Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The social media revolution: Sharing and learning in the age of leaky knowledge

an article by Paul M. Leonardi (Technology Management Program, UC Santa Barbara, United States) published in Information and Organization Volume 27 Issue 1 (March 2017)

  • Social media are ushering in an era of leaky knowledge,
  • Enabling knowledge to leak out from the pipes through which it travels to distant corners of the organization – and to vistas beyond the organization – presents a whole new set of opportunities and challenges for the management of organizational knowledge.
  • Yet for such a revolution to occur, individuals need to willingly contribute knowledge by communicating with others through social media and following the communications of others so that they can retrieve knowledge.
  • Although the motivation of contribution and retrieval is a perennial obstacle for knowledge sharing, the affordances of the social media that are just now entering many workplaces may provide unique and improved abilities at overcoming these obstacles.

This paper suggests that social media may be useful for knowledge sharing because they are leaky pipes for communication – the directionality and content of a particular message is visible to people not involved in it.

However, social media are only useful for knowledge sharing if some people contribute knowledge that can leak from them and others retrieve knowledge that is leaking. I draw on interviews with employees from a financial services firm to develop a typology of reasons why new employees would not want to contribute what they know to a social media or retrieve from it knowledge contributed by others.

Then, I use existing theory on knowledge sharing in organizations, coupled with recent writings about social media affordances, to develop propositions about how these barriers to knowledge sharing might be effectively overcome through strategic use of the social media affordances themselves.

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