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On and off the beaten path: How individuals broker knowledge through formal and informal networks


  • Aalbers, R.
  • Dolfsma, W.A.
  • Koppius, O.R.


Although informal networks are often emphasized as facilitating knowledge transfer, we use network data obtained from a multi-unit high-tech firm to show that the formal network also significantly contributes to inter-unit knowledge transfer. Individuals centrally placed in a network are, in addition, more involved in knowledge transfer, especially, the evidence suggests, in the case of the formal network. Focusing on the brokerage roles that individual fulfill, we find that knowledge transfer between units is more likely to occur through externally oriented brokers than internally oriented brokers in the formal network, but not in the informal network. Overall, the results show that there is more than one path to transfer knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Aalbers, R. & Dolfsma, W.A. & Koppius, O.R., 2004. "On and off the beaten path: How individuals broker knowledge through formal and informal networks," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2004-066-LIS/ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
  • Handle: RePEc:ems:eureri:1549

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    brokerage roles; centrality; communication networks; inter-unit knowledge transfer; knowledge transfer;

    JEL classification:

    • D29 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Other
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • M - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


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