We're different but we share: The effect of knowledge-relevant differences on knowledge sharing

Torsten Biemann, Jaime Alfonso Bonache Pérez, Alexey Makarevich, Daniela Noethen, Sven Voelpel

Research output: Conference paperContribution


Diversity research has been guided by two competing theoretical approaches, the social categorization perspective and the information/decision-making perspective (Williams & O'Reilly, 1998). The former suggest a negative effect of diversity on group processes and performance due to individuals preference to interact with similar others, while the latter claims a positive effect due to broader skills and knowledge base within heterogeneous groups. Empirical analyses remain inconclusive, possibly because the two approaches interact rather than contradict each other (van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004). Following a combined approach, we thus assume that diversity affects the way team members deal with their diverse knowledge base. Using original data on work teams within German public administration we examine how work team diversity affects knowledge sharing. In line with the diversity faultlines approach, we test the combined effect of differences between individuals in three knowledge-relevant diversity dimensions (education, job experience, and work autonomy) on knowledge transfer at the dyadic level. We find that that larger differences lead to less knowledge sharing. This effect is buffered, but not reversed by group cohesion. Implications for the integration of the two approaches are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2014
Event14th EURAM Annual Conference 2014 -
Duration: 4 Jun 20147 Jun 2014


Conference14th EURAM Annual Conference 2014


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