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Formal Boundary Spanning and Informal Boundary Spanning in Cross-Border Knowledge Sharing: A Case Study

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2 Author(s)
Yongsuk Kim ; Univ. of Texas, Austin ; Jarvenpaa, S.L.

The paper expands theoretical and empirical understanding of the interaction between formal boundary spanning mechanism (i.e. individuals formally nominated to span boundaries for knowledge sharing) and informal boundary spanning mechanism (i.e., informal seeking of information via social ties crossing boundaries) in a far-flung operation of a global company. Through a case study of engineering groups at a U.S. based manufacturing plant, we found that both formal and informal boundary spanning mechanisms had a positive effect on the ability of dispersed groups to identify and transfer remotely situated knowledge from other sites. However, we also found that the formal boundary spanning mechanism may have a suppressing effect on the informal boundary spanning mechanism when jointly pursued in certain circumstances. The findings call into question the implicit view of the boundary spanner and virtual team literatures that has largely portrayed the effects of both mechanisms on cross-boundary knowledge transfer as independent or complementary.

Published in:

Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Proceedings of the 41st Annual

Date of Conference:

7-10 Jan. 2008