Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Knowledge Sharing and Work Performance: A Network Perspective

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Knowledge Sharing and Work Performance: A Network Perspective

Article excerpt

In many previous studies related to knowledge sharing (KS) the focus has been on exploring the attributes of individuals that are useful in encouraging those who possess knowledge to share it. For example, Wu, Lin, Hsu, and Yeh (2009) pointed out that interpersonal trust is an important determinant of KS. Lin (2007) identified extrinsic and intrinsic motivations as important to KS intentions. However, employees do not work in isolation; each of them is embedded in a formal or informal social network with relational connections to coworkers (Gargiulo, Ertug, & Galunic, 2009)

Hansen (1999) defined knowledge sharing as the provision or receipt of task information, know-how, feedback, and other pertinent issues. KS involves the exchange of useful information and experience between two or more people in their day-to-day interactions. Hence, KS is related to the interactions among different employees. In this study, we considered the sharing of knowledge among different employees within a company as a KS network and the employees as actors and nodes within the KS network. Each of the employees is embedded in the KS network. Recently, the role of network connections in organizational learning and knowledge management has gained much attention (e.g., Cross & Cummings, 2004; Gargiulo et al., 2009; Tsai, 2001). Therefore, the study of personal networks and information accessibility will enrich understanding of KS.

Through networking, individuals can gain access to valuable information and knowledge. Networking promotes knowledge sharing and transfer among members, providing employees with opportunities for learning and cooperation. KS networking is a social interaction process and, through socialization and interaction, individuals share relevant information, ideas, and expertise with one another (Cross & Cummings, 2004). Within a KS network, each employee plays the part of a network node and occupies a different network position that provides different opportunities for access to new knowledge that is pertinent to his or her work. A central position in the KS network provides greater access to knowledge and innovative ideas for employees (Tsai, 2001).

Based on a network perspective on KS, in this study we examined two important concepts of network centrality - in-degree centrality, and in-closeness centrality--within a KS network. In-degree centrality of a KS network presents the total number of employees from whom a focal employee has directly received knowledge. In-closeness centrality of a KS network describes the sum of the shortest distances from all other employees to a focal employee; it is a measure of a focal employee's opportunity to receive knowledge from coworkers, both directly and indirectly. The smaller the sum of the shortest distances a focal employee has, the greater the in-closeness centrality he or she has and the more quickly he or she can access knowledge through direct and indirect connections to coworkers. In other words, the greater an employee's in-degree and in-closeness centralities, the more knowledge sources the employee has.

Knowledge is considered to be a strategically important resource (Barney, 1991). The ability to absorb and share information becomes a competitive advantage, particularly in a knowledge-intensive economy (Grant, 1996). KS creates opportunities to maximize the ability to assimilate and apply new ideas that are widely considered to contribute substantially to the effectiveness of an organization and personal work performance. Therefore, the effort and attention paid to improving KS has been increasing. Because a central network position is associated with more knowledge sources we argued that employees at the center of networks have more resources than others in the network to achieve better work performance.

In addition to exploring the consequences of KS network centrality, our aim in this study was to identify the determinants of KS network centrality. …

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