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The Strength of Weak Ties You Can Trust: The Mediating Role of Trust in Effective Knowledge Transfer

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  • Daniel Z. Levin

    () (Management and Global Business Department, Rutgers Business School--Newark and New Brunswick, Rutgers University, 111 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102)

  • Rob Cross

    () (McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400173, Monroe Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904)

Abstract

Research has demonstrated that relationships are critical to knowledge creation and transfer, yet findings have been mixed regarding the importance of relational and structural characteristics of social capital for the receipt of tacit and explicit knowledge. We propose and test a model of two-party (dyadic) knowledge exchange, with strong support in each of the three companies surveyed. First, the link between strong ties and receipt of useful knowledge (as reported by the knowledge seeker) was mediated by competence- and benevolence-based trust. Second, once we controlled for these two trustworthiness dimensions, the structural benefit of weak ties emerged. This finding is consistent with prior research suggesting that weak ties provide access to nonredundant information. Third, competence-based trust was especially important for the receipt of tacit knowledge. We discuss implications for theory and practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Z. Levin & Rob Cross, 2004. "The Strength of Weak Ties You Can Trust: The Mediating Role of Trust in Effective Knowledge Transfer," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1477-1490, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:50:y:2004:i:11:p:1477-1490
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1030.0136
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sumantra Ghoshal & Harry Korine & Gabriel Szulanski, 1994. "Interunit Communication in Multinational Corporations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(1), pages 96-110, January.
    2. Brian Uzzi & Ryon Lancaster, 2003. "Relational Embeddedness and Learning: The Case of Bank Loan Managers and Their Clients," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 383-399, April.
    3. Jean L Johnson & John B Cullen & Tomoaki Sakano & Hideyuki Takenouchi, 1996. "Setting the Stage for Trust and Strategic Integration in Japanese-U.S. Cooperative Alliances," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 27(5), pages 981-1004, December.
    4. Jean L Johnson & John B Cullen & Tomoaki Sakano & Hideyuki Takenouchi, 1996. "Setting the Stage for Trust and Strategic Integration in Japanese-U.S. Cooperative Alliances," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 27(4), pages 981-1004, December.
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    Keywords

    knowledge transfer; trust; tie strength;

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