Knowledge Sharing: An empirical study of the role of trust and other social-cognitive factors in an organizational setting
Effective knowledge sharing within project teams is critical to knowledge-intensive professional service firms. Prior research studies indicate a positive association between trust, social-cognitive factors, and effective knowledge sharing among co-workers. The conceptual framework proposed here builds on these studies, and draws from theoretical foundations from the organizational behavior, psychology, information studies, sociology, and management literature on organizational trust and knowledge sharing, and identifies the most significant factors found to influence organizational knowledge sharing directly and indirectly through trust. The study makes methodological contributions in the form of conceptualizations for knowledge sharing behavior, trust, and tie strength. Also, it provides a more nuanced and focused analysis, by factoring for knowledge type and co-worker working relationship.
Data were collected from 275 knowledge workers (‘legal professionals’ and paralegals) engaged in shared legal project work, at one of Canada’s largest multijurisdictional law firms. The nature of their work required a significant reliance on co-workers, for both explicit and tacit knowledge. Multiple regression analysis, among other statistical techniques, was used to test the hypotheses and determine significant relationships.
Of the factors examined in the study, the three found to have the strongest effect on respondents’ trust in their co-workers were shared vision, shared language, and tie strength. Furthermore, the two factors found to have the strongest effect on organizational knowledge sharing behavior were trust and shared vision. Overall trust was also found to have a mediating effect between shared vision and knowledge sharing behavior, and between shared language and knowledge sharing behavior.
A significant implication for practitioners is that effective knowledge sharing among coworkers requires a nurturing manager to work on developing co-worker trust and shared vision. Furthermore, a manager wanting to promote trust between co-workers must nurture shared language and shared vision.