We’re different but we share: The effect of knowledge-relevant differences on knowledge sharing

Noethen, Daniela ; Makarevich, Alexey ; Biemann, Torsten ; Voelpel, Sven ; Bonache Perez, Jaime Alfonso

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2014
Conference title: 14th Annual Conference of the European Academy of Management
Location of the conference venue: Valencia, Spain
Date of the conference: 4.-7.06.2014
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > ABWL, Personalmanagement u. Führung (Biemann 2013-)
Subject: 330 Economics
Abstract: Diversity research has been guided by two competing theoretical approaches, the social categorization perspective and the information/decision-making perspective (Williams & O'Reilly, 1998). The former suggest a negative effect of diversity on group processes and performance due to individuals preference to interact with similar others, while the latter claims a positive effect due to broader skills and knowledge base within heterogeneous groups. Empirical analyses remain inconclusive, possibly because the two approaches interact rather than contradict each other (van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004). Following a combined approach, we thus assume that diversity affects the way team members deal with their diverse knowledge base. Using original data on work teams within German public administration we examine how work team diversity affects knowledge sharing. In line with the diversity faultlines approach, we test the combined effect of differences between individuals in three knowledge-relevant diversity dimensions (education, job experience, and work autonomy) on knowledge transfer at the dyadic level. We find that that larger differences lead to less knowledge sharing. This effect is buffered, but not reversed by group cohesion. Implications for the integration of the two approaches are discussed.

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