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Usefulness, incentives and knowledge management

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PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to explore the effect of "usefulness" and "incentives" on the joint decision to share and use knowledge objects. Design/methodology/approachUsing an experimental design, the authors explore the effects of different incentive systems, the effect of the usefulness of a knowledge management system on intent to contribute and intent to use knowledge, the effect of personal characteristics, specifically an individual's tolerance of ambiguity, and joint endogeneity of contribution and use along with potential complementarity of usefulness and incentives. FindingsFor ambiguity tolerant individuals, an incentive mechanism that rewards the contributor for shared knowledge used by a knowledge user, and the knowledge user for the act of reuse, is more effective than a simpler incentive scheme that merely rewards knowledge sharing when usefulness level is low. Ambiguity intolerant individuals react equally to both types of incentive schemes regardless of usefulness. Ambiguity tolerant individuals display weakly complementary levels of sharing in response to coordinated increases in incentives and usefulness levels. This has powerful implications for practice as both incentives and usefulness need not be increased in a concerted manner in order to promote use. Research limitations/implicationsThis is an experimental study with the use of student subjects and the usual caveats apply. Originality/valueThe contributions of this paper are deriving practitioner implications for the sharing/use of knowledge, the explicit consideration of ambiguity tolerance, and inclusion of both knowledge contribution and use in one comprehensive model.
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Keywords: Corporate strategy; Knowledge management; Knowledge sharing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-10-23

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