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Knowledge communities in matrix‐like organizations: managing knowledge towards application

Torstein Nesheim (Senior Researcher based at the Institute for Research in Economics and Business Administration (SNF), Bergen, Norway)
Karen M. Olsen (Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategy and Management, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH), Bergen, Norway)
Anita E. Tobiassen (Associate Professor at Handelshøyskolen BI – BI Bergen (BI), Bergen, Norway)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




This paper aims to analyze how formal, horizontal knowledge communities contribute to knowledge application. In large, complex organizations employees face multiple roles that compete for their time and may be conflicting. The paper seeks to analyze the interplay between the communities, the line organization, and the employees; specifically, to examine how the quality of management of the communities, the attitudes of line managers, and the employees' motivation for participating in the communities facilitate knowledge application.


The authors conducted a survey in an organization with several specialized, horizontal knowledge communities. In total, 2,517 responses were obtained from members of 131 different communities.


First, community management, line support and intrinsic motivation have a positive impact on knowledge application. Second, the effect of line support is stronger when employees are intrinsically motivated.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to one organization. Future research could study knowledge processes in matrix‐like organization, as well as the role of community coordinators for knowledge sharing and application.

Practical implications

To enhance knowledge sharing and knowledge application, commitment from both line managers and community coordinators is vital. In a matrix‐like organization, dialogue and communication are important in order to reconcile supplementary goals and considerations.


The paper presents a study that is one of the first to analyze antecedents of knowledge application in formal communities of practice.



Nesheim, T., Olsen, K.M. and Tobiassen, A.E. (2011), "Knowledge communities in matrix‐like organizations: managing knowledge towards application", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 15 No. 5, pp. 836-850.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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