Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
After having read Prescott C. Ensign's study on how about 200 pharmaceutical scientists have been found to share knowledge amongst themselves, and which conditions affect this activity, I am from the first glance on convinced that the results he presents are valid and correct. Unfortunately, I am also quite sure that the book will not sell well at the airports of the world, as it is formatted. This is not an easy‐read management book; on the other hand, at least PhD students would be quite well off to read a book like this, and to use it as a model on how to report findings for an academic public. And the findings are interesting too.
The study of Dr Ensign is written in the age‐honoured way of reporting academically rigorous research. The contents list is organized under about the same seven headings as the PhD theses at their most transparent usually are (Introduction, Theory and Hypotheses, Research Design and Methods, Construction of Variables, Contextual Variables and Knowledge Sharing, Testing of Hypotheses, Discussion and Conclusions) and Dr Ensign also includes the complete questionnaires he has used for his study in the appendices of his book.
But except for a perfect model thesis, Dr Ensign also supports through his hypotheses some fine old theories, as well suggests some interesting new ones. Greater interpersonal distance and difficulty of knowledge transfer (time, other physical hindrances) impedes knowledge sharing is known since the 1960s; Dr Ensign's sample behaves in similar way. But, also, he finds that the duration of interaction between researchers in the past is positively related to the likelihood of knowledge sharing, while a feeling of “being obliged to share knowledge” (e.g. through the person who has the knowledge feeling of being in debt to the other) diminishes the actual sharing of knowledge. He suggests that scientists have a degree of “valua” attached to knowledge, that they use for bargaining power; if they receive just trivial knowledge, they are also not by themselves ready to dissolve important knowledge. This “knowledge calculus” is to my opinion a very interesting finding worth of deeper study.
I think that the major implications of this study are for scholars; even if the managerial implications exist, they are more imminent in the areas that have been already studied before (the effect of distance and other communication impediments; how to plan the best “layout designs for knowledge sharing”). My own approach would be to study the “knowledge calculus” and the value attached to knowledge in teams that are very diverse geographically and also by their educational background (such as many of today's international R&D teams) and how these interactions, the knowledge transfer, and learning are affected in them. This area is certainly still full of interesting research topics. A recommendable piece of research, including also a comprehensive list of references.