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Title: Lurking: a Challenge or a Fruitful Strategy?
Authors: Neelen, Mirjam
Keywords: Onderwijswetenschappen
Active Participants
Community of Practice
Issue Date: 14-Jan-2010
Publisher: Open Universiteit Nederland
Abstract: For today’s organizations to obtain competitive advantages, online corporate Communities of Practice (CoPs) are indispensable (Anthony, Rosman, Eze, & Gan, 2009; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). They have a specific purpose to spread knowledge throughout the organization. That way, the organization can obtain competitive advantage (Kang & Shin, 2008). In order to reach this goal, knowledge creation is critical. Because knowledge creation starts with knowledge sharing, the success of an online corporate CoP highly depends on active participation of its members (Ardichvilli, 2008; Bieber et al., 2002; Soroka & Rafaeli, 2006; Fetter, Berlanga, & Sloep, 2009). However, often the majority of its participants does not post any content; they lurk. This paper explores four different perspectives on lurking; that is free-riding, legitimate peripheral participation (LPP), microlearning and knowledge sharing barriers. It furthermore analyzes whether and why they are detrimental or fruitful for the knowledge management (KM) process. In addition, this study compares lurkers and active participants of an online corporate CoP in the light of three of the four perspectives as presented above. Each participant filled out a survey, specifically designed for this paper’s research purposes. First, lurkers can be considered free-riders as they profit from knowledge in their CoP without giving back. However, when they use the information they find elsewhere on the job, this type of lurking can be fruitful for the KM process. As expected, the results indicate that lurkers and active participants use the obtained knowledge on the job. Therefore, it may be concluded that lurkers contribute to the intellectual capital of their organizations, even when they do not post content in their online corporate CoP. Second, the microlearning perspective suggests that lurking is a learning strategy. As long as individuals use the knowledge to develop professionally and share obtained knowledge in the organization, this type of lurking is fruitful for the KM process. The results indicate that both groups use browsing and reading as a learning strategy that supports their professional development and improves job performance. Last, knowledge sharing barriers can be defined as obstacles that cause individuals not to share knowledge with other community members. This can potentially be harmful to the KM process. This study investigates interpersonal, procedural, and technological knowledge sharing barriers. The results indicate that the lurkers have a more neutral attitude towards the interpersonal knowledge sharing barriers while the active participants seem to truly disagree. In addition, lurkers do not seem to experience procedural knowledge sharing barriers. However, groups differ significantly and active participants seem to disagree more strongly than lurkers do. Lastly, both lurkers and active participants feel neutral towards technological knowledge sharing barriers. The results of this paper indicate that, if organizations take the presented perspectives into account, they will be able to gain insight if reasons for lurking are detrimental or fruitful for the KM process and therefore, if taking action is needed. Only that way, organizations can make the most of their CoPs and gain the competitive advantages they strive for.
Description: Neelen, M. (2010). Lurking: a Challenge or a Fruitful Strategy?. Januari, 14, 2010, Heerlen, Nederland: Open Universiteit Nederland
Appears in Collections:MSc Learning Sciences

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