Taking a Differentiated View of Intra-organizational Distributed Networks of Practice: A Case Study Exploring Knowledge Activities, Diversity, and Communication Media Use
Springer London, Dordrecht Amsterdam
This study examines distributed networks of practice in a multinational organization in the energy and marine insurance industry. By taking a differentiated view of intra-organizational networks of practice, we identified three main categories of intraorganizational distributed networks of practice in terms of their primary knowledge activities - knowledge sharing, incremental knowledge creation, and radical knowledge creation. We then compared the networks along two dimensions: 1) the degree of diversity among network participants and 2) the communication media used by the network participants. Findings suggest that a higher degree of diversity is related to a higher degree of knowledge creation activities, but too much diversity may be restrictive when the primary activity is radical innovation. In addition, media use findings indicated an unexpected reverse relationship in which networks of practice with high task equivocality used leaner media than networks with less task equivocality. The results also indicate that the degree of diversity of a network’s members may influence media use. Finally, support is found for second level media effects of media choice within the networks of practice, such as the degree to which individuals in the core of the network of practice may protect their domain.