Investigating issues influencing knowledge sharing in a research organization, using the Appreciative Inquiry Method

  • Penny Hart

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research contributes to the literature on the subjective experience of knowledge sharing from the perspective of those actively engaged in it. The sharing of knowledge in organizations is influenced by interconnecting factors, including organizational mission, the use made of information technology, and the motivation of individuals. Much of the existing literature takes a reductionist approach to investigating these, treating knowledge as an asset and humans as rational beings.

A research organization provides knowledge services to its clients, in which knowledge is viewed both as an asset and as praxis, both aspects being used to meet the organization’s remit and help justify its continued existence. An officially mandated culture of knowledge sharing is promoted to motivate staff to develop and exploit the organization’s knowledge capability. Despite this, knowledge sharing has not been optimised. The Appreciative Inquiry Method, an interpretivist action research method from the “enquiry” tradition, was deployed amongst participants from the organization to help them give up their thinking the effectiveness of their knowledge sharing practice and their ability to improve it. This made possible a synthesis of the situation based on their shared understanding. The PEArL framework was used throughout to reflect on the conduct of the research.

The contribution of the research is in supporting and extending findings in the literature from an interpretivist perspective. The importance of knowledge-as-practice was affirmed, together with tacit knowledge possessed by individuals. Knowledge sharing is affected by the low value placed on knowledge-as-practice by the organization’s clients, which affects staff motivation and the way self-efficacy is expressed. The undervaluing of knowledge-as-practice influences pre-existing, informal knowledge subcultures, which subvert the formal knowledge sharing culture. The participants’ power in the situation is limited to providing the executive with a case for maintaining knowledge as practice, to encourage a culture of motivation to share knowledge and to increase access to sharing mechanisms. The contribution includes support for the importance of the “relationship” component of the PEArL framework.
Date of AwardSept 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrank Stowell (Supervisor), Jim Briggs (Supervisor) & Peter Bednar (Supervisor)

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