Knowledge Sharing Preferences Among Multicultural Students Commerce Essay

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Knowledge is the driving force for social development and successful execution of most - if not all - of organization activities. Wiig (1994) stated that, "knowledge is the primary force that determines and drives our ability to act in general and particularly to act intelligently". Knowledge, to a great extent, should become basic to each and every individual of a society. When discussing knowledge, many studies show that context is one of the important issues we need to address. Davenport & Prusak (1994) view knowledge as a mix of framed experience, value, contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. They also said that for knowledge to have value, it must include the human addition of context, experience and interpretation. Adding to this view Nonaka (1994) states that knowledge is about meaning in the sense that it is context specific. This implies that for the knowledge repository to be effective, it should also contain the context in which the knowledge was generated.

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According to a study conducted by Wiig (1994), when asked, American executive responded that their company most important asset is knowledge held by their people. At the same time, they admitted that they do not know how to manage this asset (knowledge) properly. Gamble & Blackwell (2001) states that managing knowledge is not done so in mechanical sense, It is about extending the view of a process looking at the components of embodied knowledge, that which the knower intrinsically knows.

In organization context, knowledge management is regarded as the critical factor in offering competitive advantage. In social environment, knowledge management has assisted in the social development of many societies. In institutions, the discipline has enabled a smooth operation of activities, health learning environment and close ties between students and teachers.

One of the most essential ingredients of knowledge management is the knowledge sharing. Chua & Lam (2008) explained that for the knowledge to be managed, it must be retrieved from source, processed and then shared to other users. Like Knowledge Management, myriad definitions have come up to describe Knowledge Sharing depending on the context, origin and dimensionality in which it was used. Among the most compelling of the definitions was offered by Tsoukas & Chia (2002), they define knowledge sharing as the process where individuals exchange their knowledge and jointly create new knowledge in a knowing process within a social context that is also constructed out of this activities. The two important elements of sharing of knowledge are culture and context.

Jennex (2008) further explained that culture forms the basis of how we process and use knowledge by providing believe frameworks for understanding and using the knowledge, contexts provides the framing for the knowledge explaining how it was created and meant to be used. These elements are both critical to the transfer and the reuse of knowledge. Jennex had earlier elaborated the impact of culture and context in the year 2006 by discussing projects that were not successful as expected due to context and culture issue (Jennex, Classifying Knowledge Management Systems Based on Context Content, 2006). Culture is something that is rooted, embedded into people lives and determines how this people interact socially. Knowledge sharing activities can be to some extent easier to achieve when applied to a society from the same culture.

In a multicultural environment, Knowledge sharing activities can be very challenging. Hofstede (2001) recalls that significant differences between nations can lead to differences between national groups within the same organization causing those groups to either understand knowledge differently, or have significant barriers to participating in the sharing of knowledge.

Business and learning environments have dramatically change over the years due to the advancement of technology, introduction of World Wide Web and globalization. These factors have expanded the range of choices that people can use to share knowledge. Groupware technology has enable people from different locations to hold meetings at the same time, computerized database systems has made the data manipulation activities easier, online chatting sites, video cameras and e- mails have assisted in social interaction and so many other technologies. The preference of channels and people to share knowledge is limited only to ones perception.

Globalization is an added ingredient to the changing environment, multinational companies and multicultural institutions have given knowledge sharing topic a different spin. With globalization, these multicultural institutions and organizations are forced to adopt global vision and strategies. A major challenge of this environment setup, is integrating the different culture and context, something that when not well executed can cause a big problem in the society and knowledge sharing habit.

Statement of Problem

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As individuals join institutions, organization or other social gathering, they bring with them learned behaviors from their experiences that either promote or inhibit effective knowledge sharing (Morey, Maybury, & Thuraisingham, 2000).The individual behaviour's that determines his/her knowledge sharing habits and preferences may be shaped by many forces that comes from the cultural background the individual is coming from .Knowing the elements that determines knowledge sharing preferences and habits of individual coming from different cultural background, is among the first step of solving problems that emerged from knowledge sharing in a setting that contains people from multicultural background.

This study is going to investigate the knowledge sharing preference among multicultural students in a university setting. The study will focus on four elements that are consider to be among the factors that could determine the knowledge sharing behavior and preference of students from different cultural background. The elements in discussion and their involvement in knowledge sharing preference are discussed below.

Attitude: Knowledge Sharing depends largely on an individual attitude towards it. Many studies done on knowledge sharing have addressed the role played by attitude in knowledge transfer from different dimensions. This study aims to clarify if individuals from the same cultural background posses the same attitude towards knowledge sharing and what impact attitude has in determine knowledge sharing preference of multicultural students.

Environment: Environment determines the kind of knowledge to be shared, how and what media is to be used to share the knowledge. This study intends to gain insight on how different cultures share knowledge in different environment and their preference of media to use in different environments.

Motivational Indicators: The use of rewards has been used in several places to motivate knowledge sharing. Liu (2008) explained that offering rewards is one of the methods that is used by most organization to motivate the individuals to share knowledge.This study will investigate on factors that enable and disable knowledge sharing preference from multicultural students.

Communication Channels:Communication channel (be it traditional one or technology mediated) is at the center of every knowledge sharing activities. The range of communication channel have been expanded by the advancement of communication technology.This study investigates the type of communication channels prefered by students from multicultural background and the kind of message transmitted by the channels.

1.3 Definition of Terms

1.3.1 Definition of knowledge

According to Turban & Aronson (2001), Knowledge is information that is contextual, relevant and experiential. Davenport & Prusak (1994) define knowledge as a fluid of mix experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. Clarke (2002) defines knowledge as the understanding of why and how something works. The notion of knowledge is hard to capture. There is a close similarity between knowledge and information. Knowledge has a strong experiential element that distinguishes it from information in any given context

1.3.2 Definition of knowledge management

Knowledge management has had myriad of definitions, in his book; Liebowitz (1997) has collected the following definitions from some of the most reputable advocates of knowledge management.

Knowledge management is the systematic, explicit and deliberate building, renewal and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise's knowledge related effectiveness and returns from its knowledge asset. (Wiig, Intergrating Intellectual capital and knowledge management.Long range planning, 1997)

Knowledge management is getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time so they can make the decision (O'dell & Grayson, 1998).

To this day there is no universal acceptable definition that has explained what Knowledge Management is, every definition given was used to serve the purpose of the context in which it was used. In our purpose we will use the almost recently definition given by Murray (2006), which defines Knowledge Management as the practice of selectively applying knowledge from previous experience of decision making to current and future decision making activities with the purpose of improving society effectiveness.

1.3.3 Definition of knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing according to Jennex (2006) occurs when people, as members of the same or different organization, exchange both tacit and explicit knowledge. Becera-Fernandez, Gonzalez, & Sabherwal (2004) elaborated this definition by adding that "In knowledge sharing, exchange helps to transfer explicit knowledge whereas socialization is needed for tacit knowledge."

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The definition given by Tsoukas & Chia (2002) will best fit this study's purpose, they defined knowledge sharing as the process where individuals exchange their knowledge and jointly create new knowledge in a knowing process within a social context that is also constructed out of these activities.

1.3.4 Definition of culture

The United Nation, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), had an expanded definition of culture, they regard culture as " the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or a social group and that encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditional and beliefs ".

Among the most recent of definition was the one offered by Ronald (2005) who identified culture as a set of values, beliefs, norms, custom, rules and codes that leads people to define them as a distinct group giving them a sense of commonality.

1.3.5 Definition of Preference

The definition of preference given by Merriam (2010) is "the act of giving advantages to some over the others". Dictionary.com (2010) defines preference as the granting of precedence of an item or a group over the other(s).The most coincise definition of reference is given by Wikimedia (2010) that termed preference as an individual's attitude towards a set of objects, typical reflected in an explicit decision making process.

Research Questions

A number of questions will be formulated to help this research study to achieve its objectives. Some of the research questions for this study are:

What is the attitude of students from multicultural background towards knowledge sharing?

What channels of communication are preferred the most by students from multicultural background and what kind of information that is transferred through the channel?

What impact does environment have in determining knowledge sharing preference among multicultural students?

What are the enablers and disablers of knowledge sharing among multicultural students?

Research Objectives

The objective of this research is to study the effects that attitude, environment, culture and motivational indicators have on knowledge sharing preference among students in a multicultural background. The following is an explanation of these four objectives.

The attitude of students towards knowledge sharing: According to Dimaggio (1997), Knowledge sharing is an integral part of individual work behavior and is constantly guided by individual attitude. Jennex (2006) confirmed this view by explaining that the behavior and attitude possessed by an individual's social interaction with the environment have been constantly revised in a social context in the knowledge sharing field

Environment context: Environment forces individuals to make precision on what knowledge to share, how much to share, who to share with and what channels to use when sharing. Morrison (2002) explained that individual students regularly refine their knowledge sharing rules and education practices to decide what exactly knowledge to share, who to share with and through which channels, based on the environment. Some students feel free to share knowledge in some environment compare to the other environments. Given this, environment context affects the knowledge sharing capacity.

Motivational Indicators: For a receiver to access, comprehend and assimilate the shared knowledge, the sharer must be aware and motivated, to share in skilled ways that meets the receiver needs (Dixon, 2002).This study is going to examine the factors that motivates and inhibits knowledge sharing among parties.

Communication Channels: The advancement of technology has stretched the range of channels through which individuals can communicate from. From the traditional face to face and telephone communications, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have expanded the range to include emails, bulletin boards, internet instant messaging, collaborative workspace i.e. wikis, voice over internet communication, teleconferencing and many more. When examining knowledge sharing in today's context at least two factors have to be put into consideration; a, the type of knowledge to be shared. b, the number of channels available to share that knowledge (Dalkir, 2008).This research examines the communication channels used by students from multicultural background to transfer knowledge and the kind of knowledge they transfer.

Research Hypotheses

A statistical hypothesis is an assertion or conjecture concerning one or more population, its plausibility is to be evaluated on the basis of the information obtained by sampling from the population (Bhattacharyya & Johnson, 1977).The concept behind hypothesis testing is to determine if a guessing about some feature of a population is strongly supported by the information obtained from the sample data.

Due to the fact that an assertion might be true or false, two complementary hypotheses are formulated.

Hypothesis Ho (Null hypothesis), assert that the hypothesis is true.

Hypothesis H1 (Alternate hypothesis), refers to a false assertion.

By using information from the sample outcomes, the decision will either be to reject or fail to reject the hypothesis.

The hypothesis identified in this study will be tied to the objectives defined. Some of the hypotheses that will be used are:

Students in the university have a positive attitude towards knowledge sharing

Culture determines the choice of communication channel among multicultural students.

Environment has a significant impact in determining the knowledge sharing preference among multicultural students.

Students from multicultural background have different factors that motivate them to share knowledge.

We can predict the future knowledge sharing preference of multicultural students based on the current preference.

Research Methodology

Both online and paper based questionnaire will be used to solicit information from the respondent. The targeted respondents are of Middle East, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Eastern Europe who are studying in International Islamic University Malaysia from Gombak campus in any of the faculties (kulliyah).

The distribution of the questionnaire will be done through passing of the web link to the respondents through email, social networking sites (e.g. facebook), announcement and short text messaging.

The analysis of the responses obtained will be done by using SPSS research software. The reporting shall be aided by graphs and charts to aid in ease of interpretation.

Significance of the Study

A majority of the studies on knowledge sharing has been done on organizational context. Only limited work has been done on knowledge sharing behaviour of students from multicultural background. This study will offer comparison in knowledge sharing habit between different cultures.

2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Introduction

The knowledge management subject attracted a lot of attention mostly from organizations such that, not more than two decades ago, knowledge management became a discipline with a lot of advocates and scholars contributing to it. There is no consensus definition to what knowledge management is, however the definition that can be most applicable in this context is from Jennex (2008), she views knowledge management as the act of selectively applying knowledge from previous experiences of decision making to current and future decision making experience. Knowledge management discipline is an umbrella subject that encompasses other subjects. The application of knowledge management has proved successful in many aspect of human life.

2.2 Review of related Literature

2.2.1 Types of knowledge

Holsapple & Whinston (1996) defined six types of knowledge that knowledge management can contain. These include descriptive, procedural, reasoning, linguistic, presentation, and assimilative knowledge. Descriptive knowledge is the knowledge about time, or hypothetical states of relevance concerned with knowing what. Procedural knowledge is concerned with knowing how and specifies some step-by-step procedures for how the task is performed. Reasoning knowledge is concerned with knowing why, evaluating conclusions that are valid for a set of circumstances. Presentation knowledge facilitates communication. It is concerned with methods of delivering the knowledge. Linguistic knowledge interprets communication once it has been received. Assimilative knowledge helps to maintain the knowledge base by improving on existing knowledge.

The most commonly used types of knowledge are the ones described by (Polanyi, 1967), Polanyi described knowledge as being in two dimensions, tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is that which is understood within a knower's mind and which cannot be directly expressed by data or knowledge presentations. Explicit knowledge is that knowledge that can be documented and be expressed by data presentations.

Prat (2006) agreed with the Holsaple & Whinston and Polanyi' views and further expands the types of knowledge by categorizing them into four broader groups which are Explicitness, Reach, Abstraction level and Propositionality. The following Fig II shows the description of knowledge as given by David.

Fig II: Types of knowledge. (Adapted from Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management (2006)).

In these four classifications, Prat (2006) offers the following explanation:

Explicitness distinguishes between Tacit and Explicit knowledge with the same definition as given by Polanyi (1967).

The Reach classification makes a distinction between individual and collective knowledge. Collective knowledge is further classified into three groups of knowledge, Organizational knowledge and Inter-organizational knowledge.

The Abstraction-level classification distinguishes between specific and general. The difference between the two is important because knowledge is often more easily transmitted when it is in a specific form.

Propositionality classification distinguishes between declarative knowledge (descriptive knowledge/ "know-what") and procedural ("know-how") knowledge. The procedural and declarative knowledge are closely related to tacit and explicit knowledge respectively.

2.2.2 Types of cultures

There are two types of culture namely; individualism and collectivism. According to Gamble, P. & Blackwell, J. (2001), People from individualistic culture tend to operate on unstated assumption that the world is competitive place and it is up to individual to get ahead. Collectivism group members prefer to work in groups and are more effective in groups.

2.2.3 Role of culture in knowledge sharing

Hofstede (2001), stated that "culture consists of patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reaction, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiment in artifacts; the essential core elements of culture consists of traditions, ideas and especially their attached values". This definition encapsulates the role that culture has in knowledge sharing by mentioning tradition, ideas and values. Tradition is something that is historical derived and selected, this can define the context, which is necessary for knowledge sharing. The attached values can explain how individual think, how that individual interprets words and gestures and the individual overall perception towards things. These are among the important ingredients of knowledge sharing.

Knowledge sharing consists of a sender and a receiver, Jennex (2006) has explained that, a receiver's perception of what is shared is affected and influenced by his or her cultural background. Zakaria et. al (2004), described the process of knowledge sharing as "knowledge is filtered in cultural lenses, whether we see those lenses or not". Kuofie (2005) studied the behaviour of organizational management and found that organizational culture as affecting both team performance and knowledge sharing. In his assessment, Ruggles (1998) identified culture as the major obstacle, utmost complex and significantly important among the factors that influence knowledge sharing. Duan, Xu, & Fu (2006) added to this by claiming that culture affects knowledge sharing since it influences and shape beliefs about the value of knowledge for the individual and a group.

In the subject of culture and knowledge management, De Long & Fahey (2000) identified the following four issues that make culture an important ingredient of knowledge sharing:

Culture shapes assumptions about what knowledge is and which knowledge is worth managing.

Culture defines the relationship between individual and group knowledge, determining who can share it.

Culture creates the context for social interaction.

Culture shapes the process in which new knowledge is created, legitimized and distributed.

Many other studies including (Ardichvili, Maurer, Li, Wentling, & Stuedemann, 2006; Michailova & Husted, 2003) have managed to prove that knowledge sharing behavior is profoundly influenced by the cultural values of a group of people.

Despite determining the importance of culture in knowledge sharing, the contributors in the field of Knowledge Management are still struggling to identify the strategies used to measure cultural values and the knowledge sharing behavior among different cultures. Some proponent of knowledge management have tried to fill this gap by coming up with dimensions and frameworks unto which the cultural differences could be measured.

Hofstede (1980) showed that significant differences between cultures can lead to differences between a group of people in a place, causing them to either understand knowledge differently or have significant barrier when participating in the knowledge sharing. In examining the effect of cultural differences, Hofstede (1980) used the following five dimension to access the cultural values:

Power distance index: Determines expectation regarding equity among group members.

Uncertainty avoidance index: Determines typical reactions to situations considered different. Sun & Xu (2010) believed that the strong certainty avoidance culture cannot tolerate difference in opinion while the weaker uncertainty avoidance culture is more tolerant to different opinion and encourages its member to propose different viewpoints.

Individualism-Collectivism index: Determines the strength of the relationship between individual and the community. Sun & Xu (2010) have defined individualism as a culture of people who only cared about oneself and are most intimate in one kind of lax social structure while collectivism as a culture that works as a community and usually cares about one another. Chen (2001) termed Western country's social value orientation as individualism while Eastern country's social values as collectivism by using the Levis jeans' television advertisement.In the advertisement that was shot in Britain, a young man entered a laundromat, takes off body's clothes in the presence of people, then puts on shots and sits in between two women.This sort of advertisement intends to pass the message that a man who wears Levis jean is a man out of ordinary, despises the social behaviour standard and does not pay attention to others.In Japan, the Levis advertisement took a different approach, a group of fashionable young people put on Levis sign's clothing, you should be like this you will not fall behind.In this context Levis passed the message that wearing their product helps maintains social consistence and you will never feel out of ordinary.

Masculinity - Feminism index: Determines expectations regarding gender roles. Despite the actual roles to be played by gender, feminism culture could also refer to a culture that cared about other people and pays much attention to the quality of life (Wu, 2003).

Long-term orientation index: Determines the basic orientation of the society group with time.

Another alternative framework of evaluating cultural differences was proposed by Schwartz(1992) , Schwartz used ten different domain to identify values according to their motivational content in a cross-cultural samples, the domains identified by him were power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity and security. The priority given to these domains identifies the individual system of value structure.

2.2.4 Axiological accounts on cultural formation

One of the most demanding tasks when studying about values of one's culture is identifying how the cultural values came into existence. To know about values of a culture, one has to dig deep into its history and get some elements that bonded to form the values.

Some proponents have given contributions on how some values within particulars cultures were formed. Iovan (2010) used the writtings of the profound contributor in the field of axiology, Vasile Goldis , to explain about the important role played by spiritual belief in the formation of Romanian culture during the 19th century. According to him, eras that define the existence of a particular culture were determined by a leading idea which guides its people in their social life, and when this idea has been achieved to the fullest, it is abandoned to make room for another one that fits the needs of mankind. At past such leading idea came in the form of nationalism, spiritual and leadership.

The formation of culture by nationalism is facilitated by when a state and its people adopt a shared meaning and interlock in their habit of communication. Anderson (1991) shows how nationalism can be essential in the establishment of cultural values.

3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1 Introduction

This section will describe the steps and methods that will be taken to complete the study. A detail description of tools, mechanism and techniques used in the study is given in this chapter. The chapter also justifies the usage of the tools used in this study.

3.2 Population and Sampling

International Islamic University Malaysia students make up the population space for the study. The targeted respondents from this are students who are coming from Iraq, Malaysia, Palestine, Nigeria and Sudan.

Since it is not practical to collect information from all the students that falls in these six subdivision, only a sample of them are going to be picked from each subset to represent the entire population.

Random sampling technique will be used to ensure that there is no biasness when selecting the sample sizes.

3.3 Data Collection Strategy

An online questionnaire will be used as a survey instrument to collect information to be used in the research. The questionnaire will consist of four parts that reflects on the objectives of this research study.

The answers given to the questionnaire will be in a closed format so as to enable standardization of the collected answers and to make the analysis of the results easier.

The choice of answers to most of the questionnaire will deploy the rating or ranking setting with a bipolar likert scaling measurement, mostly with an option from 1 to 5, where 3 is the neutral point

The distribution of the questionnaire shall be achieved by passing the online questionnaire link to the intended respondents.

3.4 Measurement/Instrument

After the information is collected from the respondents, the following measurement techniques will be used to measure the data.

Descriptive statistics: Frequency, mean and median shall be deployed to in measuring mostly the demographic part of the questionnaire.

ANOVA distribution: Since there is more than two samples used in the study, ANOVA distribution shall be used to compare the means of the sample sizes.

Correlation: Correlation measurement will be deployed to find if there is any relationship between the data collected.

These measurements shall be done by the assistant of SPSS data analytical tool.

3.5 Data Analysis Strategy

The study will be using SPSS statistical research tool to analyze the data derived during the data collection exercise.