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Blocking factors of the EKC : a case study about improving the European knowledge center

Reijnders, M.G.J. (2011) Blocking factors of the EKC : a case study about improving the European knowledge center.

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Abstract:The aim of this exploratory research is to improve the European Knowledge Center (EKC) by investigating the blocking factors which users experience by using and sharing via the EKC. The objective is to measure what influences the decision to participate and what influences the decision to share knowledge. Additionally improvements for the EKC are proposed. Goal and Problem: The EKC is a Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP) that was established in 2009 as a European counterpart of the Global Knowledge Center. A VCoP uses information technology to support knowledge sharing within and between communities of practice (Pan et al, 2002). The current EKC consists of 600 National Marketing and Sales Companies users and 150 Toyota Motor Europe users. The goal of the EKC is to become the leading one-stop-shop platform for exchanging business –and sales information, best practices and knowledge for Toyota Europe. Its vision is to provide an interface whereby users can share in order to enhance retailer efficiency, improve standard operations and increase sales across Europe. The EKC website has already gone live, but for the management it is not sure why users do not want to participate (actively), or do not participate at all. Furthermore, it is unknown why users are not sharing their knowledge. Research design: As a research design, a quantitative questionnaire was prepared. This questionnaire consisted of open and closed questions based on a variety of scientific texts. The closed questions were asked using a 5-point Likert-scale. The questionnaire was first tested by 17 people from 3 different departments before being e-mailed to the whole EKC population. It was also possible to access the survey via a link on the EKC website or in its monthly newsletter. A reminder was sent out to the entire population after one week; and in total the data took two weeks to collect. The outcomes of the questionnaire were analyzed using several statistical tests. First a factor analysis was performed to identify the number of constructs. After that the constructs were tested on reliability using Cronbach’s Alpha. Correlations between constructs were tested and the whole model was tested using a multiple regression analysis. Differences between the kinds of users where tested via F -and Student-T tests. Reasons for participation on the EKC: With the multiple regression analysis, we did not find evidence that the EKC contributes to the innovation of standard working methods. As formulated in the hypotheses however, the outcomes do show significant differences between users who never access, users who access and users who share information and knowledge on the EKC. The differences recorded between each of the three levels of usage are at least accurate up to 5%. The results show that the monthly newsletter is stimulating users to access the EKC but is not motivating them to share their content. Access is preventing them from usage on the contrary. Many users are experiencing difficulties accessing the EKC (via TARs); a blocking factor partly explained by the users’ level of IT knowledge. Differences between the decision to access and use the EKC are also explained by difficulties with English being the language. It is interesting to note that people who access the EKC are more committed to it and have slightly more trust in the other users of the EKC. In terms of help and support from sponsors and management of the EKC, this appears to have little influence over the decision to access the EKC. However help is better rated by people who have accessed the EKC then people have not. Reasons for sharing: In terms of the decision to upload and thereby share information and knowledge, the way management leads the EKC makes a significant difference. This outcome is more interesting knowing that for those users who can upload there is no difference between users who do and do not share. Knowing that management has more influence on the EKC members that have accessed the EKC, these users might focus more on the fact that sharing content does not mean loss of knowledge power, since there is still a significant difference of opinion between the users. Management can for example motivate with the explanation that sharing contributes to the continued improvement of the organization. This feeling of so-called self efficacy is different for users who do not share. Sharing not only has a positive influence on the organization, but also on the employees themselves. They enjoy sharing on the EKC more, although this might be explained by the fact that users who share are more committed to the organization. This is for example seen by the fact that although the users think it is more difficult to codify the information for the EKC, they still upload. Implications for Theory: Although this research resulted in some interesting outcomes, we did not find proof that the EKC contributes to the improvement of retailer efficiency, innovation of standard operations and increased sales across Europe. However, this research contributes to the theory by showing that there are significant differences between users’ decisions to access and share. Where other researcher only focus on people contributing by sharing (Wasko &Faraj, 2000), seeking information (Kankanhalli, 2000) and focus on the beginning stage (Dubé et al, 2003), this research fills the gap by taking all types of user into account in a mature VCoP. Implications for practice: These results have implications for practice. In the event that the EKC wishes to grow further, then it must keep in mind that the role of management changes as the EKC becomes even more mature. For new users accessing the EKC the role of Sponsor management is vital. For sharing on the EKC, the role of EKC management is important. Recommendations are therefore for the sponsor to remain to show the importance of the EKC. The first priority of the EKC management is to prevent early blocking factors for users as for example access methods. Additionally, management should promote the importance of sharing. This can be done by delegating more responsibility to core users and stimulating them to take leading roles in parts of the EKC. The function of the EKC management will become more of a guiding role, controlling the overall strategy of the EKC. Further research: Further research can investigate in more detail what stages intentionally formed VCoP’s experience in their ambition to grow and what managerial actions can be undertaken to prevent and counteract blocking factors. But although there is still a lot of scientific research to be performed on VCoP’s, this research contributes with the fact that there are significant differences between users who decide to access and users who decide to share.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
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