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Knowledge sharing in online communities: the power game

Isabelle Bourdon (Maître de conférences en Sciences de Gestion, Laboratoire du MRM, École Polytechnique Universitaire de Montpellier - Université Montpellier II, Montpellier, France)
Chris Kimble (Associate Professor of Strategy and Technology Management, KEDGE Business School, Marseille, France and Laboratoire du MRM, Université Montpellier II, Montpellier, France)
Nathalie Tessier (Professor of Human Resource Management, ESDES School of Management, Université Catholique de Lyon, Lyon, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 18 May 2015




The purpose of this paper was to gain a better understanding of the nature of online communities, the relationships within them and the relationship between such communities and the host organization. Knowledge sharing via participation in online communities is a central part of many multinational organizations’ business strategies; however, the task is not always straightforward.


The research focused on power relationships in online communities. The approach was inductive and consisted of an exploratory case study using semi-structured interviews, augmented with direct observation and documentary sources, within a framework provided by the French sociologists Crozier and Friedberg.


The findings identify the various reasons for participating in the community and aspects of both the relationships within the community and between the community and the host company.

Practical implications

The research shows that online communities are not easy to categorize and that attempting to use a single solution for the management of such communities risks oversimplifying a complex situation. It also shows that Crozier and Friedberg’s framework is useful in highlighting issues that otherwise might not have been noticed.


Issues of power are often neglected in studies of online communities. The use of Crozier and Friedberg’s framework offers a novel way to examine power relationships, which can offer new insights into how such communities function.



Bourdon, I., Kimble, C. and Tessier, N. (2015), "Knowledge sharing in online communities: the power game", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 11-17.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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