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Performance Tradeoffs in Team Knowledge Sourcing

35 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2010 Last revised: 22 Sep 2012

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Melissa Valentine

Harvard Business School

Amy C. Edmondson

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit

Date Written: October 14, 2011

Abstract

This research examines how teams organize knowledge sourcing (obtaining access to others’ knowledge or expertise) and investigates the performance trade-offs involved in two approaches to knowledge sourcing in teams. One approach a team can take is to specialize, such that a small number of members source knowledge on behalf of the team. This specialized knowledge-sourcing approach lowers search costs. The other approach has most or all team members engaging in knowledge sourcing. This broad approach means that more team members interact directly with the knowledge source, and thus may understand the knowledge better. These options present a sourcing paradox: teams cannot reap the advantages of specialized sourcing and the advantages of broad sourcing. They face performance tradeoffs. Further under some conditions performance tradeoffs will be more pronounced. Specifically, specialized knowledge sourcing depends on within team knowledge sharing, and so conditions that hinder knowledge sharing in a team are likely to reduce the effectiveness of the specialized approach. Using archival data from several hundred software development projects in an Indian software services firm, we find support for most of our hypotheses. Our findings offer insight for theory and practice into how team organization, organizational knowledge resources, and within-team knowledge sharing can aid team performance.

Keywords: Knowledge Management, Knowledge Sharing, Knowledge Sourcing, Learning, Performance Tradeoffs, Teams

Suggested Citation

Staats, Bradley R. and Valentine, Melissa and Edmondson, Amy C., Performance Tradeoffs in Team Knowledge Sourcing (October 14, 2011). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 11-031. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1677627 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1677627

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )

McColl Building, CB#3490
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

Melissa Valentine

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Amy C. Edmondson (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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