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Cultural impacts on organizational knowledge sharing.

Abstract: Why do people share their knowledge? People choose their actions depending on their beliefs that originated from previous experiences. Motivating knowledge sharing behaviours is an important first step to instilling a knowledge-sharing culture. In this paper we present a Hungarian Knowledge Management (KM) Research, which defines factors that describe Knowledge Management practice of an organization and we state that certain organizational cultures are more receptive to Knowledge Management programs than others.

Key words: Knowledge, Knowledge Management, Organizational Culture, Knowledge Sharing


The rise of the new knowledge economy has been driven by globalization, rapidly changing information and communication technologies. These forces have served to effectively remove traditional business boundaries and increase opportunities to participate in networks far beyond immediate physical locations. In this new economy, knowledge has become the most valuable resource and organizations are striving to capitalize on their knowledge assets through effective knowledge management initiatives.

After having primarily focused efforts on information technology, the single focus has been eclipsed by an increasing awareness of the importance of the "soft"--organizational and social--aspects of KM. Therefore one of the most significant challenges in KM is the competence for motivating people to share their knowledge.


2.1 Knowledge management

Why is managing knowledge so important in business life? The debate among academics and practitioners, that KM is a fad or not, appears to be over. KM has proven benefits and has been adopted by the world's biggest companies.

The latest KPMG survey shows that KM is approaching a higher maturity level. One of the main statements is the fact that the eighty percent of respondents indicate knowledge as a strategic asset. In the future companies expect to shift focus from internal knowledge sharing to external by putting emphasis on starting KM initiatives (KPMG, 2003).

2.2 Organizational culture

Today researchers agree that more than anything else, organizational culture holds the key to successful knowledge management. Davenport and Prusak demonstrate the shifting from technology-based solutions towards the focus on human interaction within organizations to stimulate knowledge transfer. The authors underscore the importance of linking cultural factors to the implementation and sustainability of knowledge management initiatives (Davenport & Prusak, 2000).

Gupta and Govindarajan examine the role of organizational culture in KM and the requirements for an effective KM initiative (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000).

All studies come to the same conclusion: organizational culture plays an important role in KM. Cultures, which inhibit knowledge sharing are held to be significant barriers to creating and leveraging knowledge assets. Instilling a knowledge sharing culture is necessary requirement for companies, which believe that it is a significant way to differentiate themselves.


Over the last decade, numerous journals devoted to KM have been created. As might be expected from an emerging discipline, only few quantitative empirical researches have been published. Most of the published works comprise conceptual and theoretical models and rely primarily on a small number of descriptive exploratory qualitative case studies (Kalling, 2003).

The main purpose of our research reported here was to conduct a quantitative survey to be able to create a broader set of evidence regarding to KM. The research focus was not only to describe the state of practice of the organizations; we investigated the factors that influence KM practice. Our results indicate growing awareness of KM, its value to business and the benefits resulting from a systematic and holistic approach to the effective use of intangibles among organisations operating in Hungary.

3.1 Knowledge Management in Hungary 2005/2006

KPMG and KPMG Hungary have much experience in KM survey projects (e.g. KPMG, 2003; KPMG Hungary, 2000). In 2004 Department of Management at the University of Pannonia joined forces with KPMG-BME Academy in order to investigate the current state of knowledge management in the Hungarian profit and non-profit sectors. Therefore a detailed survey--"Knowledge Management in Hungary 2005/2006"--was conducted among 130 organizations. (KMPG-BME Academy, 2006)

The survey examined successfulness of knowledge management programs of the organizations. 130 small-, middle--and large sized organizations--operating in Hungary--took part in our empirical survey. Only 37 percent of the respondents declare that they have a knowledge management strategy, while 77 percent are indicating knowledge as a strategic asset. 22 percent of the participants have knowledge management program and 30 percent are currently setting up or considering one. The most significant problems are the lack of understanding KM benefits and the lack of time to share knowledge. Technology is an essential tool for supporting KM. The level of technology implementation is high, but the use of special systems is rare. Knowledge management is seen as a key accelerator for realising synergies among units, improving quality and achieving higher added value for customers. Majority of the respondents show a growing interest in KM initiatives. The most popular initiatives implemented or being considered for implementation includes Knowledge Repository, Information Center and Center of Excellence. A great majority of those surveyed intends to engage more actively in knowledge management initiatives within the coming years (KPMG-BME Academy, 2006).


Nora Ovari, the PhD candidate of the University of Pannonia in her PhD dissertation (acceptation of doctorate is in progress) attempted to develop a framework, that illustrates knowledge management practice of an organization. The aim of the examination was to reveal the KM peculiarities as well as the correlations of its attitudes. Collaterally with "KM in Hungary 2005/2006" survey, a "National Culture Research" was completed with the collaboration of Trompenaars-Hampden Turner Management Consulting, The Netherlands and University of Pannonia, Hungary. This research determined what type of organizational culture belongs to the participants' workplace (Kovacs, 2006). Firstly, the PhD research determines the factors describing KM practice of an organization with utilizing the results of KM empirical survey. Secondly, it analyzes the correlation between the successfulness of KM programs and the type of organizational culture defined by Trompenaars and Hampden Turner (Trompenaars & Hampden Turner, 2002).

4.1 The Results of the Research

The first part of the study diagnoses seven determinant factors with correlation--and factor analysis (using SPSS), which describe knowledge management practice of an organization. These factors are consciousness, storage, sharing, technology, information, community and infrastructure. "KM Profile" (denotation of Nora Ovari) illustrates KM practice by representing the factors on a bar diagram. With the help of KM Profile an organization can consider the executed tasks in the past and planned tasks for the future in relation to KM. They can define the possibilities and those fields that need improvement or change. Brand-new challenges and new tasks encourage organization for innovation and development in the new knowledge economy.

The second part of the study examines the correlation between organizational culture and the successfulness of KM program with using qualitative methodology. The study consists of fourteen case studies. The basis of the examination was the data acquired from "KM in Hungary 2005/2006" survey and "National Culture Research". The supposal was that some organizational cultures might be more receptive to KM programs than other types. The results indicate that organizational culture types might influence the successfulness of KM programs. Organizations with project-oriented--guided missile culture have successful KM programs, while the organizations with the culture of person-oriented--family and role-oriented Eiffel tower have unsuccessful or have no KM programs. There were not any organizations in the study with dominant fulfilment-oriented--incubator culture so there is no information about its impact on KM programs.



A major challenge during implementation of successful KM program involves motivating people to share their knowledge with others. Because KM programs do not take hold unless they are supported by the organizational culture, cultural factors must be considered when implementing KM initiatives. Therefore, from this year a new cross-cultural knowledge management study is being held as the sequel to "KM in Hungary 2005/2006" empirical survey mentioned above and will expand to the Middle--and East-European countries. The study will examine the KM Factors of organizations, which have different organizational culture. By adapting the four types of organizational cultures identified by Trompenaars and Hampden Turner, the study will analyze how these cultures impact KM programs.


The concept of KM continues to evolve. It is recognized as an important competitive factor for businesses worldwide (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Martin, 2000). The first organizational efforts to manage knowledge focused on information technology solutions. These technology-driven solutions, although important to knowledge management, often failed to achieve their objectives because they did not think cultural factors critical to successful KM. Organizations missed to consider the relationship between KM and organizational culture, and the cultural factors that impacted effective KM initiatives (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000). These organizations face challenges when implementing knowledge management initiatives. They should find ways to integrate KM into their strategic vision build a knowledge sharing culture that supports KM and motivate employees to support these initiatives. This brief paper has not answered all the questions but has introduced a Hungarian Research extended with pointers for future investigation.


Davenport T. H. & Prusak L. (2000) Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, Boston

Gupta, A. K. & Govindrajan, V. (2000) Knowledge management's social dimension: Lessons form Nucor Steel, Sloan Management Review, 42 (1): p. 71-80.

Kalling, T. (2003) Knowledge management and the occasional links with performance, Journal of Knowledge Management, 7 (3): p. 67-81.

Kovacs, Z. (2006) The competition of cultures in the era of globalization Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pannonia, Veszprem

KPMG Hungary (2000) Knowledge Management in Hungary--Research, KPMG Consulting, Budapest

KPMG Knowledge Advisory Services (2003) Insights from KPMG's European Knowledge Management Survey, 2002/2003,, Amsterdam

KPMG-BME Academy (2006) Knowledge Management in Hungary 2005/2006, KPMG--BME Academy--University of Pannonia Report, KBA Kft, Budapest

Martin, B. (2000) Knowledge Management within the Context of Management: An Evolving Relationship, Singapore Management Review, 22(2), 17-37.

Nonaka I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995) The Knowledge-creating Company, Oxford University Press, New York

Trompenaars F. & Hampden-Turner, C. (2002) Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London

Ovari, Nora; Gaal, Zoltan * & Szabo, Lajos *
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Author:Ovari, Nora; Gaal, Zoltan; Szabo, Lajos
Publication:Annals of DAAAM & Proceedings
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXHU
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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