Abstract Knowledge is a strategically important resource, but research is needed to elucidate individual issues in knowledge sharing, particularly cross- contextual examinations. Thus, we developed a contextualized, extended model of knowledge sharing intentions based on the theory of planned behavior, and tested it using large samples of employees from the US, and from Ukraine, where anecdotal evidence suggests pandemic knowledge hoarding. Tests of the model in each country produced significant results for all of the path coefficients in the US, and for all but two paths in Ukraine. Comparative analysis for hypothesis testing indicated that, overall, individuals' dispositions and attitudes were more relevant for understanding knowledge sharing intentions in the individualistic context of the US, while collective, relational elements were stronger in Ukraine, but with notable exceptions, particularly the influence of societal knowledge control norms. The results provide important implications for theory concerning knowledge sharing across contexts, including institutional theory assumptions, and for efficaciously managing knowledge processes, including cross-national knowledge transfers.
Keywords Knowledge sharing * Institutional logics * Theory of planned behavior * Contextualization * Norms
Knowledge is a valuable strategic resource (Grant 1996), one critical for firm competitiveness, particularly in global firms spanning different countries and cultures (Gupta and Govindarajan 2000). Multi-national enterprises (MNEs) often enter into partnerships and alliances with indigenous firms in order to acquire knowledge from local partners (Inkpen and Beamish 1997) with the intent that the knowledge be widely shared among organizational actors to achieve collective understanding and to maximize organizational capabilities (Spender 1996). Thus, researchers have emphasized the knowledge-based view (KBV) of the firm, but have primarily targeted organizational-level phenomena. Knowledge, however, is embedded in individuals (Nelson and Winter 1982), who serve as the entry points and conduits of knowledge supporting organizational learning processes (Argote and Ingram 2000), underscoring the mounting criticism that the KBV has mostly ignored individual-level explanatory mechanisms that may be helpful in explaining organizational-level phenomena (Felin and Foss 2009; Felin and Hesterly 2007; Foss et al. 2010). This criticism is increasingly echoed in the international management (IM) field, where studies emphasize knowledge sharing across subsidiaries/units of firms and in alliances, but have overlooked individuals, complicating theorizing about how individuals' interactions influence organizational-level knowledge outcomes (Foss et al. 2010). In tandem with IM scholars who advocate research on individual considerations to shed insight on the subsidiary and firm (e.g. May et al. 2011; Michailova and Mustaffa 2012; Prashantham and Floyd 2012; Shenkar 2004), it is incumbent on IM scholars to produce insight by capitalizing on context to advance theory (Bello and Kostova 2012). In this endeavor, May and Stewart (2013) advocated "double-loop" theorizing that captures the exigencies of context for insights that might enrich a theory's ability to describe and predict phenomena of interest more thoroughly and robustly across contexts.
Institutional theory has become a dominant macro-level framework in IM research, particularly for analyzing organizational-level phenomena in emerging economies where institutions differ substantially from those in developed nations (Wright et al. 2005; Meyer and Peng 2005; Xu and Meyer 2013). A core assumption of institutionalism is that individuals' orientations, attitudes and preferences are shaped by institutional logics comprising a set of societal constructions and practices (Luo 2007). Yet, the links between institutional logics and individual attitudes and intentions, such as knowledge sharing phenomena, have been understudied even though institutional contexts differentially influence knowledge management (Foss et al. 2010; May et al. 2005; Michailova and Hutchings 2006), including cross-border knowledge transfers (Bhagat et al. 2002). A prime example is the post-Soviet region, where what Michailova and Husted (2003) termed "knowledge sharing hostility" has stymied knowledge absorption and exploitation, thereby impeding development initiatives in indigenous firms, and complicating MNE knowledge transfer efforts (May and Stewart 2013; Michailova 2000).
To address these deficiencies, particularly in IM, we focus on the individual. Drawing on Western theory from social psychology and social capital, institutional theory, and indigenous management research from the post-Soviet region, we modify and extend the theory of planned behavior (TPB) (Ajzen 1985, 1991) by: (1) reconceptualizing subjective norms concerning beliefs about controlling knowledge from the traditional organizational norms perspective in TPB to the societal normative level emphasized by institutional theorists; (2) adding a new element, knowledge holders' relational screening of knowledge seekers; (3) including individual differences, which are under-researched (Argote and Ingram 2000; Foss et al. 2010; Matzler et al. 2008), as antecedents of TPB constructs; and (4) redefining self-efficacy as self-efficacy as a learner. We test the respecified model of sharing intentions in two countries with starkly different institutional settings, the US and Ukraine, where a plethora of anecdotal evidence suggests differences in knowledge sharing phenomena, but is nearly devoid of empirical examination. As a result, this study is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive cross-national examination of knowledge sharing intentions that incorporates institutional differences, and cross-fertilizes theory in KBV and IM. The results are helpful for the study and management of international knowledge transfer as it becomes increasingly important for MNE competitiveness (Minbaeva et al. 2003), as advantages are derived from acquiring and using cross-border knowledge (Michailova and Mustaffa 2012).
2 Divergent Contexts in US and Ukraine
We selected the US and Ukraine for the study because the two countries differ dramatically on Scott's (1995) institutional pillars--cultural-cognitive, normative and regulatory. As depicted in Fig. 1, Scott (2008) identified the cultural- cognitive pillar as instrumental because, as it is grounded in widely shared conceptions and mental scripts that constitute the nature of social reality, it serves as the foundation for the normative pillar that encompasses prescriptive, evaluative and obligatory values of social life. These normative elements influence the rule-making, monitoring and sanctioning dimensions of the regulatory pillar. Notably, the relationships between the pillars may be two-way, as changes in one dimension may lead to shifts in another, especially during periods of transition.
Figure 1 also illustrates the conceptual and analytical treatment of the three institutional pillars in the study that underlie the selection of the two countries. We drew on well-documented evidence of stark differences between Ukraine and the US on the cultural-cognitive and regulatory pillars, as well as a plethora of indigenous research that supports differences on knowledge control norms, to examine knowledge sharing intentions. Thus, although we did not measure elements in the cultural-cognitive and regulatory dimensions, we apply extant evidence concerning them in formulating a measure of societal norms concerning knowledge sharing (i.e., tight versus loose) and its hypothesized effect on individuals' intentions to share knowledge. In doing so, we focus on institutional logics as the shared cultural beliefs and rules that influence individuals' cognitions and behaviors (cf. Dunn and Jones 2010), and propose country as a moderator of the predicted relationships based on theoretically relevant elements in Scott's (1995, 2008) foundational cultural-cognitive pillar.
Three of Hofstede's (1980) cultural dimensions are particularly salient to this study because they provide part of the cultural-cognitive foundation from which normative expectations related to knowledge sharing are likely to emerge. These three dimensions are (1) power distance--the extent to which less powerful individuals within a country expect and accept power inequalities; (2) uncertainty avoidance--the degree to which people within a culture feel threatened by ambiguity and uncertainty, thereby prompting the creation of rules and institutions designed to minimize these threats; and (3) individualism-collectivism--the level of individuals' interdependence within society. Based on Hofstede (2004) and Prykarpatska (2008), Ukraine has high power distance (96) and uncertainty avoidance (93) compared to the US at 40 and 46, respectively. Individualism-collectivism, the pervasive cultural dimension in management research (cf. Earley and Gibson 1998), influences how people in different societies process information (Bhagat et al. 2002; Hofstede 1980; Triandis 1998). Thus, individualism-collectivism is particularly salient for theory development in knowledge sharing (Michailova and Hutchings 2006), particularly in this study, given the marked contrast between individualism in the US (91) and Ukraine (38). Also relevant to the study are the cultural-cognitive constructs of universalism-particularism (cf. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 1997), which reflect the emphasis that societies place on rules of behavior versus relationships. Specifically, universalist cultures manifest a higher regard for rules, laws and formal contracts in dictating behavior, whereas in particularist cultures the application of rules is contingent on relationships between people, particularly in the context of decision-making. According to Trompenaars (1994)...