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Different knowledge, different benefits: toward a productivity perspective on knowledge sharing in organizations

Author: Haas, M. R. ; Hansen, M. T.INSEAD Area: Entrepreneurship and Family EnterpriseIn: Strategic Management Journal, vol. 28, no. 11, November 2007 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 1133-1154.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: This article was in part inspired by a quote by Peter Drucker: "The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and knowledge workers." Taking up this challenge, this paper develops a productivity model of knowledge sharing in organizations that proposes that different types of knowledge have different benefits for task units. In a study of 182 sales teams in a management consulting company, we find that sharing codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients. In contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signaled competence but did not save time. Beyond the content of the knowledge, process costs in the form of document rework and lack of advisor effort negatively affected task outcomes. These findings provide a foundation for understanding how a firm's knowledge capabilities translate into performance.
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This article was in part inspired by a quote by Peter Drucker: "The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and knowledge workers." Taking up this challenge, this paper develops a productivity model of knowledge sharing in organizations that proposes that different types of knowledge have different benefits for task units. In a study of 182 sales teams in a management consulting company, we find that sharing codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients. In contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signaled competence but did not save time. Beyond the content of the knowledge, process costs in the form of document rework and lack of advisor effort negatively affected task outcomes. These findings provide a foundation for understanding how a firm's knowledge capabilities translate into performance.

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