Sharing Knowledge in Higher Education


The Effects of Knowledge Sharing on Individual Creativity in Higher Education Institutions: Socio-Technical View


Knowledge is considered the primary source of competitive advantage (Stewart and Ruckdeschel 1998) and is critical to the long term sustainability and success of the organization (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995), thus knowledge is one of the most important resources for an organization (Choe 2004). In the recent literature regarding knowledge management, several studies have analyzed critical success factors and barriers, such as organizational culture, affecting knowledge management and the adoption of knowledge management systems (KMSs) (Khan et al. 2015a, 2015b). The crucial role of alignment between enterprise knowledge and KMSs has been suggested (Centobelli et al. 2017), and the impact of knowledge management and KMSs on individual and corporate performance has been identified (Bhatt 2001; Dyer and Hatch 2006).

Against this backdrop, knowledge sharing, which is the central activity of knowledge management, has multifaceted implications and potential benefits for organizations, and the effects of knowledge sharing have been investigated by many previous researchers in multifaceted dimensions. Knowledge sharing is known to be positively related to cost reduction, improvement of efficiency, organization and employee performance, and organizational teamwork (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; Hansen 2002; Cummings 2004; Cabrera and Cabrera 2005; and Mesmer-Magnus and DeChurch 2009). Furthermore, effective management of knowledge sharing can promote organizational innovation by supporting organizational members in innovating, collaborating, and making correct decisions efficiently (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; Du Plessis 2005).

In today’s high risk and ruthless competitive environment, which is faced by each industry, both academic scholars and practitioners have found that continuous innovation is a critical competitiveness that is needed to survive, especially for knowledge base development industries (Mumford 2000; Weiner 2000; DiPietro and Anoruo 2006). Additionally, it has been confirmed that organizations are the most likely to succeed in a situation when they truly recognize individual creativity and focus on nurturing and promoting creativity (Williamson 2001), as creativity is the foundation of innovation (Dewett and Gruys 2007). Individual creativity can be used as building blocks for organizational innovation, change, and competitiveness (Mumford 2000; Williamson 2001; Zhou and George 2001; DiPietro and Anoruo 2006), as an individual is always regarded as the source of a novel idea of an organization (Gilad 1984; Whiting 1988; Mumford 2000), which is the basic element of an organization’s creative and innovative potential (Amabile 1988; Shalley 1995).

Nevertheless, the effects of knowledge sharing on individuals have not been paid enough attention by previous research (Quigley et al. 2007). Based on the previous research regarding creativity, to improve creativity, there are multiple approaches, amongst which the most frequently cited one is to continually educate individuals on their capacity for generating new knowledge, discovering applications, and maintaining the knowledge for future applications (Chen and Chen 2010; Gardner and Laskin 2011). Higher education represents the basic capacity of innovation, and the key driver of national economic competitiveness and development quality. Thus, higher education is currently getting much attention from practitioners and government agencies (Fairweather 2000; Meek 2000; Chen and Chen 2010). Higher education institutions’ mission is to create and transfer knowledge, which includes explicit and tacit knowledge. It is imperative that students in the higher education institutions consciously or subconsciously share knowledge with others in both formal communities (teamwork or research project) and informal communities (Petrides and Nodine 2003). Thus, knowledge sharing is gaining much attention in higher education institutions, as well as for its information practices and learning strategies, particularly in developed countries, which have been receiving grants to implement knowledge management practices (Sohail and Daud 2009).

From the absence of understanding about the current approach regarding the relationship between knowledge sharing and individual creativity in a higher education institution case, this research develops an integrative model to explain the effects of knowledge sharing on individual creativity. The study draws on both a socio-technical view and social capital theory to investigate the important antecedents of knowledge sharing, as well as examining the social and technical factors on individual creativity through the mediating effects of knowledge sharing. Accordingly, the study should make a theoretical fit of a socio-technical view and social capital theory in the knowledge sharing and individual creativity context. After developing the preceding factors, related factors are linked to perceived knowledge sharing and individual creativity extent, and then each variable and path to examine the mediating effects of knowledge sharing on individual creativity is verified.

This paper makes four key contributions. Firstly, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, it is the first research regarding the relationship between knowledge sharing and individual creativity, while previous studies have only focused on the effects of knowledge sharing on organizational performance. With this new perspective on knowledge sharing, this study is expected to establish the first research literature of knowledge sharing’s effects on individual creativity that has not yet been explored in previous studies. Secondly, this study set knowledge sharing as a mediator between antecedent factors of knowledge sharing and individual creativity. With this improved approach, this model can explain the mediating effects of knowledge sharing on individual creativity, which contributes to both academics and practices, to facilitate individual creativity through knowledge sharing. Thirdly, this study uses socio-technical theory and social capital theory in knowledge sharing effects on individual creativity to propose an improved model of socio-technical view that is suitable for knowledge sharing practices in higher education institutions. Finally, this study focuses on the knowledge sharing practices in a higher education institution. By applying this approach, the study provides a better rationale of understanding the role of knowledge sharing, as well as the relationship between knowledge sharing and individual creativity in higher education institutions. Furthermore, it also indicates abundant theoretical and practical implications for individual creativity improvement through getting knowledge by boosting sharing among members in higher education institutions.

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I started my educational career in 1997 at Millville Middle School. As an educator, I learned that research is fundamental to understanding how to educate and prepare a generation for the daunting future they will inherit.

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