Information and Knowledge Sharing in Inter-organizational
Relationships under the Process Approach
Esther Lage and Bráulio Alturas
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), ADETTI-IUL, Avenida das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa, Portugal
Keywords: Information, Knowledge, Inter-organizational Relationships, Information Sharing.
Abstract: This papers aims to contribute to the understanding of inter-organizational information and knowledge
sharing by analyzing how the phenomenon is presented in the literature under the process approach. As
results, it was possible to identify how the authors have labeled and measured the phenomenon, the contexts
in which it has been investigated and what antecedents have been identified. Aspects that demand further
studies were also highlighted. For networks and organizations the study provides lessons regarding the
information and knowledge characteristics, firm’s characteristics and channels used to share information
and knowledge.
This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of
inter-organizational information and knowledge
sharing through a theoretical review based on the
process approach. This approach focuses on inputs
that influence the phenomenon (Martinkenaite,
2011). The benefits for the scholars are the provision
of an integrate view on the subject and the
identification of aspects that demand further studies.
Additionally, this paper aims to provide a guideline
for networks and organizations that can help them
achieve their goals on this issue by defining
appropriate policies, incentives and channels.
Label. It is possible to highlight the existence of
three groups of studies regarding inter-
organizational information and knowledge sharing:
A group that use the term “Information
(Moberg et. al., 2002; Carr and Kaynak, 2007;
Madlberger, 2009);
A group that focuses on “knowledge” (Simonin,
2004, Mei e Nie, 2007; Bstieler e Hemmert,
2008; Bond III, Houston and Tang, 2008; Pérez-
Nordtvedt et al., 2008);
A group that focuses on both of them:
information and knowledge (Fritsch and
Kauffeld-Monz, 2008; Morrison and Rabellotti,
2009). Those authors consider this distinction
relevant due to differences in transmission costs
between them.
Despite the fact that the differentiation between
the terms information and knowledge is not always
clear in the studies, which may be due to the fact
that this is still an open problem in the field of
information science (Floridi, 2004), it seems that the
authors consider them to be different phenomena.
Another difficulty related to the label is the use
of diverse terms following the terms “information”
or “knowledge”, such as sharing (Carr and Kaynak,
2007; Mei and Nie, 2007), transfer (Tushman and
Scanlan, 1986; Simonin, 2004), exchange (Moberg
et al., 2002), flow (Dahl and Pedersen, 2004)
acquisition (Hau and Evangelista, 2007). It is not
clear the distinction between them, and, in many
cases, they may mean the same idea.
It seems that the term knowledge transfer has
gained more notoriety, considering theoretical
reviews on the subject that favored this term (Wijk
et al., 2008; Easterby-Smith et al., 2008;
Martinkenaite, 2011) as well as conferences that
used this designation (http:// inkt12.innovationkt.
Conceptualization. Most researches understand the
phenomenon as a one-dimensional one, emphasizing
Lage E. and Alturas B..
Information and Knowledge Sharing in Inter-organizational Relationships under the Process Approach.
DOI: 10.5220/0004139202730276
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing (KMIS-2012), pages 273-276
ISBN: 978-989-8565-31-0
2012 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
the extent to which it occurs (Carr and Kaynak,
2007; Bstieler and Hemmert, 2008; Fristisch and
Kauffeld-Monz, 2008). Under this line, different
types of information and knowledge are taking into
consideration. For instance there are researches that
differentiate the sharing in terms of knowledge
nature (tacit x explicit), knowledge content
(marketing, technology, management) and
information objective (strategic x operational)
(Moberg et. al., 2002; Hau and Evangelista, 2007;
Samarra and Biggiero, 2008).
Less common in the literature, a multi-
dimensional approach (Pérez-Nordtvedt et. al.,
2008) measured the phenomenon by two
dimensions: effectiveness (usefulness and
understanding of the knowledge acquired) and
efficiency (speed and economy of the transfer).
Contexts. Information and knowledge sharing has
been investigated in different kinds of inter-
organizational relationships such as supply-chain
relationships (Moberg et. al., 2002; Carr e Kaynak,
2007; Madlberger, 2009), innovation networks
(Fritisch and Kauffeld-Monz, 2008; Bond III,
Houston e Tang, 2008), clusters (Dahl e Pedersen,
2004; Morrison and Rabellotti, 2009) and
international strategic alliances (Hau and
Evangelista, 2007; Simonin, 2004; Perez-Nordtvedt,
Kedia, Datta e Rasheed, 2008). Whenever the focus
is not on a dyad but on the whole network, the
researches either ask the respondents to think about
the most important partners (Fritsch and Kauffeld-
Monz, 2008; Samarra and Biggiero, 2008) or to
consider the network as a whole (Bond III, Houston
and Tang, 2008).
Antecedents. It is possible to highlight the
following factors found in the literature as positive
influences for the occurrence of information and
knowledge sharing in inter-organizational
relationships: information quality (Moberg et. al.
2002); the sharing of a codified and articulate type
of knowledge (Mei and Nie, 2007), the sharing of
knowledge perceived as valuable by the receptor
(Perez-Nordtvedt et. al., 2008), the practice of
information sharing within the organization, among
its departments (Carr and Kaynak, 2007), absorption
capacity (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990), top
management commitment (Madlberger, 2009),
informational attitudes such as transparency and
willingness to share (Madlberger, 2009), appropriate
electronic links to trading partners (Madlberger,
2009), high degree of redundancy of relationships
within a network (Fritisch and Kauffeld-Monz,
2008), actor acting as a broker in a network (Fritisch
and Kauffeld-Monz, 2008), intention and ability to
learn (Simonin, 2004), assistance provided by the
partner (Hau and Evangelista, 2007), high intensity
of interaction and intimacy between partners
(Bstieler and Hemmert, 2008), enduring desire to
maintain a valuable relationship with the trading
partner (Moberg et. al., 2002), good interpersonal
relationship, trust and ease of communication
(Pérez-Nordtvedt et. al., 2008), atractiveness of the
partner (Pérez-Nordtvedt et. al., 2008), perceived
benefits (Madlberger, 2009), informal socialization
mechanisms (Dahl e Pedersen, 2004; Lawson,
Petersen, Cousins and Handfield, 2009).
As negative antecedents, the literature highlights
the sharing of ambiguous knowledge (Simonin, 2004
based on Reed and DeFillippi's, 1990), knowledge
based on complex organizational routines (Pérez-
Nordtvedt et. al., 2008), cultural distance between
partners (Hau and Evangelista, 2007 based on
Johanson and Vahlne, 1977).
Sharing information and knowledge is a strategic
issue and every firm and network needs to define the
benefits and risks of engaging in such activity.
If a firm does not want to share information and
knowledge for fear of losing position, privileges or
rewards (Hau and Evangelista, 2007) there are some
practices than can be followed to achieve this goal,
such as: avoiding knowledge registration and
observation of processes in which information/
knowledge is being applied (Winter, 1998), use of
patents, copyrights, trade secrets (Liebeskind, 1996),
personnel policies and contractual specifications
(Nieminen, 2007).
If a company wants to increase its participation
in inter-organizational information and knowledge
sharing, it is possible to draw some lessons that can
favor the occurrence of the process:
Regarding information and knowledge
characteristics: the more codified the
knowledge, the easier it is shared (Mei and Nie,
2007). Therefore, proper formatting is
important, not only in syntactic and semantic
aspects, but also in pragmatic terms. This
contributes to make the understanding easier for
the receiver and to minimize possible
ambiguities. Furthermore, it is important that
information and knowledge are valuable in the
perception of the receiver.
Regarding characteristics of firms involved in
sharing: if a firm wishes to obtain information
and knowledge of other organizations the first
step is to ensure the presence of a desire and
intent to learn. This is not a simple and linear
variable. Organizations must manage it
throughout the development of the partnership
in order to get results, expanding the focus to
other types of information and knowledge when
needed (Beamish and Killing, 1997). However,
intent to learn is not enough. Companies must
also develop the ability to learn. To this end,
they should invest in a higher degree of
heterogeneity of skills involved in the
management of collaborative relationships
(Samarra and Biggiero, 2008) and in the
practice of research and development (Fritisch
Kauffeld-and Monz, 2008). All these practices
require the top management commitment in
terms of resource availability.
Regarding characteristics of the relationship
between the firms: researches indicate that the
presences of a long-term commitment
willingness, trust, ease of communication, close
and frequent interaction in the relationship
between the partners contribute to the sharing
process. These aspects facilitate a common
understanding between the partners and the
dissemination of sensitive information/
knowledge. However, it is also important to
highlight that strong ties can generate contrary
consequences to the sharing process, as the
lock-in effect, in which companies ignore ideas
that come from outside (Fritisch and Kauffeld-
Monz, 2008).
Regarding channels used: it is recommended the
use of routines that maximize the frequency and
intensity of partner-techniques interaction in
order to help the partners to develop
overlapping knowledge bases. This demands
alignment of incentives, financial or informal, in
order to encourage reciprocity and transparency
(Dyer and Sing, 1998). A balance needs to be
evaluated in terms of presence and virtual
channels. Although virtual meetings provide
benefits, they also may end up reducing the
possibility of informal face-to-face contacts,
what may be negative for information/
knowledge sharing. Formal forms of
socialization maintain its importance but mainly
because they stimulate and encourage informal
sociability (Dahl and Pedersen, 2004; Lawson
et. al., 2009).
Despite the growing number of studies over the past
20 years on inter-organizational information and
knowledge sharing, there are still many aspects that
need to be more fully apprehended (Easterby-Smith,
Lyles and Tsang 2008). From the literature analyzed
it is possible to identify the following
related to the process of sharing and to the
methodological aspects:
Process: adoption of new variables as possible
antecedents such as organizational culture,
avoidance of uncertainty, risk propensity
(Moberg et. al., 2002); cultural distance,
attributes of the management team, leadership
style (Wijk, Jansen and Lyles, 2008); type of
coordination between companies, duration and
frequency of the relationship; country of origin
of the partners (Perez-Nordtvedt et. al., 2008);
identification of feedbacks between results and
antecedents of knowledge transfer
(Martinkenaite, 2011); deepening in matters of
disadvantages, losses or costs related to the
process (Madlberger, 2009).
Methodology: use of longitudinal studies in
order to identify causal relationships (Lawson
et. al., 2009); balanced use of positivist and
interpretative methodological approaches in
order to capture the richness and social
complexity that involves the transfer of
knowledge (Pérez-Nordtvedt et al., 2008); use
of multiple participants (Wijk, Jansen and Lyles
Inter-organizational information and knowledge
sharing in inter-organizational relationships is a
complex phenomenon due to some aspects such as
the methodological difficulties related to the
capturing and measuring of intangible aspects and
the still undefined discussion on information and
knowledge differentiation. Another difficulty is
related to the understanding of the information
process among companies arranged in network. The
researches usually prioritize the most important
relationships without characterizing specifically
each of them. Regarding the antecedent’s factors, it
is important to highlight that they are associated
with different contexts and actors.
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