When it comes to knowledge sharing among R&D employees, professional reputations matter — but the chances of successfully garnering information from a colleague increase if the information is important.
What role does reputation play in a R&D worker’s decision whether or not to share knowledge with a colleague? To study this question, the authors surveyed more than 200 scientists in 63 different pharmaceutical companies. The authors’ findings suggest that, even among R&D workers in the same company, information is not always shared freely. Instead, a potential knowledge source’s assessment of a knowledge seeker’s reputation affected whether or not information was offered.
The authors found that a variety of factors affect scientists’ assessment of a colleague’s reputation. Not surprisingly, the duration of two parties’ past interaction was positively related to the likelihood of current knowledge sharing occurring between them. Also, proximity influenced how positively reputations were perceived. But, if the person seeking information was already indebted to the potential knowledge source, knowledge sharing was less likely to occur. In addition, the study found that scientists are more likely to share information with a colleague in the same company if the know-how is unique and vital to accomplishing a task.