An analysis of tacit knowledge sharing behaviour, within a social capital framework, in a business environment of a South African, University of Technology
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This thesis integrates social capital and ‘reasoned action’ theory to construct a theoretical model for investigating the factors which predict an individual’s intention to share tacit knowledge in a University of Technology. It utilizes Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998: 243) definition and conception of social capital. They define social capital as “the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social unit”. This study examined tacit knowledge sharing behaviour (i.e., knowledge that is shared between individuals) within the context of social capital. The specific type of tacit knowledge that is being studied relates to work experience ‘know-what’ and ‘know-how’. ‘Know-what’ refers to the basic mastery of a discipline that professionals achieve through education and training. ‘Know-how’ refers to procedural knowledge about a business process and the individual’s capability to perform an action with an understanding of why the action is appropriate in the particular context, (i.e., action skill or applied competence). Specifically, this study examines the relationship between the structural, relational and cognitive dimensions of social capital and the individual’s attitude towards the sharing of tacit knowledge. It further examines the relationship between the individual’s attitude towards tacit knowledge sharing, their perceived norms and perceived behavioural control over the sharing of tacit knowledge (mediating variables) and their intention to share tacit knowledge. It is a case study which consists of a mixed methods research design, incorporating nine research interviews and five hundred and fifty four self administered questionnaires. The theoretical model is examined using structural equation modeling (SEM) and as a result of the findings, the initial model is revised into a set of theoretical models, which are tested using SEM and found to be consistent with the data (i.e., a good fit). The direct, indirect and total effects of the identified predictor (social capital) and mediating variables (â€˜reasoned actionâ€™) on the individualâ€™s intention to share tacit knowledge, in each model, is examined and the results are presented. Each dimension of social capital is found to be significant for predicting the criterion variable ‘attitude towards tacit knowledge sharing’. The individual’s attitude towards tacit knowledge sharing is found to be highly significant for predicting the individual’s intention to share tacit knowledge but the ‘reasoned action’ variables are found to be not as significant, particularly perceived behavioural control over the sharing of tacit knowledge. The results of this study enrich our collective understanding regarding social capital and tacit knowledge sharing behaviour.