IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Bad company? The ambiguity of personal knowledge networks


  • Gernot Grabher
  • Oliver Ibert


Recent debates on learning have shifted the analytical focus from formal organizational arrangements to informal personal ties. Personal knowledge networks, though, mostly are perceived as homogenous, cohesive, and local personal ties. Moreover, a functionalist tone seems to prevail in accounts in which personal knowledge networks are seen to compensate the shortcomings of the formal organization. This paper sets out to expand the dominant construal of networks, which is largely molded by the notion of embeddedness. Against the background of in-depth empirical analysis of the project ecologies of the Hamburg advertising and the Munich software business, the paper will first venture into the neglected sphere of thin, ephemeral, and global personal knowledge networks by differentiating between connectivity, sociality, and communality networks. Second, the paper not only elucidates the supportive functions of these ties but also explores the tensions between personal interests, project goals, and the firm's aims that are induced by these personal knowledge networks. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Gernot Grabher & Oliver Ibert, 2006. "Bad company? The ambiguity of personal knowledge networks," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(3), pages 251-271, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:6:y:2006:i:3:p:251-271

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 1995. "The Wage Curve," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026202375x, January.
    2. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, January.
    3. Fujita,Masahisa, 1991. "Urban Economic Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521396455, March.
    4. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn & Jordan Rappaport, 2000. "Why Do The Poor Live In Cities?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1891, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Wasmer, Etienne & Zenou, Yves, 2006. "Equilibrium search unemployment with explicit spatial frictions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 143-165, April.
    6. Diamond, Peter A, 1982. "Aggregate Demand Management in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 881-894, October.
    7. Brueckner, Jan K. & Thisse, Jacques-Francois & Zenou, Yves, 1999. "Why is central Paris rich and downtown Detroit poor?: An amenity-based theory," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 91-107, January.
    8. Holzer Harry J. & Ihlanfeldt Keith R. & Sjoquist David L., 1994. "Work, Search, and Travel among White and Black Youth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 320-345, May.
    9. Smith, Tony E. & Zenou, Yves, 2003. "Spatial mismatch, search effort, and urban spatial structure," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 129-156, July.
    10. Patacchini, Eleonora & Zenou, Yves, 2005. "Spatial mismatch, transport mode and search decisions in England," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 62-90, July.
    11. Gaumont, Damien & Schindler, Martin & Wright, Randall, 2006. "Alternative theories of wage dispersion," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 831-848, May.
    12. Pierre Cahuc & André Zylberberg, 2004. "Labor Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026203316x, January.
    13. Randall W. Eberts & Joe A. Stone, 1992. "Wage and Employment Adjustment in Local Labor Markets," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wea, November.
    14. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    15. Sato, Yasuhiro, 2001. "Labor Heterogeneity in an Urban Labor Market," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 313-337, September.
    16. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E. & Rappaport, Jordan, 2008. "Why do the poor live in cities The role of public transportation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-24, January.
    17. Burdett, Kenneth & Mortensen, Dale T, 1998. "Wage Differentials, Employer Size, and Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 257-273, May.
    18. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1984. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 824-840, October.
    19. Sato, Yasuhiro, 2004. "City structure, search, and workers' job acceptance behavior," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 350-370, March.
    20. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    21. Coulson, N Edward & Laing, Derek & Wang, Ping, 2001. "Spatial Mismatch in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(4), pages 949-972, October.
    22. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1992. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction, and Employment Reallocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 819-863.
    23. van Ours, Jan & Ridder, Geert, 1992. "Vacancies and the Recruitment of New Employees," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(2), pages 138-155, April.
    24. repec:cor:louvrp:-1370 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Zenou, Yves, 2009. "Search in cities," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(6), pages 607-624, August.
    26. Wasmer, Etienne & Zenou, Yves, 2002. "Does City Structure Affect Job Search and Welfare?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 515-541, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Schwartz, Michael & Peglow, Francois & Fritsch, Michael & Günther, Jutta, 2010. "What Determines the Innovative Success of Subsidized Collaborative R&D Projects? – Project-Level Evidence from Germany –," IWH Discussion Papers 7/2010, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    2. Apitzsch, Birgit, 2006. "Unternehmensnetzwerke und soziale Einbettung: Begriffliche Bestimmungen, Funktionen und Entstehungsbedingungen," Duisburger Beiträge zur soziologischen Forschung 3/2006, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of Sociology.
    3. Nancy Ettlinger, 2009. "Surmounting City Silences: Knowledge Creation and the Design of Urban Democracy in the Everyday Economy," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(1), pages 217-230, March.
    4. Ibert, Oliver & Müller, Felix C., 2015. "Network dynamics in constellations of cultural differences: Relational distance in innovation processes in legal services and biotechnology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 181-194.
    5. repec:elg:eechap:14395_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Huber, Franz, 2013. "Knowledge-sourcing of R&D workers in different job positions: Contextualising external personal knowledge networks," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 167-179.
    7. Oliver Ibert & Suntje Schmidt, 2014. "Once You Are In You Might Need to Get Out: Adaptation and Adaptability in Volatile Labor Markets—the Case of Musical Actors," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(1), pages 1-23, January.
    8. Amin, Ash & Roberts, Joanne, 2008. "Knowing in action: Beyond communities of practice," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 353-369, March.
    9. Martin, Roman & Wiig Aslesen, Heidi & Grillitsch, Markus & Herstad, Sverre, 2017. "Regional Innovation Systems and Global Flows of Knowledge," Papers in Innovation Studies 2017/7, Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy.
    10. Schwartz, Michael & Hornych, Christoph, 2010. "Informal networking: An overview of the literature and an agenda for future research," Jena Contributions to Economic Research 2010,1, University of Applied Sciences Jena, Department of Business Administration.
    11. Radwan, Lukas & Kinder, Sebastian & Dispan, Jürgen, 2013. "Opportunity structures for co-determination in innovations: The case of the Stuttgart area," MPRA Paper 53252, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2013.
    12. Martin Müller, 2014. "The Topological Multiplicities of Power: The Limits of Governing the Olympics," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 90(3), pages 321-339, July.
    13. Ron Boschma & Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Mathijs de Vaan, 2014. "The formation of economic networks: a proximity approach," Chapters,in: Regional Development and Proximity Relations, chapter 7, pages 243-266 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    14. Yutao Sun & Kai Liu, 2016. "Proximity effect, preferential attachment and path dependence in inter-regional network: a case of China’s technology transaction," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 108(1), pages 201-220, July.
    15. Bodo Kubartz, 2011. "Sensing Brands, Branding Scents: On Perfume Creation in the Fragrance Industry," Chapters,in: Brands and Branding Geographies, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    16. Gurrieri, Antonia Rosa, 2013. "Networking entrepreneurs," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 193-204.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:6:y:2006:i:3:p:251-271. 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: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.