developed to express the relationship between trust components and knowledge sharing in virtual communities. The framework will be verified in future empirical research; however, possible implications of the research to research and practice are presented.
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Research Problem

This research is part of a large scale study on the ‘effects of organisational culture on knowledge sharing in virtual communities’. The current paper focuses only on trust factor of organisational culture. To determine the effect of trust on knowledge sharing, the level of trust in an organisation has to be first established and this is investigated in this paper.

The research problem can be illustrated by Figure 1 below. The example supposes a virtual community of three institutions: University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Glasgow University and Strathclyde University. Assuming that the trust levels (TL) of two organisations are equal (TLuws == TLglas), the question is whether the amount of knowledge they would share among themselves or with others will vary or be the same. On the other hand, assuming that the trust level of Strathclyde University (see Figure 1) is greater than that of UWS, does this mean that the former institution will be more inclined to share knowledge than the latter?

Figure 1.

Research problem example


Existing Research

Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995, 2007) carried out a pioneer study that dimensioned trust into benevolence, integrity and competence or ability components and Sharratt and Usoro (2007) used this dimension to hypothesize relationships between them and knowledge sharing in virtual communities. They found that all three dimensions have positive relationships with knowledge sharing in virtual communities. This study is not repeating Sharratt and Usoro’s (2007) study but focuses on trust as an organisational cultural factor. The idea of trust existing as a component of organisational culture is supported by other studies (cf., Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000; Park, Ribiere, & Schultel., 2004).

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