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Managing five paradoxes of knowledge exchange in networked organizations: new priorities for HRM?

Human Resource Management Journal, 2017, Vol 27, no 1, p39–57

Christopher Mabey, Shasha Zhao

The life-blood of most organizations is knowledge. Too often, the very mechanisms set up to facilitate knowledge flow militate against it. This is because they are instituted in a top-down way, they are cumbersome to manage and the bridges of trust fail to get built. In their thirst for innovation, the tendency is for firms to set up elaborate transmission channels and governance systems. As a result, staff are drowned in a deluge of mundane intranet messages and bewildered by matrix structures, while off-the-wall ideas and mould-breaking insights are routinely missed. Added to this is the challenge of operating across professional, cultural, regional and linguistic boundaries, where ways of sharing knowledge differ markedly, even within the same project team. Drawing upon extensive research with scientists in the ATLAS collaboration (a high-energy particle physics experiment comprising 3,500 scientists from 38 countries), we explore five paradoxes associated with knowledge exchange in global networks. Each paradox leads to a proposition which takes the theory and practice of knowledge management in a fresh direction. We conclude by outlining a number of HRM priorities for international knowledge-intensive organizations
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