Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2009

Firsthand Experience and the Subsequent Role of Reflected Knowledge in Cultivating Trust in Global Collaboration

by Mark Mortensen and T. B. Neeley

Abstract

While scholars contend that firsthand experience—time spent onsite observing the people, places, and norms of a distant locale—is crucial in globally distributed collaboration, how such experience actually affects interpersonal dynamics is poorly understood. Based on 47 semi-structured interviews and 140 survey responses in a global chemical company, this paper explores the effects of firsthand experience on intersite trust. We find firsthand experience leads not just to direct knowledge of the other, but also knowledge of the self as seen through the eyes of the other—what we call "reflected knowledge." Reflected and direct knowledge, in turn, affect trust through identification, adaptation, and reduced misunderstandings.

Keywords: Interpersonal Communication; Experience and Expertise; Globalized Firms and Management; Knowledge Acquisition; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Trust;

Citation:

Mortensen, Mark, and T. B. Neeley. "Firsthand Experience and the Subsequent Role of Reflected Knowledge in Cultivating Trust in Global Collaboration." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-131, May 2009. (Under second review, Management Science.)