Knowledge Sharing in Organizations: Exploring the impact of individual network relationships




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As a multidimensional construct, knowledge management (KM) has been at the forefront of organizational activities for several decades and is viewed to be of critical importance in the knowledge economy (Drucker 1993). Of its various dimensions, knowledge sharing (KS) is arguably the most significant as it enhances collective performance (Lahti and Beyerlein 2000). Whilst KM literature acknowledges the importance of human agency, there is a drought in detailed investigation and theorizing of people management issues (Hislop 2003). Social theorists further argue for the importance of social interaction in KS processes (Brown and Duguid 2001, Nonaka et al 2006) and emphasise the integral nature of individual actors to organizational learning and facilitating KS (Dixon 2002, Chiva and Alegre 2005). By considering the nature of network relationships and possible movements by individuals in these relationships (Agndal and Nilsson 2006), this paper addresses the importance of individual network relationships in the KS process by demonstrating how individual actors employ their personal networks at work, along with the consequences of such actions. This is achieved by applying Bourdieu’s habitus, defined as sets of dispositions developed by individuals through experience, and guiding subsequent actions (Bourdieu 1977, Everett 2002), to empirical data collected as part of a wider dataset of empirical study of a case organization in the construction industry. Data was collected by in-depth interviewing supported with documentary evidence. An interpretive approach was also adopted in carrying out data analysis. By examining how network relationships of individual actors impact dispositions to KS, the findings show that within an enabling organizational context, individuals would be better disposed to share knowledge with others in their relationship networks. The findings further demonstrate that individual experiences within relationship networks guide and influence decisions made by actors. The paper thus provides useful insight to how the dynamic actions of actors may determine specific implementation and outcomes of organizational strategic decisions.




Obembe, D. (2007) Knowledge Sharing in Organizations: Exploring the impact of individual network relationships. Submission for the European Conference on Knowledge Management 2007, Barcelona, Spain, 06-07 September.


Research Institute