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Work Groups, Structural Diversity, and Knowledge Sharing in a Global Organization

  • Jonathon N. Cummings

    ()

    (Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

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    Effective work groups engage in external knowledge sharing--the exchange of information, know-how, and feedback with customers, organizational experts, and others outside of the group. This paper argues that the value of external knowledge sharing increases when work groups are more structurally diverse. A structurally diverse work group is one in which the members, by virtue of their different organizational affiliations, roles, or positions, can expose the group to unique sources of knowledge. It is hypothesized that if members of structurally diverse work groups engage in external knowledge sharing, their performance will improve because of this active exchange of knowledge through unique external sources. A field study of 182 work groups in a Fortune 500 telecommunications firm operationalizes structural diversity as member differences in geographic locations, functional assignments, reporting managers, and business units, as indicated by corporate database records. External knowledge sharing was measured with group member surveys and performance was assessed using senior executive ratings. Ordered logit analyses showed that external knowledge sharing was more strongly associated with performance when work groups were more structurally diverse. Implications for theory and practice around the integration of work groups and social networks are addressed.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1030.0134
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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 50 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 3 (March)
    Pages: 352-364

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:50:y:2004:i:3:p:352-364
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    5. David W. Conrath, 1973. "Communications Environment and its Relationship to Organizational Structure," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 20(4-Part-II), pages 586-603, December.
    6. Christophe Van den Bulte & Rudy K. Moenaert, 1998. "The Effects of R&D Team Co-location on Communication Patterns among R&D, Marketing, and Manufacturing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(11-Part-2), pages S1-S18, November.
    7. James W. Brown & James M. Utterback, 1985. "Uncertainty and Technical Communication Patterns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(3), pages 301-311, March.
    8. Linda Argote & Bill McEvily & Ray Reagans, 2003. "Introduction to the Special Issue on Managing Knowledge in Organizations: Creating, Retaining, and Transferring Knowledge," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages v-viii, April.
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