Abstract—Knowledge management has become known as a field that can influence the competitiveness of organizations. Knowledge management draws largely from knowledge sharing, because when knowledge is held but not shared, it cannot help an organization increase efficiency. Knowledge sharing does not operate in a vacuum, instead it is influenced by the culture of an organization, which may foster or suppress the development of knowledge sharing behaviour (Wang and Noe, 2010). The environment of employees within an organization can also influence the impact of knowledge sharing by increasing the knowledge sharing capacity of members. The literature on the association between organizational culture and knowledge sharing is extensive and covers a range of topics. This research paper focuses specifically on the association between knowledge sharing and the dimensions of organizational culture. In particular, this paper will focus on the organizational culture dimensions developed by Hofestede, which illustrates that the culture of an organization influences the behaviors adopted by the members of the particular organization. Of these dimensions, the distinction between internally and externally driven cultures one is of particular interest. Internally driven cultures believe that adherence to honesty and ethics is the most important aspect, in meeting the needs of customers and the community. Externally driven cultures, on the other hand, believe that meeting the requirements and the needs of the customer is most important, regardless of the ethical sentiments disregarded. According to the literature, (e.g. Wu, 2006); Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010), organizational culture determines the behaviors adopted by employees to a large extent, and the organizational climate developed, which can influence the development of knowledge sharing behaviors. The objective of this paper is to explore whether externally driven cultures enhance knowledge sharing moreso than internally driven cultures. We provide evidence that externally driven cultures empower the development of knowledge sharing behaviors, by helping the organization source and explore information beyond cultural, religious and national boundaries. As a result, externally driven cultures foster the development of knowledge sharing behaviors to a greater extent than internally driven cultures.
Keywords: Knowledge sharing; knowledge management; organizational culture; behavior; Hofstede; organizational culture dimensions; externally driven culture; internally oriented culture
Competitive advantages allow businesses to gain the upper hand and operate by efficiently or effectively, compared to their competition. Recently, knowledge management has gained attention as a potential resource for developing a competitive advantage. In addition, it represents one of the most essential areas of daily operations for an organizations (Small and Sage, 2005). Further, knowledge sharing has been found to be a very essential function in determining the success that an organization is likely to register in the area of knowledge management (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang and Joseph, 2006). Wang and Noe (2010) pointed out that the practices of knowledge sharing are heavily influenced by the organizational culture, which can enhance knowledge sharing among workers and other members of the organization. In fact, some researchers have attributed the uptake of knowledge sharing behaviours to a the employee’s exchange ideology, which draws greatly from the organizational culture guiding the particular organization (Heijden, 2004).
This review will point out the established relationship between organizational culture, and the practices involved with knowledge sharing and knowledge managment. Organizational culture forms the basis for fostering employee empowerment, along with the knowledge management and knowledge sharing abilities of employees (Bellot, 2011). Based on the relationship between organizational culture and behaviour adoption, organizations can change their organizational cultures to adopt one that favors the development of knowledge management and sharing. Doing that can play a very important role in furnishing knowledge sharing at the workplace (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang and Joseph, 2006).
This research paper is divided into three parts: the first part will discuss the role of knowledge sharing, along with its association with organizational culture in the workplace. Part one will also explore Hofestde’s organizational culture dimensions, demonstrating the growth of knowledge sharing behaviors among workers. The section will also explore the characteristics of internally driven compared to externally driven cultures, in the context of developing knowledge sharing behaviors (Arling and Chun, 2011). The second part will discuss internally and externally driven cultures as determinants in the development of knowledge sharing behaviors. The second section will also discuss the different avenues of fostering knowledge sharing through internally driven and externally driven cultures. In addition, the second section aims to identify the most optimal cultural system for promoting knowledge sharing behaviour. The third part will argue that externally driven culture promotes knowledge sharing to a greater extend than internally driven cultures (Hofstede, 2011).
2.0 THE CRITICAL ROLE OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING
According to the views of Hendriks (1999), knowledge sharing can contribute to the development of successful knowledge management. Knowledge sharing refers to the distribution of knowhow and task information, with the aim of helping members of the organization collaborate with others. This is done during the implementation of new procedures and policies, as well as during the development of ideas (Cummings, 2004). Agonte (1999) argues that, if knowledge is not shared among the different members of an organization, the knowledge of that institution will remain grossly underutilized (Dulaimi, 2007). One of the main contributions to knowledge sharing is organizational culture, which aids in engaging the different members, such that they will share the information they possess. The organizational culture itself is composed of individuals with distinct personalities, each of which can influence the development of culture within an organization. Key personality traits that may play a role include collectivism, motivational attitudes and trust (OZbebek, 2011).
Following this association between the role of the individual and the development of knowledge sharing behavior, it is necessary to adopt a culture system that empowers the individual’s knowledge development capacity (Wang and Noe, 2010). The members of an organization are the agents of knowledge colletion, as well as important players in knowledge retention and also act as the distribution points (OZbebek, 2011). Many organizations have invested money and other resources into the development of knowledge management systems, which relies on the role played by the individuals within the organization (Wang and Noe, 2010, p. 115). This study will explore the culture systems that can encourage knowledge sharing in the workplace. Particularly, the study will explore the empowerment of knowledge sharing behaviors within the context of Hofestde’s cultural dimensions, paying special attention to the internally driven versus externally driven culture.
3.0 THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF KNOWLEDGE SHARING BEHAVIORS
Jackson, et. al (2006) argue that a strong relationship can be demonstrated between the culture of an organization and the level to which employees develop knowledge sharing behaviors. More specifically, Wang and Noe (2010) demonstrated that developing the knowledge sharing abilities of employees can empower workers. Cummings (2004), explains that employee empowerment is the process of developing the abilities of employees, so that they feel self-sufficient amongst the other members within the organization. Wang and Noe (2010) point out that the process of empowerment draws from sources of vulnerability among the members of an organization. These areas include personal characteristics like personality; cultural traits like collectivism, and motivational factors, like attitudes and trust (Hendriks, 1999). The empowerment process is best used in a way that develops the character of an employee by equipping him with knowledge. Empowerment can also occur by suppressing disadvantageous cultural values, while developing positive traits like trust in the organization and their job-specific skills and the support of the other employees (Hendriks, 1999).
As a component of the culture of an organization, Thomas and Velthouse (1990) explained the practice of empowerment as the process through which knowledge development and knowledge sharing are nurtured among the individuals. This process depends on an emoployee’s trust in their own ability to deliver and communicate knowledge. Thomas and Velthouse (1990) further explained that the underlying relationship between organizational culture and the adoption of knowledge sharing behaviors can be explained on the basis of four perspectives to employee development. The first perspective is that the employee should identify some meaning in the role of knowledge sharing. For employees to dedicate their work time to knowledge sharing, the culture of the organization must value their sharing of knowledge (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). This value develops from a combination between the value of sharing the knowledge they hold and their pre-existing values, standards, and ideals. The second perspective is self determination within an organizational culture, which results in an emphasis on knowledge acquisition among employees. Cultures with greater levels of self determination are more likely to increase knowledge sharing, compared to one that limits knowledge acquisition (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). This perspective also implies the level to which the different employees are aware of the common goals, and the extent to which they feel capable of pursuing those goals. An organizational culture that emphasizes the development of employee competencies in response to changing industry expectations is likely to promote knowledge sharing (Small and Sage, 2005). The third perspective is competence, which marks the employee’s ability to contribute toward the organization’s goals or to offer other members information (MInyoung, Myungssun, Soo and Seokhwa, 2012). An organizational culture that encourages employees to act on information generated by employees will encourage knowledge sharing, because the members will see the value in giving information (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). The fourth perspective used to explain the relationship between organizational culture and knowledge sharing is the impact of sharing. Impact marks the level to which an employee feels that knowledge sharing can increase the performance of other employees or the organization in general (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). In demonstrating the relationship between organizational culture and knowledge sharing, an employee who identifies meaning in the course of sharing their knowledge is likely to share their knowledge. The reason is that, employees will not share their information, unless they feel that it will contribute to the overall goals of the organization. Further, the meaning of sharing will be traceable to other cultural aspects, including value, ethical principles and the attention offered to the individual in contributing towards organizational success (Small and Sage, 2005).
Following this exploration of the literature, it is clear that the culture of an organization creates an environment where employee empowerment is fostered or discouraged (O’Dell and Hubert, 2011). As a result, this can affect the level of knowledge sharing among employees and the knowledge management in organizations (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). Employees that are equipped with knowledge and shown the value of the information they hold are more likely to share –with both insiders and outsiders. This view is supported by Spreitzer (1996), who argues that the adoption of a pro knowledge sharing culture allows knowledge sharing to take place across different divisions of the organization. Conversely, Spreitzer explains that a highly bureaucratic organization discourages knowledge sharing, because subordinate staff are bound by the information communicated by the superiors, and may not be allowed to offer information or knowledge to the superiors.
4.0 ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE DIMENSIONS BY HOFESTDE
Through explorative studies, Hofestede discovered that cultural differences exist between different groups. However, the cultural differences are not always evident through the values of different groups, instead they are evident through the practices of those groups (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010). From the studies by Hofestede, the cultural differences are represented through the different groups of people within the organization. For example, among the members of a group, the interests of the entire group are given priority over the interests of any individual member (Hofstede, 2001). Hofestede went further to argue that organizational culture or the culture of a group distinguishes the members of the given organization or group from those of other groups. The organizational culture representation developed by Hofestede is characteristic of six autonomous dimensions and two semi-autonomous dimensions, which depict the nature of an organizational culture or group (Hofstede, 2011). The autonomous dimensions operate independently of one another, while semi-autonomous dimensions rely on one another (Hofstede Center, 2013). The autonomous dimensions include internally driven versus externally driven, means oriented versus goal oriented, easy going control versus strict work control, local versus professional, employee oriented versus work oriented and open system versus closed system cultures (Hofstede et. al, 1991). Separately, the two semi-autonomous dimensions include the level of identification with the organization and the degree of acceptance of the leadership style (Hofstede et. al, 1991). All of dimensions influence the development and nature of organizational cultures.
5.0 INTERNALLY DRIVEN CULTURE
In an organization guided by the internally driven culture, employees are discouraged from sharing knowledge, because the culture system limits knowledge development to areas that that touch on ethical standards, which An internally driven system may also discourage knowledge sharing, by diverting the focus of business (Hofstede Center, 2013). As a result, management and employees will have little time to generate product development knowledge, because they feel that their honesty and business ethics are being judged. In addition, an internally driven system discourages knowledge sharing, as it limits employees to the views of the outside community, as opposed to focusing on collecting knowledge and sharing it, which will help to improve organizational performance (Hofstede Center, 2013). Such an internally driven organization will be not be able to keep up with the fast-changing interests of their customers. This is because the organization is likely to waste time on exploring the value expectations of different customer groups – instead of focusing on the areas that could be improved to increase the competitive nature of the business (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv and Sanders, 1990).
In the continually changing business world, the focus of the organization should be directed towards the creation and the sourcing of useful knowledge, paying attention to basic ethical standards. However, where necessary, an organization can disregard subjective ethical standards, including the ethical constructions that may not apply to different cultural contexts (Hofstede, 2001). Generally, organizations should adhere to ethical standards and the expectations of honesty, but not shift resources and time towards cultivating these, at the expense of activities like knowledge development and knowledge sharing (Cummings, 2004). Therefore, the view of such an organization would also be limited, as the changes in the economic environment do not leave room to concentrate on the ethical and the honesty aspect of dealings, but on developing areas of best practices, including customer service and knowledge sharing (Cummings, 2004). Furthermore, strict adherence to ethical standards will mean that the organization is expected to deal with its customers and communities on a highly personal basis. Besides, in the fast changing business world, many of the information sources that offer valuable information to business are those that might not be exploited with the ethical and honest outlook in business dealings. For instance, through exploring the strengths and the weaknesses of competitors, a business is likely to improve its knowledge-base, despite the fact that the means of acquiring the information may not meet the ethical standards observed by under an internal driven culture.
6.0 EXTERNALLY DRIVEN CULTURE
In an organization guided by the externally driven culture, emphasis is placed on addressing the needs of the customers (Hofstede, et al.,1990). In essence, this means that an organization that adopts this culture will have enough time to invest in the development of knowledge, and also develop knowledge sharing abilities among the members of the particular organization. For example, one good source of new knowledge would be keenly watching the moves and the innovations of competitors, to get the underlying strategies (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv and Sanders, 1990). After capturing the underlying concepts, which may not be particularly ethical, the organization will be able to develop the knowledge collected, and then apply the same in staging their market place and customer outlook. Any organization that needs to meet the needs of its customers in the continually changing, competitive business environment should be one that can deliver hybrid strategies for addressing the changing demands (Tripathi and Tripathi, 2009). Through these proceedures, regardless of the unethically supported nature, the organization will be able to collect information from it’s competitors, and then use it to develop a strategy that incorporates the varied knowledge-base. Therefore, externally driven cultures do enhance knowledge sharing, as it improves the flexibility of organizations and its employees, in collecting information that helps its meet its customer’s needs. Through the approach, the organization will also improve in the area of the knowledge-base, as well as improve its knowledge development and sharing potential (Cummings, 2004).
The externally driven cultures believe that results are the most important metric in business, which engenders a pragmatic attitude and guides the business overall. This is an advantage over being guided by ethics, which is a charactierstic of internally driven culture. By eliminating the sentiments of honesty and ethical outlooks, an organization is able to focus its resources on the development of knowledge by sourcing of information on areas of focus. Further, a company’s pragmatic view will increase its focus on employee development in the areas that matter to the customer. This will consequently improve the knowledge-base held, which can also be shared amongst the members (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010).
7.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
7.1 Hofestede’s cultural dimensions from the perspective of other literatures
Hofstede argues that cultural variations that are evident among the members of different nations are traceable to distinct cultural groups and organizations (Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010). This study was supported by the findings of Wu (2006), who did a study of cultural variations between the US and Taiwan. Despite the cultural diversity of the two countries, his study showed that organizational culture plays a critical role in determining the behavior and the values developed by the employees and other members of the organization. From the study, Wu (2006) discovered that the cultures of different nations and locations change over time, which is most likely due to changing personal interests of the members of different organizations (Dulaimi, 2007). In support of this finding, structured administrative structures were preferred by university workers in both the US and Taiwan. The similarity was attributed to the education levels of these two groups, which were relatively similar, indicating that professional culture may exert a greater influence than national culture (Burns, Acar and Datta, 2011). The studyalso showed that there was a tendency of cultural standardization among the professionals associated with more educated groups, compared to those from other professions like copywriting (Ardichvili et al., 2006). In explaining the similar cultural outlook, Wu (2006) pointed out that cross-cultural communication played a greater role in streamlining organizationsresulting in positive behaviour development. The association shows that the two groups, across the different cultures, but similar professions shared common knowledge. The association points out that knowledge sharing should not be limited to cultures or nationalities. This is especially true in externally driven cultures, which do not emphasize ethical concerns that can vary from one culture to another (Small & Sage, 2005).
From the case study of Wu (2006), it became apparent that organizational cultures should not be limited by cultural constructions like ethics. Instead they should be driven by the common good of sharing knowledge and meeting the needs of the customer. As such, organizations should also develop organizational cultures that do not limit them in the international market. This is very important in the highly formalized and considerably streamlined international business of the 21st century (Cummings, 2004). This aspect is supported by the views of Scott-Findlay and Estabrooks (2007), who emphasized that modern organization should adopt cultures that reflect the assumptions, values and the artifacts of the international community. The adoption of an outside-looking, internationally-fitting culture can form a core competitive advantage to the organization (Scott-Findlay & Estabrooks, 2007).
The dimensions of Hofstede could also be supported by a recent study by Tsai (2011), which pointed out that a strong association exists between the culture of an organization and the behaviors adopted by the members. The study attributes the behavioral learning to the the way cultures regard learning, which are passed down to new members. The culture of an organization is the basis of principles and the rules governing organizational behavior, it can direct members towards knowledge sharing or potentially limit the practice (Tsai, 2011). If an organizational hopes to develop knowledge sharing it needs to choose a culture that encourages such activity.
7.2 Externally Driven vs Internally driven Cultures
From a study carried out by OZbebek (2011), knowledge sharing can take different channels, including written communication. Other channels of knowledge sharing include organizational communication, community practice groups, and person-to-group communication (Hendriks, 1999). From the adoption of an internally driven culture, an organization will be limited because the focus of all its relations with the outside. In addition, the members of the organization will be greatly hampered by the aspects of ethics, which vary from one culture to another. For an organization operating in a Muslim country, masculine-culture led organizations may impose ethical restrictions on women, in the areas of leadership positions (Bassetti and Favaro, 2010; Wadud, 2007). In such a case, limiting knowledge sharing of women on such standards will be illogical, and an organization guided by such standards will limit its knowledge development and sharing capacity (Bassetti and Favaro, 2010). In such a case, the internally driven culture did not act in the interest of the organization, because the move will negatively influence the knowledge sharing of female members, and inhibit the productivity of the organization. According to Michael (2006), the guide to corporate relations should not be ethics and honesty, but logical business ethics and corporate social responsibility. The case explained earlier depicts that the culture of an organization that should transcend the cultural constructions of values and ethics, and one that can cover diverse groups, yet address their needs to satisfaction (Tsai, 2011).
Such an organization will be open to the knowledge contribution of different groups, classes, and organizations, despite their cultural views (Michael, 2006). In an external culture, employees and the administration will be focused on the gathering of information, regardless of the source and through any available means, as long as they meet the expectations of corporate social responsibility (Mcevily, Das and McCabe, 2000). The organization will compute the information into knowledge, and then position itself in the market based on that knowledge (Wadud, 2007).
From reviewing the literature, an externally driven culture will be appropriate for the organization that plans to enter into new markets. Externally driven cultures can approach a new market in a manner that will not bow to the cultural limitations of that market (Hofstede, 2011). Besides, the major role of a business or an organization is to serve the customers, meeting their needs and requirements. Furthermore, in any national or international financial analysis, organizations and businesses are not ranked on the basis of their adherence to ethical values, but on the number of customers served and the incomes created at the end of their business. Therefore, an externally guided culture,– one that looks beyond cultural boundaries – will be the culture to guide organizations into international markets and exceptional financial success (Michael, 2006; Hofstede, 2011).
7.3 Empowering knowledge sharing through externally driven cultures
According to the view of Wang and Noe (2010), the current, highly competitive and dynamic environment requires the adoption of an organizational culture that fosters international competitiveness. Therefore, this competitiveness cannot be created through training and staffing only, but will also require the valuable input of a culture that promotes employee learning. This learning needs to take place both within the organization and outside the organization, including the international environment. This demand for international competitiveness may require the incorporation of skilled personnel from different regions and with different knowledge levels in different areas. Furthermore, the culture adapted by organizations should be one that will not be limited by cultural, religious, and national constructions (Reychav & Weisberg, 2010; Wang and Noe, 2010). Through the adoption of such a culture that can foster knowledge collection of varied information sources – both local and international – the knowledge held by employees will increase, which will foster the knowledge sharing taking place within the organization, as well as with players outside the organization (Martin, 1995; Hendriks, 1999).
Organizations should adopt a culture that redirects resources and time to the research of information on customer needs to help in the development of successful market positioning strategies and competitive business activity (Hendriks, 1999). This type of research falls under the category of knowledge collection and management, which would be fostered through an externally driven culture. Additionally, the adoption of a culture focused on meeting the needs of customers, the organization will focus research and development to market research and product development, which will increase its competitiveness in the highly dynamic global market (Wang and Noe, 2010). Thus, this culture will promote knowledge collection, knowledge development and knowledge sharing.
Internally Driven Culture vs Externally Driven Culture
This dimension relates to the accessibility of an organization. In a very open culture newcomers are made immediately welcome, one is open both to insiders and outsiders, and it is believed that almost anyone would fit in the organization. In a very closed organization it is the reverse.
Internally Driven Culture
Proposition1: Internally driven culture negatively affects knowledge sharing behaviour of employees for the following reasons:
Local cultural and religious mores may limit an organization’s range of knowledge sharing behavior
Diverts focus and time from the business of satisfying customers’ needs to meet the standards of local mores.
Limits employees to the views of the outside community, as opposed to focusing on collecting knowledge and sharing it, to improve organizational performance.
Externally Driven System
Proposition2: Externally driven culture positively effects knowledge sharing behaviour of employees for the following reasons:
Allows businesses to search for vital information through any available source towards the goal of meeting customer needs.
Focuses organizations in the development of knowledge on customer needs’ where there is a need for deep knowledge, with the changing needs of the market.
Surpasses cultural, religious and national boundaries, therefore promotes the inflow of information, collection and sharing avenues, which promotes the knowledge sharing.
Knowledge management is a major resource in the creation of the competitive advantage among organizations in the current, fast changing market environment. In the area of knowledge management, knowledge sharing plays a vital role, and the adoption of knowledge sharing behavior among employees is highly dependent on organizational culture. However, knowledge sharing does not come automatically; it requires the input of all members of the organization to create an environment that promotes knowledge sharing behavior. Knowledge sharing is critical to organizations, as it contributes to the development of effective knowledge management. The relationship between organizational culture and knowledge sharing is evident from the effect of employee empowerment, which fosters behavioral change and performance improvement. Hofestede’s cultural dimensions show that culture has a profound effect on the behaviors adopted by organizations the cultures within them. Internally driven cultures focus on adherence to ethics and morality, as the standards of meeting the needs of customers (HofstedeFrom different literatures including Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov (2010) and Wu (2006) organizational culture and knowledge exchange across cultures influences the behaviors adapted by individuals. Externally driven cultures encourage the development of knowledge sharing behaviors, as an organization guided by the system will not be limited by ethical standards that vary from culture to another. Through externally driven cultures, knowledge sharing will be encouraged, as it allows for wider knowledge collection and sharing across different cultures and locations.
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