In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration within and across Firms

  • Introduction

Management Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration within and across Firms
Sang-Joon Kim
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0163


Knowledge sharing is an interdependent process in which one gives something of value to the other and receives something of value from the other. It ranges from exploring new knowledge from outside to combining existing knowledge with others’ knowledge. Studies on knowledge sharing deal with the transfer of knowledge among social actors (whether individuals or organizations) or even among different fields. Capturing the activities on knowledge flow between social actors has also been widely studied in terms of knowledge transfer. In this sense, the terms of knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer have been used interchangeably. Yet, studies on knowledge sharing have focused on the activities that make knowledge accessible to various social actors. Accordingly, knowledge sharing includes a variety of social interactions between various social actors (within, between, and across organizations), and it doesn’t specify the direction of knowledge flow, including unidirectional, bidirectional, and multidirectional flow of knowledge. This implies that studies on knowledge sharing, as a combinatory term between an object (i.e., knowledge) and an action for it (i.e., sharing), revolve around which knowledge is shared or how a certain knowledge is shared. These two aspects of knowledge sharing can be further elaborated in terms of who takes the initiatives for this. That is, intraorganizational knowledge sharing (i.e., knowledge sharing between or among individuals within an organization) shows differentiated understandings from those of interorganizational knowledge sharing (i.e., knowledge sharing between organizations) or from those of population-level knowledge sharing (i.e., knowledge sharing across populations, industries, fields, or communities). Hence, we can further deepen our knowledge on knowledge sharing by specifying levels of analysis.

General Overviews

Most studies on knowledge sharing are rooted in knowledge management or management information systems, which concerns how to make knowledge effectively accessible within or between organizations. In this sense, knowledge sharing can be understood as a component of knowledge management. Originally, the studies on knowledge sharing were motivated by the conception of tacit knowledge. Given the acknowledgment of tacit knowledge in an organization, scholars have been interested in how social actors are motivated to share knowledge with others. Basically, knowledge is owned by one particular social actor. If one individual who has a unique knowledge moves to other place, the knowledge would be removed from the former place. Knowledge sharing enables an organization to make benefit from an individual’s tacit knowledge and organization-level capabilities. This conception of tacit knowledge is further developed as a knowledge-based view, which argues that the unique knowledge of an organization can bring competitive advantages. Accordingly, knowledge sharing, as a means to sustain tacit knowledge in spite of employee mobility, can be understood as a source for competitive advantage.

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