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The Influence of Collaborative Norms on Knowledge Seeking Behaviour in Communities of Practice among Dutch Housing Associations

Poel, J.G.A. van der (2010) The Influence of Collaborative Norms on Knowledge Seeking Behaviour in Communities of Practice among Dutch Housing Associations.

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Abstract:In the Dutch housing sector, housing associations face increasingly complex challenges such as the credit crunch, legal requirements, sustainable energy projects and an increasing social responsibility. In general, the housing associations do not compete with each other which creates many knowledge exchange opportunities. The preferred and common method for them to engage in cooperation, joint research projects and knowledge exchange is to participate in communities of practice (CoP). As a result, many communities of practice exist. Some are focused on functional areas and have a very homogeneous knowledge base, while others focus on achieving economies of scale, reducing risks and sharing capabilities. The second type of community has a very heterogeneous base with actors from different backgrounds and different jobs and hierarchy levels. Most CoP’s operate using a ‘linking pin’ structure where one actor participates on behalf of an organization or a department. In practice, however not every CoP is successful and the knowledge diffusion between the housing associations is not as expected. Due to the economic climate, they now look for opportunities to cut back on costs or increase the benefits from the CoP. Literature has focused on why people contribute knowledge to (virtual) communities of practice, this understanding is necessary but not sufficient to predict knowledge exchange, CoP emergence and development. We propose that especially in a linking pin structure it is critical for the benefits from participation and the development of CoP’s that actors seek knowledge from other actors in the social networks in which they participate. Therefore, we study what CoP’s, organizations, and managers can do to encourage their actors to seek for their knowledge more frequently from experts in their CoP (which we measure with our dependent variable, Sourcing Frequency). We focus specifically on the knowledge seeking dyad, drawing on social network, organizational learning, planned behaviour and knowledge exchange theory. Based on a cross-sectional survey of 138 professionals, active in two different CoP’s, who work at 78 different housing associations, multiple regression analysis is applied to test our hypotheses. In contrast to our expectations we find that knowledge seeking behaviour is contingent on the structural composition of the CoP. Agents base their knowledge seeking decisions on perceived social risks (i.e. accessibility and future obligations) and the visibility of knowledge in dynamic social networks with heterogeneous shared knowledge bases. Moreover, in stable social networks with homogeneous shared knowledge bases (e.g. ICT specialists) the salient factors that influence knowledge seeking are the perceived value of knowledge and the awareness of other actors’ expertise. Additionally, we find that collaborative norms do not have a direct effect in any of the two CoP’s, our data indicate that collaborative norms are subordinate to direct encouragement by manager. These findings are highly relevant for both future research on knowledge seeking as well as the daily management of CoP’s and people who participate in CoP’s
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Industrial Engineering and Management MSc (60029)
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