Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Competing Effects of Individual and Team Experience on Knowledge Sourcing Behavior

by Melissa A. Valentine, Bradley R. Staats and Amy C. Edmondson

Abstract

This paper develops and tests a multi-level model that links individual and team experience with knowledge sourcing (specifically, knowledge repository (KR) use). Prior research theorizes that experienced workers source more than inexperienced workers because they have stronger information processing capabilities that motivate their search. Other research, however, suggests that teams source less as they gain experience because they develop and perpetuate set ways of thinking about problems. Which effect dominates the sourcing behavior of individuals working in teams? We argue that individual knowledge-sourcing behavior is shaped by both individual and team attributes and we provide an empirical test of new theory. Specifically we suggest that both individual capabilities and team average experience influence team member knowledge sourcing, and argue that there is an interaction between individual and team experience (meaning rookies and veterans working on inexperienced or experienced teams will be influenced differently). We find empirical support for this model. Team experience does not affect veteran team member knowledge sourcing, unless the team is very experienced; then, veterans slow their KR use. Rookies are more influenced by team composition: when working on teams with too little experience, too much experience, or a disparity of experience, rookie KR sourcing is limited. Yet on moderately experienced teams, rookies use almost on par with veterans. Importantly, limited KR use by highly experienced teams does not appear to be a savvy choice for exploiting team resources: KR use predicts team performance and the effect is not moderated by team experience.

Keywords: Knowledge Sourcing; Team Experience; Team Performance; Multilevel; Groups and Teams; Knowledge Management; Performance;

Citation:

Valentine, Melissa A., Bradley R. Staats, and Amy C. Edmondson. "Competing Effects of Individual and Team Experience on Knowledge Sourcing Behavior." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-001, July 2012. (Revised August 2014.)