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An individual-level approach to knowledge exchange: Empirical studies in business and public research organizations

AuthorsLlopis Córcoles, Óscar
AdvisorD'Este Cukierman, Pablo ; Alegre-Vidal, Joaquín
Issue Date2013
PublisherUniversidad de Valencia
Abstract[EN]: Extant research acknowledges that knowledge creation and knowledge flows play an important role in the process of value creation within knowledge-based societies. One of the conceptual frameworks placing knowledge creation and knowledge flow at the center of value creation is the knowledge-based view of the firm (KBV). The KBV supports the idea that knowledge is the key factor of an organizations’ success and, thereby, a continuous exchange of knowledge within organizational members is a primary source of sustainable competitive advantage. This thesis aims to contribute to the analysis of knowledge exchange in two settings where the individuals’ decision to exchange their knowledge stock with others is a critical aspect for value creation: business organizations and the interaction between scientific agents and social agents. Although existing literature has identified a number of contextual variables that may explain the exchange of knowledge, comparatively less is known about the individual-level factors that predict why some individuals are more prone than others in engaging in knowledge exchange initiatives. The first part of this thesis is focused on the exchange of knowledge in a single business organization. We propose a theoretical model to study the interplay between contextual-level and individual-level factors to explain the employees’ knowledge sharing behavior. Particularly, we focus on the role of cooperative climate, intrinsic motivation and job autonomy as potential predictors of knowledge sharing behavior between employees working in the same company. As expected, our results indicate that a cooperative climate is positively linked to the employees’ knowledge sharing behavior. However, we found that this effect is heterogeneously distributed across employees if intrinsic motivation and job autonomy are taken into account. Specifically, our results indicate that the intrinsic motivation of employees plays a substitution effect on the relationship between cooperative climate and knowledge sharing behavior. Conversely, results also reflect that employees with higher job autonomy are more likely to share knowledge with their colleagues under a cooperative climate, compared to employees with lower levels of autonomy.
The second part of the thesis moves on the discussion to the relationship between scientific agents and social agents. Existing research recognizes that the majority of knowledge that is exchanged between science and society is concentrated in a small number of scientists. Given the current reward system in science, few scientists engage with the potential beneficiaries of their research and establish knowledge exchange activities with them (Van Looy, Callaert, & Debackere, 2006). In this sense, little is known about the individual-level factors that may facilitate the adoption of such activities by the scientists. Our study aims to fill this gap by focusing on the individual characteristics of the scientists that shape their propensity to engage with non-academic agents. Specifically, we propose the concept of “pro-social research behavior” as a conceptualization of the scientists’ awareness of the impact that their research results have over actors outside the scientific boundaries. We also propose that “pro-social research behavior” is shaped by the scientists’ prior knowledge transfer experience, research excellence and cognitive diversity. This thesis aims to offer both theoretical and practical implications. From a theoretical perspective, our focus on the individual converges with recent scholarly calls advocating for more studies on the micro-foundations of knowledge creation. Our findings from the study in the business organization indicate that a cooperative climate is particularly effective in fostering knowledge sharing when employees have little intrinsic motivation to do so, and when they have high job autonomy. This may indicate that too much managerial attention in promoting a cooperative climate may overlook the fact that such cooperative climate is not equally effective over all employees. The results obtained from a sample of scientists from a public research organization (PRO) suggest that previous experience in knowledge transfer facilitates the adoption of a pro-social research behavior. We also found that both research excellence and cognitive diversity play an important role in those scientists with a lack of knowledge transfer experience with social actors. Specifically, our results support a call for policies oriented to change incentives for the participation in knowledge exchange activities. Further, they provide arguments to support more interdisciplinary research tracks in scientists’ academic profiles.
DescriptionTesis Doctoral presentada por Òscar Llopis Córcoles en el Departament de Direcció d'Empreses "Juan José Renau Piqueras" de la Universitat de València - Facultat d'Economia y realizada en el Instituto de Gestión de la Innovación y del Conocimiento (INGENIO, CSIC-UPV).
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