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Sustaining Knowledge Creation in Online Communities: Enabling, Creating, and Maintaining

Lay summary

Dieses Projekt zielt darauf ab, das Verständnis darüber zu fördern, wie die Schaffung von Wissen in Online Communities aufrechterhalten wird. Genauer gesagt sind wir an den Faktoren interessiert, die für die Organisation und Koordination der drei Phasen der Gemeinschaftsaktivitäten wichtig sind, um die Wissensschaffung in diesen Gemeinschaften aufrecht zu erhalten. Erstens, Online Communities müssen einen ungehinderten Wissensfluss unter den Teilnehmern gewährleisten, um Räume der Wissensschöpfung zu schaffen. Zweitens, Online Communities müssen kontinuierlich kreative Ideen generieren, um in Bezug auf die Schaffung von Wissen produktiv zu bleiben. Drittens ist es wichtig, die Gemeinschaften gegenüber Spannungen, wie z.B. Streitigkeiten, widerstandsfähig zu halten.

Diese Fragen sind besonders wichtig für Wissenschaftler und Praktiker mit den Schwerpunkten Schaffung von Wissen in Organisationen, Organisationsdesign und neue Formen des Organisierens. Die Erkenntnisse aus dem Projekt sollen auch als Leitfaden für Unternehmen dienen, die über die Einrichtung von Online Communities für die Schaffung von Wissen und Innovation nachdenken.

Abstract

Online communities play an increasingly important role in how organizations collaborate and leverage talent across geographic locations. Today in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, as organizations rapidly move their daily operations online, this form of organizing is of ever-increasing relevance even for the most traditional organizations who are forced to adapt rapidly to online collaborations. This project aims to further understanding on how knowledge creation is sustained in online communities that operate in the absence of formal hierarchy and closed organizational boundaries (e.g. Dahlander & Frederiksen, 2012; Faraj et al., 2016; Gulati, Puranam, & Tushman, 2012; von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003; O’Mahony & Ferraro, 2007; Puranam, Alexy, & Reitzig, 2014). We address this emerging question in organization science by examining how online communities organize and coordinate three phases of community activity essential to sustainable knowledge creation (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2003). These phases refer to (a) establishing, nurturing and shaping generative spaces where knowledge flows through new modes of sociality via digital technologies (Faraj et al., 2016), (b) remaining productive in the established generative space in terms of continuous generation of creative ideas (Faraj et al., 2011) and reaching timely consensus on them, and (c) maintaining the generative space with effective resilience against tensions in the form of disputes (He et al., 2020) and membership flows (Butler et al., 2014; Ransbotham & Kane, 2011; von Krogh & von Hippel, 2006).Advancement and survival of online communities depend on continuous and active contributions by communities’ members. Prior work has argued that such continuity in the activity of online communities requires establishing spaces that ensure unfettered knowledge flows (Daniel & Stewart, 2016; Faraj et al., 2016; Haefliger et al., 2011), continuous generation of creative ideas and consensus over them (Faraj et al., 2011), and ability to maintain the generative space with resilience to disputes (He et al., 2020) and membership flows (Butler et al., 2014; Ransbotham & Kane, 2011). However, openness of organizational boundaries and lack of formal hierarchy pose challenges for organizing and sustaining knowledge creation, reaching a consensus among the community, and resilience to membership flows. Answers to questions such as how online communities maintain the flow of knowledge, how community generates creative ideas and reaches a consensus on them, how disputes are resolved, and how organizational resilience to membership flows emerge are critical for sustainability of online communities. In this project, we aim to answer these questions and expand current understanding of online communities and organization science applied to this phenomenon, by addressing mechanisms for organizing and sustaining knowledge creation within such communities. In doing so, our project aims to contribute specifically to the literatures on organizational knowledge creation, organizational design, and new forms of organizing, as well as the literature about online communities in particular.We shall conduct our empirical investigation in the context of online communities involved in software development (GitHub), community question answering (Stack Overflow) and music making (BandLab, Soundslates, LoopLabs, and Soundtrap). Extensive archival records on these communities provide transparent and time-stamped data on project and member characteristics, and offer complete digital traces of activities. This provides unique opportunities to examine our research questions related to online communities. In order to get the best out of our rich datasets, in our research projects, we shall employ a combination of inductive and deductive and quantitative and qualitative methods, including statistical analysis, thematic analysis, machine learning, and structural equation modeling, and so on. Data collection and preliminary analysis of work packages 1 and 3 has already begun. We aim to launch more extensive data analysis and collection of complementary datasets from January 2021. The research activities of this project will be carried out through the Chair of Strategic Management and Innovation, Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, in collaboration with Phanish Puranam (INSEAD) and Eric von Hippel (MIT).

Last updated:1655555055

  Prof.Georg von Krogh
Yash Raj Shrestha