Knowledge sharing within virtual communities of practice

“In an economy where the only certainty is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge”.
(Nonaka, 1991, p. 96, Harvard Business Review: pdf file)

During my master ‘Information and Knowledge Management‘ at the VU University, I attended the course ‘Knowledge Management Scan’.Within this stream, I wrote a scientific conceptual paper about the social influences that exist within electronic networks of practice and how these influences can affect members’ attitudes towards knowledge sharing on those virtual communities. Since I think the developed model and underlying logic can be interesting for scholars as well as practitioners, I will describe the paper’s key findings and propositions.

Although a significant number of studies devoted attention to communities of practice and members’ motivations to share knowledge within these networks, little is known about the social dynamics within virtual communities of practice and how they influence members’ attitudes towards knowledge sharing. This study integrates social influence theory and social capital theory to construct a theoretical framework that tries to enhance understanding how the virtual community’s social capital can act as antecedent for the social influence processes of compliance, identification and internalization. These influence mechanisms, in their turn, affect community members’ attitude towards sharing knowledge within the network. As such, the paper tries to lay a conceptual foundation for future empirical research, which can be relevant within the fields of knowledge management and social psychology.
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