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Knowledge Management and Business Process Integration Learning

The Strength of Weak Ties You Can Trust: The Mediating Role of Trust in Effective Knowledge Transfer

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Daniel Z. Levin Management and Global Business Department, Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick, Rutgers University, 111 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102, levin@business.rutgers.edu

Research has demonstrated that relationships are critical to knowledge creation and transfer, yet findings have been mixed regarding the importance of relational and structural characteristics of social capital for the receipt of tacit and explicit knowledge. We propose and test a model of two-party (dyadic) knowledge exchange, with strong support in each of the three companies surveyed. First, the link between strong ties and receipt of useful knowledge (as reported by the knowledge seeker) was mediated by competence- and benevolence-based trust. Second, once we controlled for these two trustworthiness dimensions, the structural benefit of weak ties emerged. This finding is consistent with prior research suggesting that weak ties provide access to nonredundant information. Third, competence-based trust was especially important for the receipt of tacit knowledge. We discuss implications for theory and practice

Weak ties

Relational Characteristics and Knowledge Transfer Mayer et al. (1995, p. 712) define trust as “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable.” Our focus here is on the closely related concept of perceived trustworthiness—that quality of the trusted party that makes the trustor willing to be vulnerable. The trust literature (see Dirks and Ferrin 2001, Mayer et al. 1995 for reviews) provides considerable evidence that trusting relationships lead to greater knowledge exchange: When trust exists, people are more willing to give useful knowledge (Andrews and Delahay 2000, Penley and Hawkins 1985, Tsai and Ghoshal 1998, Zand 1972) and are also more willing to listen to and absorb others’ knowledge (Carley 1991, Levin 1999, Mayer et al. 1995, Srinivas 2000). By reducing conflicts and the need to verify information, trust also makes knowledge transfer less costly (Currall and Judge 1995, Zaheer et al. 1998). These effects have been found at the individual and organizational levels of analysis in a variety of settings.

Learn more pdf …
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Written by astimen

October 23, 2009 at 12:23 am

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