The purpose of this article is to analyze how learning occurs in inter-organizational online communities, despite highly diverse even conflicting knowledge claims among participants.
We compared two inter-organizational communities in the domain of development aid through inductive qualitative case study.
We found that diverse communities proved more likely to yield conflicting knowledge claims in terms of expertise, value consensus and formal position. However, they were also better positioned for enabling mutual learning, than communities with a more uniform representation.
We provide theoretical insights for knowledge management by showing how the negotiation of knowledge claims facilitates mutual learning in inter-organizational online communities.
The findings are practically relevant for managers of knowledge-intensive organizations by showing how knowledge is shared in diverse online communities. The research also shows that the recognized challenges which diverse communities can yield are likely to be outweighed by their benefits: enabling mutual learning, generating useful expertise and a stronger negotiating position.
The paper conceives of a development approach that is more inclusive of non-dominant perspectives and solutions in decision-making processes, contributing to improved participation of marginalized people in decision-making processes.
We add a new dimension to knowledge management literature, showing how conflict and learning can be a mutually reinforcing process. Contrary to prior knowledge-based views, we found that a diverse community, with a higher concentration of conflicting knowledge claims, facilitated mutual learning more adeptly than a more uniform community. This is important for knowledge management theory and practice because it shows how inter-organizational communities can benefit from heterogeneity, and how conflict can enable and even strengthen mutual learning.
The authors acknowledge the useful feedback provided by Marleen Huysman and Maura Soekijad on early drafts of this paper and the help of Wouter van Atteveldt for data extraction. We are very grateful for the kind permission, provided by the community facilitators to follow and analyze the exchanges on the two online communities, and thank interviewees for their participation in the research. We also acknowledge the comments provided by Vincenzo Maggioni and two anonymous reviewers, which helped us further improve the paper.
Ferguson, J. and Taminiau, Y. (2014), "Conflict and learning in inter-organizational online communities: negotiating knowledge claims", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 886-904. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-06-2014-0248Download as .RIS
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