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Social capital and political bias in knowledge sharing: An exploratory study

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  • A. WILLEM

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  • H. SCARBROUGH

Abstract

The benefits of social capital for the sharing of knowledge are frequently emphasized in the literature (Burt, 1997; Kostava & Roth, 2003; Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998; Tsai, 2000). However, a few authors have also begun to draw our attention towards the drawbacks of social capital for the working of organizations (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Edelman, Bresnen, Newell, & Scarbrough, 2004). In particular, instrumental social capital –as opposed to consummatory social capital- is seen as linked to power relations, which can inhibit the sharing of knowledge (Burt, 1997; Kale et al., 2000). To contribute to this debate on the role of social capital, we carried out a qualitative study in two Belgian companies. Our findings reveal that social capital tends to enhance the sharing of knowledge but that instrumental social capital in particular reflects opportunistic and political objectives, which causes a selective form of knowledge sharing.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Willem & H. Scarbrough, 2005. "Social capital and political bias in knowledge sharing: An exploratory study," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 05/355, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  • Handle: RePEc:rug:rugwps:05/355
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Argote, Linda & Ingram, Paul, 2000. "Knowledge Transfer: A Basis for Competitive Advantage in Firms," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 150-169, May.
    2. Szulanski, Gabriel, 2000. "The Process of Knowledge Transfer: A Diachronic Analysis of Stickiness," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 9-27, May.
    3. Barbara Piazza-Georgi, 2002. "The role of human and social capital in growth: extending our understanding," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(4), pages 461-479, July.
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    Keywords

    case studies; informal networking; knowledge sharing; politicking; social capital;

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