Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams

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


Individuals benefit from accessing others' expertise, known as knowledge sourcing. Previous research has theorized supply-side explanations (e.g., availability of knowledge) and demand-side explanations (e.g., a challenging task) for why people source knowledge, but thus far the influence of information processing—how people interpret and synthesize information—on knowledge sourcing has received little attention. In this paper, we introduce an information processing perspective on knowledge sourcing by theorizing how knowledge sourcing is enabled by conditions known to influence individual and group information processing. We develop a multi-level model to examine knowledge sourcing from an electronic knowledge repository (KR) and find that when individuals have strong information processing capabilities—stemming from experiential knowledge-bases like work experience or experience with the organizational context—they engage in more frequent KR sourcing. Also, when individuals are embedded in teams with strong social information processing capabilities, such as teams with experience working together, they engage in more KR sourcing. The multi-level perspective is critical: we also find that team experience moderates the relationship between individual experience and KR sourcing. Our paper advances theory on knowledge management and offers insight for supporting team performance.

Keywords: Information Processing; knowledge management; Knowledge Sourcing; Multilevel Theory; Team Performance; Groups and Teams; Knowledge Management; Performance;


Valentine, Melissa A., Bradley R. Staats, and Amy C. Edmondson. "The Rich Get Richer: Enabling Conditions for Knowledge Use in Organizational Work Teams." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-001, July 2012. (Revised May 2013.)