Date of Original Version

1-2012

Type

Working Paper

Rights Management

All Rights Reserved

Abstract or Description

Many organizations have launched online knowledge forums to promote knowledge flow across boundaries. This paper theorizes and empirically tests whether employees transfer knowledge within or across boundaries and how the tendencies change as a function of a knowledge provider’s experience in an online forum. We suggest that participants prefer to transfer knowledge to others with whom they share common ground and use joint characteristics with their communicating partners to assess the level of common ground. In particular, we propose that both surface-level (location and status) and deep-level (expertise) similarities of a dyad drive knowledge transfer. Further we propose that a knowledge provider’s cumulative knowledge-sharing experience in an online forum moderates the relative effects of surface-level and deep-level similarities on knowledge transfer. Using panel data at an online knowledge forum of a large IT consulting firm, we find that similarity breeds connection in online forums. Additionally, we find that the effect of deep-level similarity on knowledge transfer increases whereas the effect of surface-level similarity decreases with knowledge providers’ experience. That is, as participants gain experience, they provide knowledge less frequently to others at the same location and in the same status and more frequently to others with similar expertise.

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