Knowledge Sharing in Online Communities: Learning to Cross Geographic and Hierarchical Boundaries

Hwang EH, Singh PV, Argote L (2015) Knowledge Sharing in Online Communities: Learning to Cross Geographic and Hierarchical Boundaries. Organization Science 26(6):1593–1611.

45 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2012 Last revised: 22 Sep 2021

See all articles by Elina H. Hwang

Elina H. Hwang

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Param Vir Singh

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Linda Argote

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Date Written: January 13, 2012

Abstract

Many organizations have launched online knowledge-exchanging communities to promote knowledge sharing among their employees. We empirically examine the dynamics of knowledge sharing in an organization-hosted knowledge forum. Although previous researchers have suggested that geographic and social boundaries disappear online, we hypothesize that they remain because participants prefer to share knowledge with others who share similar attributes, due to the challenges involved in knowledge sharing in an online community. Further, we propose that as participants acquire experience in exchanging knowledge, they learn to rely more on expertise similarity and less on categorical similarities, such as location or hierarchical status. As a result, boundaries based on categorical attributes are expected to weaken, and boundaries based on expertise are expected to strengthen, as participants gain experience in the online community. Empirical support for this argument is obtained from analyzing a longitudinal dataset of an internal online knowledge community at a large multinational IT consulting firm.

Keywords: knowledge sharing; online knowledge communities; experiential learning; interpersonal similarity; common ground

Suggested Citation

Hwang, Elina H. and Singh, Param Vir and Argote, Linda, Knowledge Sharing in Online Communities: Learning to Cross Geographic and Hierarchical Boundaries (January 13, 2012). Hwang EH, Singh PV, Argote L (2015) Knowledge Sharing in Online Communities: Learning to Cross Geographic and Hierarchical Boundaries. Organization Science 26(6):1593–1611. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1983463 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1983463

Elina H. Hwang (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States

Param Vir Singh

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-3585 (Phone)

Linda Argote

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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