Examining Knowledge and Knowledge Sharing as pivotal Strategic Reso...


Knowledge is a resource that is valuable to an organisation's ability to innovate and compete. It exists within the individual employees, and also in a composite sense within the organisation. According to the resource based view of the firm strategic assets are the critical determinants of an organisation's ability to maintain sustainable competitive advantage.

Culture is an abstraction; nevertheless the forces that are created in social and organisational situations deriving from culture are powerful. When managers do not understand the operation of these forces, they become victim to them.

So a manager has to find the way to provide and inspire knowledge sharing through correct and sufficient organisational management.

A growing number of executives, consultants and management theorists have proclaimed nowadays that knowledge constitutes the major source of competitive advantage for organisations. This knowledge-based view of the firm argues that creating, organising, and using knowledge assets are the essence of what firms do. Their effectiveness in these activities, relative to the competition, determines performance. Many firms have launched major programs to manage knowledge better and it is increasingly common to see titles such as chief knowledge officer and knowledge manager in organisations. So without a doubt knowledge management and knowledge sharing have become an important topic and aspect in firms. Moreover sharing of knowledge between individuals and departments in the organisation is considered to be a crucial process as stated by O'Dell and Grayson, 1998; Osterloh and Frey, 2000; Van den Hoof and De Ridder, 2004. Only when individual and group knowledge are translated to organisational knowledge can the organization start to effectively manage this resource. Therefore, determining which factors promote or impede the sharing of knowledge within groups and organisations constitutes an important area of research. Knowledge sharing is the process where individuals mutually exchange their implicit and explicit knowledge and jointly create new knowledge. This is essential in translating individual knowledge to organisational knowledge. Knowledge sharing implies that every knowledge sharing consists of both bringing knowledge and getting. Moreover knowledge sharing consists of both the supply of new knowledge and the demand for new knowledge. Knowledge is an important matter for the firms that knowledge-based systems are implemented and introduced by software engineers to ensure knowledge sharing. Such systems as stated by Grubber, 1993 operate on and communicate using statements in formal knowledge representation. They ask queries and give answers and as agents in distributed artificial intelligence environment they negotiate and exchange knowledge. In addition to the technological and systems variables involved in any type of management process, there is also the human aspect. So in order to create a prosperous firm a manager has to find ways to motivate and to organise the people who work for them. The people working in a software organisation are its greatest assets. They represent intellectual capital and it is up to the managers to ensure that the organisation gets the best possible return on its investment in people. In successful companies and economies, this is achieved when people are respected by the organisation. They should have a level of responsibility and reward that is commensurate with their skills. Effective management is therefore about managing in an organisation. Project managers have to solve technical and non-technical problems by using the people in their team in the most effective way possible. They have to motivate people, plan, organise their work and ensure that the work is being done properly. Poor management of people is one of the most significant contributors to project failure. As stated by D. Gurteen, 1999 organisational culture can be thought of as a relatively rigid tacit infrastructure of ideas that shape not only our thinking but also our behaviour and perception of our business environment. It effectively establishes a set of guidelines by which members of an organisation work and how those organisations are structured.

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In this paper in the first section the various types of knowledge that can and should be managed will be shown. The second section shows the importance of knowledge sharing in firms. In the third section various forms of organisational culture are shown and finally in the last part there are some suggestions and conclusions regarding implementation of knowledge management in organisations.

1. Knowledge

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Information is processed data and can reside within computers. Because of the far-reaching effects of globalisation, it is increasingly available to everyone discussed by Harari, 1997. Humans inherently possess knowledge as stated by Malhotra, 1998. We define knowledge as the understanding, awareness, or familiarity acquired through study, investigation, observation, or experience over the course of time. It is an individual's interpretation of information based on personal experiences, skills, and competencies. To the organisation, knowledge is defined as what people know about customers, products, processes, mistakes, and successes as stated by Grayson and O'Dell, 1998. It resides in databases or through sharing of experiences and best practices, or through other sources both internal and external to the organisation. Organisational knowledge accumulates over time, and enables firms to attain deeper levels of understanding and perception that lead to business astuteness and acumen, all characteristics of wisdom. Wisdom is acquired as organisations gain new knowledge through the transformation of collective experiences and expertise.

Let us take the case of knowledge acquired during software development and stored in a kind of physical memory then it falls into the following two categories as stated by Sommerville I. 2001.:

Semantic knowledge, which is the knowledge of concepts such as the operation of an assignment statement, the notion of an object class, how a hash search technique operates and how organisations are structured. This knowledge is acquired through experience and learning and is retained in a representation-independent fashion.

Syntactic knowledge, which is the detailed representation knowledge such as how to write an object description in Java (Object-Orientated programming language), what standard functions are available in a programming language, whether an assignment is written using the '=' or ':=' sign. This knowledge is retained in an unprocessed form.

Moreover as stated by Bollinger A.S and Smith R., 2001 there are two types of knowledge, explicit and implicit/tacit. Explicit knowledge is clearly formulated or defined, easily expressed without ambiguity or vagueness, and codified and stored in a database. Tacit knowledge is the unarticulated knowledge that is in a person's head that is often difficult to describe and transfer. It includes lessons learned, know-how, judgment, rules of thumb, and intuition.

On the other hand as stated by Wiig et al, 1997 knowledge is intangible and difficult to measure, volatile, increases with use, can be used by different processes at the same time, often has long lead times, is usually embodied in agents with wills, and has wide-ranging impacts on the organisation.

Problem solving is one of the major factors for knowledge sharing in firms and organisations. Devising and creating a model for the problem is a problem solving process. The following diagram describes how problem solving and knowledge are mixed together.


Partial Solutions


New knowledge

Existing knowledge

Fig. 1 Problem solving - Knowledge

2. Knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing has been identified as a positive force in creating innovative organisations, but the organisational and individual factors that promote or discourage knowledge sharing among colleagues are poorly understood. Although firms that seek to increase seek to increase knowledge sharing among their employees often invest in a variety of new technologies, there may be more significant predictors of knowledge sharing than the mere availability of technology.

As stated by C.E. Connely and E.K. Kelloway, 2003 knowledge sharing is a set of behaviours that involve the exchange of information or assistance to others. It is separate from information sharing, which typically involves management making information about the organisation, such as financial statements, available to employees at every level. Whereas knowledge sharing contains an element of reciprocity, information sharing can be unidirectional and unrequested. In firms and organisations employees may for judgements about management's support for knowledge sharing by looking for appropriate symbols. The presence of knowledge sharing technology may be such a symbol. If management spends a significant amount of resources on either purchasing or developing and implementing such technology, employees could interpret this as a signal of management's support for this ideal and act accordingly.

2.1 Knowledge sharing processes

In the first section the various kinds of knowledge are shown, such as implicit and explicit knowledge. In this paragraph we will discuss what knowledge sharing is. Knowledge sharing is the process where individuals mutually exchange their knowledge and jointly create new knowledge. This process is essential in translating individual knowledge to organisational knowledge. As mentioned again in the introduction, knowledge sharing implies that knowledge sharing process consists of brining/ donating knowledge and getting/ collecting knowledge. According to Van den Hoff B. and De Ridder A.J., 2004 the following two categories:

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Knowledge donating - communicating to others what one's personal intellectual capital is.

Knowledge collecting - consulting colleagues in order to get them to share their intellectual capital.

Both processes are active processes, either actively communicating to others what one knows, or actively consulting others in order to learn what they know.

2.2 Organisational commitment and knowledge sharing

The motivations and effects for knowledge donating and collecting can be expected to be quite different. In order to find what should create a feeling of commitment and thus knowledge sharing between individuals in an organisation or a firm, the different ways of organisational commitments will be shown Presented by Meyer J.P and Allen N.J., 1997 as follows:

Affective commitment, which is related to identification and involvement with the organisation, an emotional attachment to the specific organisation from the individual so that he/she wants to continue employment to the organisation.

Continuance commitment is created by high costs associated with leaving the organisation and creates a feeling of needing to continue employment.

Finally normative commitment is related to a felling of obligation towards the organisation and creates the feeling that one ought to continue employment.

The following scheme describes graphically describes knowledge sharing in organisations.

Organisational Knowledge

Individual knowledge sharing

Knowledge donating

Knowledge collecting


Fig. 2 Knowledge sharing

2.3 Knowledge sharing barriers

One important factor in an organisation's culture, which plays an important role in the success of knowledge management, is the identification and recognition of knowledge sharing barriers. Knowledge sharing practices often seem to fail because companies attempt to adjust their organisational culture to fit their knowledge management or knowledge sharing goals and strategy, instead of implementing them so that they can fit their culture. According to Mcdermott and O'Dell 2001, stated in Riege A. 2005; a number of companies, such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ford, and IBM, have integrated knowledge-sharing activities successfully into their corporate culture. The main reason, however, why most companies do not reach their knowledge sharing goals seems to be due to the lack of a clear connection between the KM strategy and overall company goals, possibly because knowledge sharing time and again is perceived as a separate activity.

Moreover at an individual or employee level, knowledge-sharing barriers are often related to factors such as lacking communication skills and social networks, differences in national culture and a lack of time and trust. At an organisational level, barriers tend to be linked to, for instance, the economic viability, lack of infrastructure and resources, the accessibility of formal and informal meeting spaces, and the physical environment. At a technology level, barriers seem to correlate with factors such as the unwillingness to use applications due to a mismatch with need requirements, unrealistic expectations of information technology systems, and difficulties in building, integrating and modifying technology-based systems. There are various reasons why people hoard their knowledge and the contexts are often multi-dimensional.

2.4 Individual and organisational barriers in knowledge sharing

Potential individual barriers originating from individual behaviour or people's perceptions and actions can relate to either individuals or groups within or between business functions. On the other hand one of the key issues of sharing knowledge in an organisational context is related to the right corporate environment and conditions.

Individual barriers as stated by Riege A., 2005; may be general lack of time to share knowledge, apprehension of fear that sharing knowledge may jeopardise the integrity and security of the people's job data, lack of contact time and interaction between knowledge sources and recipients, age differences and gender differences. So in order to stimulate sharing knowledge to individuals social managing skills are important. Also In the old school of thinking where profitability was reflected by an organisation's output, knowledge hoarding rather than sharing was believed to benefit career advancement. Sharing of knowledge often was regarded as weakening an employee's corporate position, power or status within the company. Another potential barrier is employees' national culture, commonly recognised as an interrelated set of values, practices and symbols, that are learned and shared by individuals and whose meanings provide orientation to members of an organisation. According to O'Dell C. and Grayson, 1998; lack of time is a common sharing barrier, concluding that even though managers are aware of the benefits of knowledge sharing, they often struggle to implement it due to time constraints. Time restrictions are also a reason why people may potentially hoard their knowledge rather than spend time to share knowledge with others. Instead people naturally focus on those tasks that are more beneficial to them. Finally in employee - individual context knowledge sharing is impossible without mentioning the word trust. Most people are unlikely to share their knowledge without a feeling of trust: trust that people do not misuse their knowledge, or trust that knowledge is accurate and credible due to the information source. A detailed assessment of the quality of external tacit or explicit knowledge is often impossible due to source and time constraints. It is mostly in informal networks that people trust each other, voluntarily share knowledge and insights with each other, and collaborate actively and willingly.

As for the organisational barriers according to Gold et al, 2001, the misallocation of human or process-oriented resources such as skilled personnel, finance, and information and communication technology, can impact on creating an effective knowledge-sharing environment. Providing an appropriate infrastructure and sufficient resources to facilitate sharing practices within and between functional areas is the basis of a successful Knowledge management program but sharing practices are often doomed to fail before they begin due to the absence of basic infrastructure and sharing capabilities.

3. Organisational Culture and how it contributes in knowledge sharing

Organisational culture is defined by Martins E.G. and Terblanche F. 2001 as the deeply seated values and beliefs shared by personnel in an organisation. Organisational culture is manifested in the typical characteristics of the organisation. It therefore refers to a set of basic assumptions that worked so well in the past that they are accepted as valid assumptions within the organisation. These assumptions are maintained in the continuous process of human interaction, as well as the right way in which things are done or problems should be understood in the organisation. Organisational culture forms an integral part of the general functioning of an organisation. A strong culture provides shared values that ensure that everyone in the organisation is on the same track according to Robbins S.P., 1997. The role that organisational culture plays in an organisation can be divided into the functions of organisational culture has on the different processes in the organisation. According to Martins E.G. and Terblanche F. 2001, the functions of organisational culture are internal integration and coordination. The function of internal integration can be described as the socialising of new members in the organisation, creating boundaries of the organisation, the feeling of identity among personnel and commitment to the organisation. The coordinating function refers to creating a competitive edge, making sense of the environment in terms of acceptable behaviour and social stability system stability. Organisational culture in other words is the basic part of communication between employees and mutual understanding. Stated by Furnham A. and Gunter B. 1993, if organisational culture does not fulfil these two functions mentioned above in a satisfactory way, the culture may significantly reduce the efficiency of an organisation.

Moreover research on organisational values and knowledge management as stated by Lavi M. et al 2006, that organisational value is important to facilitate effective knowledge sharing practices among firm members. They conclude that organisations with more open and supportive value orientations are predisposed toward constructive knowledge behaviours such as firm members sharing insights with others. These values, they argue, form part of the firm's knowledge infrastructure capability, which may influence organizational abilities to innovate, to respond rapidly to change, and to be responsive to new market demands. Similarly, in the study of Jarvenpaa S.L. and Staples S.D., 2001 about university personnel shows that shared organisational values influence individual's perception of ownership of knowledge and subsequent tendencies to share knowledge with others. Their study concludes that a propensity to share and perceived organizational ownership of information leads to greater use of collaborate media to share information. Nevertheless Lee H. and Choi B., 2003 examined in their research, some different enablers of knowledge creation, among them the organisational values of collaboration, trust, and learning. According to their findings in their study found support for their hypothesis of a positive relationship of organisational culture, defined by collaboration, trust, and learning and knowledge creation processes conclude that shaping an organisation's cultural factors are key to a firm's ability to manage knowledge effectively. Similarly as presented by Lee G.K. and Cole R.E., 2003 found that the culture of the extended Linux community was important in regulating the norm of open sharing, in addition to providing a quality control mechanism. They discovered that culture acted as a social control mechanism to manage community members and to sanction those who deviated from norms. The freedom to express criticism was found to be a significant underpinning of the development process that enabled knowledge to expand.

Closing we can conclude that, the underlying theme has been that certain types of organisational values will lead to different types of knowledge management behaviour and that these behaviours will lead to varying outcomes. Thus, cultural values such as sharing, openness, and trust will lead to positive knowledge management behaviours, such as knowledge contribution and sharing, which will lead to innovation and efficiencies. On the other hand not sharing values will lead to dysfunctional knowledge management behaviours, such as information hoarding and, hence, undesirable outcomes such as inefficiencies. Therefore, organisations should seek to promote and build the types of cultural values that support their specific knowledge management objectives. In the following scheme the relationship between organisational culture and knowledge sharing is shown.

Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge management behaviours

Organisational values and culture Fig

Fig 3.Organisational culture and knowledge sharing

4. conclusions - discussion

This study has examined the way that organizational culture, as evidenced in perceived organisational values, influences knowledge management practices. In the first section the different ways of knowledge are pointed and how they appear in individuals as well as in organisations. In the second section there is an in detail analysis of the status and importance of knowledge sharing in organisations. In the third part the study examines the way organisational culture contributes into preparing the soil for knowledge sharing in organisations by employees.

Moreover the essay concludes that knowledge management is not a simple question of capturing, storing, and transferring information, rather it requires interpretation and organisation of information from multiple perspectives. Only by changing organisational culture, can an organisation gradually change the pattern of interaction between people, technologies, and techniques, because the core-competencies of an organization are entrenched deep into organisational practice. When environment is dynamic, and complex, it often becomes essential for organisations that they continually create, validate, and apply new knowledge into their products, processes, and services for value-addition. In general, organisations may use technologies or may take an informal approach in knowledge management. But to sustain long-term competitive advantage, a firm needs to create a fit between its technological and social systems. Technologies can be used to increase the efficiency of the people and enhance the information flow within the organisation, while social systems such as communities of practice improve on interpretations, by bringing multiple views on the information.

Managers in organisations must be serious about making knowledge management as a priority in the organisation, they should consider and analyse the balance between technological and social assets of the organisation. Putting too much emphasis on people or technologies is not sufficient; rather, management must revisit the interaction pattern between technologies, people, and the techniques people employ in using these technologies. Only by changing the interaction pattern in their favour, will managers be able to leverage knowledge for the competitive advantages of the organisations.