The World Is Not Small for Everyone: Inequity in Searching for Knowledge in Organizations
We explore why some employees may be at a disadvantage in searching for information in organizations. The "small-world" argument in social network theory emphasizes that people are, on average, only a few connections away from the information they seek. However, we argue that such a network structure does not benefit everyone: some employees may have longer search paths in locating knowledge in an organization--their world may be large. We theorize that this disadvantage is the result of more than just an inferior network position. Instead, two mechanisms--periphery status and homophily--jointly operate to aggravate the inefficiency of search for knowledge. Employees who belong to the periphery of an organization because of their minority gender status, lower tenure, or poor connectedness have limited awareness of who knows what and a lower ability to seek help from others best suited to guide the search. When they start a search chain, they are likely to engage in homophilous search by contacting colleagues like themselves, thus contacting others who also belong to the periphery. To search effectively, employees on the periphery need to engage in heterophilous search behaviors by crossing social boundaries. We find support for these arguments in a network field experiment consisting of 381 unfolding search chains in a large multinational professional services firm. The framework helps explain employees' unequal access to the knowledge they seek, a poorly understood yet important type of organizational inequity in an information economy.
Volume (Year): 56 (2010)
Issue (Month): 9 (September)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA|
Web page: http://www.informs.org/
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Jerker Denrell & Niklas Arvidsson & Udo Zander, 2004. "Managing Knowledge in the Dark: An Empirical Study of the Reliability of Capability Evaluations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1491-1503, November.
- K. R. Narayanan, 1954. "Freedom in Modern Society," India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, , vol. 10(4), pages 376-381, October.
- George Huber, 1982. "Organizational Information Systems: Determinants of Their Performance and Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(2), pages 138-155, February.
- Joel A. C. Baum & Andrew V. Shipilov & Tim J. Rowley, 2003. "Where do small worlds come from?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 697-725, August.
- Stephen P. Borgatti & Rob Cross, 2003. "A Relational View of Information Seeking and Learning in Social Networks," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 432-445, April.
- Waverly W. Ding & Sharon G. Levin & Paula E. Stephan & Anne E. Winkler, 2010. "The Impact of Information Technology on Academic Scientists' Productivity and Collaboration Patterns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(9), pages 1439-1461, September.
- Melissa A. Schilling & Corey C. Phelps, 2007. "Interfirm Collaboration Networks: The Impact of Large-Scale Network Structure on Firm Innovation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(7), pages 1113-1126, July.
- Jasjit Singh, 2005. "Collaborative Networks as Determinants of Knowledge Diffusion Patterns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(5), pages 756-770, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:56:y:2010:i:9:p:1415-1438. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.