How shared language and shared vision motivate effective knowledge sharing behavior


M. Max Evans, Faculty of Information, The University of Toronto
Anthony K.P. Wensley, Rotman School of Management, The University of Toronto
Chun Wei Choo, Faculty of Information, The University of Toronto

Knowledge Media Design Institute, University of Toronto, Canada

Abstract: Effective knowledge sharing within project teams is of critical importance to knowledge intensive organizations. Prior research studies indicate a positive association between shared cognitive perspective and effective knowledge sharing behavior among co-workers. Building on these studies and drawing from theoretical foundations found in the sociological and social psychological literature on organizational trust and knowledge sharing, this study sought to test the effect of shared perspective (i.e. shared language and shared vision) on organizational knowledge sharing behavior.

The data were provided by 275 ‘legal professionals’ and paralegals who were all knowledge workers 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.

Overall, having a shared cognitive perspective had a positive effect on knowledge sharing behavior in the firm. Results showed a positive relationship between shared perspective and willingness to share knowledge; where higher amounts of shared language or shared vision led to higher willingness by the respondent to share with their co-worker, regardless of working relationship. Results also showed a positive relationship between shared vision and willingness to use knowledge. Surprisingly, no significant relationships were found between shared language and willingness to use knowledge in either group.

Interestingly, the results also suggested that both shared language and shared vision led to a significantly higher perception that knowledge received from positive referent co-workers was useful. However, neither shared language nor shared vision had a significant effect with negative referents. This finding suggested a need to further explore the effect of working relationships in subsequent research. Keywords: Knowledge sharing behavior, shared language, shared vision, shared perspective.

Download Paper (Evans, Wensley, and Choo, 2012)