DOI: 10.2307/3556658 ISSN:

Network Structure and Knowledge Transfer: The Effects of Cohesion and Range

Ray Reagans, Bill McEvily
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

This research considers how different features of informal networks affect knowledge transfer. As a complement to previous research that has emphasized the dyadic tie strength component of informal networks, we focus on how network structure influences the knowledge transfer process. We propose that social cohesion around a relationship affects the willingness and motivation of individuals to invest time, energy, and effort in sharing knowledge with others. We further argue that the network range, ties to different knowledge pools, increases a person's ability to convey complex ideas to heterogeneous audiences. We also examine explanations for knowledge transfer based on absorptive capacity, which emphasizes the role of common knowledge, and relational embeddedness, which stresses the importance of tie strength. We investigate the network effect on knowledge transfer using data from a contract R&D firm. The results indicate that both social cohesion and network range ease knowledge transfer, over and above the effect for the strength of the tie between two people. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on effective knowledge transfer, social capital, and information diffusion.

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