The dual influences of proximity on knowledge sharing

Peter Holdt Christensen (Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark)
Torben Pedersen (Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University, Italy)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 3 December 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The authors focus on how intra-organizational proximity influences the frequency of knowledge transfer in dyads, and the authors seek to balance the over-socialized and under-socialized perspectives of knowledge sharing by focusing on how proximity both indirectly (mediated by social relationships) and directly influences the frequency of knowledge sharing. Empirically, the authors analyze how proximity in a five-story building directly and indirectly influences the frequency of knowledge sharing.

Design/methodology/approach

As the authors were interested in exploring the frequency of knowledge sharing among individuals in knowledge sharing dyads, they used a survey to approach individuals directly and obtain information on the frequency of their knowledge sharing. The authors have complete data on 796 dyads on which they tested their hypotheses. Further, the physical distance in a dyad was measured as the walking distance (measured in meters) between individuals.

Findings

The authors first find that proximity positively affects the frequency of knowledge sharing indirectly through its promotion of social relationships. Second, it is noticeable that the direct relationship between proximity and knowledge sharing is stronger than the indirect via the promotion of social relationships. In sum, the authors’ results contribute to the knowledge sharing literature by emphasizing and clarifying how proximity both directly and indirectly influences knowledge sharing.

Research limitations/implications

This study has some limitations. First, this study only measured the frequency of knowledge sharing among individuals. Neither individual nor organizational outcomes of knowledge sharing were considered. Second, the authors did not distinguish between different channels for knowledge sharing, such as face-to-face or face-to-interface.

Practical implications

One practical implication is that knowledge sharing spanning, for instance, 50 m compared to knowledge sharing spanning 30 m may not necessarily require more resources, as the negative effect of 30 and 50 m distances is almost similar, as the negative effect of distance starts to fade out at 30 m. Another practical implication for the direct effect of proximity on knowledge sharing is that to foster knowledge sharing organizational practices need to create opportunities for employees to span both horizontal and vertical distances.

Originality/value

The authors’ results contribute to the knowledge sharing literature by empirically emphasizing and clarifying how intra-organizational proximity both directly and indirectly influences knowledge sharing.

Keywords

Citation

Peter Holdt Christensen and Torben Pedersen (2018) "The dual influences of proximity on knowledge sharing", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 22 No. 8, pp. 1782-1802

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-03-2018-0211

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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