Why do people seek knowledge? Tracing factors that affect knowledge seeking intention

Publication Date03 November 2019
Date03 November 2019
AuthorSuchitra Veeravalli,Vijayalakshmi Venkatraman,Manoj Hariharan
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,Knowledge management systems
Why do people seek knowledge?
Tracing factors that aect
knowledge seeking intention
Suchitra Veeravalli and Vijayalakshmi Venkatraman
Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology,
Chennai, India, and
Manoj Hariharan
Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited,
Bangalore, India
Purpose The purpose of thisstudy is to understand factors that motivate an individualto seek knowledge
on knowledge management systems. Specically, the work seeks to clarify the impact of organizational
practices on an individuals intention to seek knowledge. The overarching theme is to broaden the current
understanding of factors that impact individual knowledge seeking behavior and narrow down factors for
which interventionscan be developed.
Design/methodology/approach In-depth interviewswere conducted with the members of knowledge
management (KM), humanresources (HR) and learning and development teams of Robert Bosch Engineering
and BusinessSolutions Private Limited (RBEI) to understand knowledgebehaviors of employees. Subsequent
to an exploratory analysis, the survey methodology was used to collect data from members of RBEI. A
proposedtheoretical model was then validated usingpartial least squares.
Findings Empirical ndings suggest thatto motivate participation, organizational KM practices need to
be geared towards promoting curiosity and engaging learners. Results indicate that overt recognition of
knowledgeseeking behaviors by HR could be counterproductive.
Research limitations/implications This study was limited to an MNC engineering organization in
one geographic location; one must be cautious when generalizing these results. Replicating this study in
multipleorganizations will help mitigate this limitation.
Originality/value Little is knownon the effect of KM and HR practices on knowledge seeking behaviors.
This work addressesthis gap and presents a comprehensive model.
Keywords Knowledge seeking, Knowledge sharing, Knowledge management systems, IT adoption
Paper type Research paper
Building the case for knowledge seeking
Contemporary knowledge management systems (KMS) include scalable technologies that
focus on providing benets such as continuous learning for the individual and sustainable
competitive advantage for the organization. Recognizing the potential of KMS, several
organizations invest heavily on state-of-the-art systems. For this investment to be
nancially rewarding, knowledgediffusion is crucial (Watson and Hewett, 2006;Kumi and
Sabherwal, 2018;Liu and Bakici, 2019;Qiao et al., 2019). However, enticing members to
engage in KMS remainsa challenge (Quigleyet al., 2007;He and Wei, 2009).
While digital systems are adopted to make organizational knowledge accessible, studies
report reduced knowledge ow in organizations and this can be attributed to poor work
design and ingrained organizationalbehaviors (Dodge et al., 2018). Moreover, organizations
Received5 May 2019
Revised1 September 2019
Accepted28 September 2019
VINEJournal of Information and
KnowledgeManagement Systems
Vol.50 No. 2, 2020
pp. 271-290
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/VJIKMS-04-2019-0059
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
are interested in returns they receivefrom investments made in KMS. In the context of KMS,
yield can be measured in terms of return on contribution (ROC). We dene ROC as the ratio
of number of seekers who benet from KMS to the numberof sharers who contribute to the
platforms (Muller et al., 2009).Improving seeking behaviors on KMS could lead to enhanced
adoption and higher ROC. Hence, understanding of individual behaviors on information
technology (IT)-basedsystems continues to generate interest.
The objective of this study is two-fold. First, to trace factors that impact knowledge
seeking intention of individuals and second to study the impact of organizational practices
such as KM and HR practices on knowledge seeking behaviors. This understanding is
particularly vital, post-adoption of KMS, as increased involvement will not only justify
investments already made but also aid knowledge reuse. Additional benets envisaged
include sustaining a healthyseek-share balance, recognition of individual learner needsand
insights into the functioningof virtual communities of practice.
In the next section, a review of the related literature is presented followed by results of a
qualitative study. Subsequently, the proposed model and insights derived from data
collected during the study are described.
Current understanding of the eld
Studying factors that affectan individual's ability to use knowledge repositories for seeking,
Kankanhalli (2002) idenfifies effort required to obtain. Identify effort required to obtain
desired knowledge and future obligation to reciprocate as perceived costs and seeker
economic reward, knowledgegrowth and perceived utility of results as perceived benets of
knowledge seeking. In a similar study, Sedighiet al. (2017) identify time involved and effort
required as the two most importantperceived costs associated with knowledge seekingand
nding practical solutions,obtaining new knowledge and gathering organizational news as
perceived benets.
Kankanhalli (2002) alsoidenties that for seeking to happen, knowledge archives need to
be updated with timely,relevant and accurate knowledge. While technology has helpedwith
indexing and ltering of knowledge,quality of knowledge made available remains a concern
and needs to be governed.
Kayhan (2010) denes governance of knowledge in electronic media as the set of
responsibilities and practices designed to increase the quality of knowledge in electronic
knowledge repositories.Though governance helps maintain quality, knowledge shared is
often stripped of context thereby making it difcult for the user to comprehend what is
shared and re-use the information.
Two key reasons ascribed to shared knowledge not being reused include information
overload and difculty in nding the right information. Bock et al. (2010) nd that
information overload hinders an employees intention to continue using knowledge
repositories indirectly. When members are overwhelmed with information, members
willingness to explore reduces (Sarka et al.,2019). Studying difculties associated with
locating the right information, He and Wei (2009) outline that the amount of effort required
to seek knowledge impacts KMS continuance intention indirectly. Investigating the impact
of content ratings and credibility indicators on locating relevant content,Poston and Speier
(2005) nd that these indicatorsdirectly inuence search and evaluation processes.
Other reasons attributed to insufcient re-use include credibility of the source of
knowledge and perceived lack of time (So and Bolloju,2005). According to Wasko and Faraj
(2005), in an IT-based platform, lackof familiarity with the person who contributes leads to
questions regarding the reliability of the response. Recipients perception of sharers
expertise and trust in the sharer are also found to impact knowledgetransfer from sharer to

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