The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams

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The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams

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Title: The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams
Author: Valentine, Melissa A; Staats, Bradley R.; Edmondson, Amy C.

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Citation: Valentine, Melissa, Bradley R. Staats, and Amy C. Edmondson. "The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13–001, July 2012.
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Abstract: Individuals on the periphery of organizational knowledge sharing networks, due to inexperience, location, or lack of social capital, may struggle to access useful knowledge at work. An electronic knowledge repository (KR) has the potential to help peripheral individuals gain access to valuable knowledge because a KR is universally and constantly available and can be used without social interaction. However, for it to serve this equalizing function, those on the periphery of the organization must actually use it, possibly overcoming barriers to doing so. In this paper, we develop a multi-level model of knowledge use in teams and show that individuals whose experience and position already provide them access to vital knowledge use a KR more frequently than individuals on the organizational periphery. We argue that this occurs because the KR – despite its appearance of equivalent accessibility to all – is actually more accessible to central than peripheral players due to their greater experience and access to colleagues. Thus, KR use is not driven primarily by the need to overcome limited access to other knowledge sources. Rather KR use is enabled when actors know how to reap value from the KR, which ironically improves with increasing access to other sources of knowledge. Implications for both team effectiveness and knowledge management research are offered. We conclude that KRs are unlikely to serve as a knowledge equalizer without intervention.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9055162

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