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Virtual knowledge sharing in a cross-cultural context

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PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to identify what factors impact employees' online knowledge sharing in a cross-cultural context. Design/methodology/approachA qualitative research design was used. Data were collected from 41 in-depth interviews with Chinese and American employees who worked for a multinational Fortune 100 company. FindingsThe research discovered that three categories of factors were critical in impacting Chinese and American participants' online knowledge sharing: organizational issues, national cultural differences, and online communities of practice (CoPs). Organizational issues, including performance expectancy, compatibility based on work practice, knowledge-sharing culture and time pressures, were identified as being important factors that strongly influenced both Chinese and Americans' knowledge sharing. Three major national culture-related differences emerged as significant: language, different thinking logic, and different levels of perceived credibility of voluntarily shared knowledge. These cultural differences made Chinese participants contribute knowledge less frequently than their US peers. Online CoPs showed both advantages and disadvantages in facilitating knowledge sharing among globally distributed members, and these factors influenced both cultural groups in similar ways. Research limitations/implicationsThe findings were based on a single case study from one business sector. Only US and Chinese participants were included in the study. Originality/valueResearch on knowledge sharing among geographically distributed and culturally diversified employees through online systems is still in its infancy. The paper integrates research from multiple disciplines (organizational studies, national culture and online CoPs) to address the literature gap. The findings will assist knowledge management managers to make global knowledge sharing more fruitful in multinational organizations.

Keywords: Knowledge management; National cultures; Organizations

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 23, 2010


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