Can Universities Encourage Students Continued Motivation For Knowledge Sharing And How Can This Help Organizations?

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Nikki Shoemaker


Knowledge Sharing, Self-Determined Motivation, Extrinsic Rewards


Both practitioners and researchers recognize the increasing importance of knowledge sharing in organizations (Bock, Zmud, Kim, & Lee, 2005; Vera-Muz, Ho, & Chow, 2006). Knowledge sharing influences a firms knowledge creation, organizational learning, performance achievement, growth, and competitive advantage (Bartol & Srivastava, 2002; Bock & Kim, 2002; Vera-Muz et al., 2006). However, an individuals natural tendency is to hoard knowledge rather than to share knowledge (Davenport, 1997; Ruggles, 1998). So, how can knowledge sharing be encouraged?

Extrinsic rewards are believed to effectively motivate desired behaviors (Bartol & Locke, 2000). Under certain environmental conditions, extrinsic rewards are also believed to develop a more sustained motivation, called self-determined motivation, for these behaviors (Deci & Ryan, 1991). These ideas raise the following questions: (a) Do extrinsic rewards motivate students to share knowledge? and (b) How can universities encourage individuals to develop the self-determined motivation to take part in desired behaviors such as knowledge sharing?

This study investigates the effect of extrinsic rewards on knowledge sharing in a team setting. It also examines whether universities can facilitate individuals continued or self-determined motivation to share knowledge using certain environmental conditions. To examine these questions, I perform an experiment with 113 undergraduate students from accounting and management classes who are working on team projects. Results suggest that specifically rewarding knowledge sharing can increase individuals knowledge-sharing behaviors and, in the right environment, their internalization of the motivation to share knowledge.


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