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Leading and Coordinating Knowledge Creation in Online Communities

English title Leading and Coordinating Knowledge Creation in Online Communities
Applicant von Krogh Georg
Number 169441
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Management, Technologie und Ökonomie D-MTEC ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Science of management
Start/End 01.05.2017 - 30.04.2020
Approved amount 356'016.00
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Keywords (5)

online communities; leadership; coordination; knowledge creation; open innovation

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
In den letzten Jahren haben sich Online-Gemeinschaften (‚Online-Communities’) zu wichtigen Innovationsquellen in der Gesellschaft entwickelt. Das hat neue Fragestellungen mit sich gebracht.
Lay summary
Dieses Projekt möchte mehr Verständnis darüber gewinnen, wie die Mitglieder von solchen Communities ihre Arbeit koordinieren und wie sie Führungsrollen etablieren. Genauer gesagt, interessieren wir uns für die Faktoren, die für den Erfolg von Online-Communities wichtig sind. Diese Themen – wie z.B. der Prozess, über den Mitglieder Streitigkeiten lösen, Aufgaben delegieren oder neue Ideen bewerten -- sind bis jetzt wenig untersucht worden.

Insbesondere für Wissenschaftler und für Praktiker mit Schwerpunkt Organisation sind diese Fragen von Bedeutung, da Online-Communities einzigartige organisatorische Besonderheiten haben (flache Hierarchien, freiwillige Mitgliedschaft, offene organisatorische Grenzen, etc.), welche einen orts- und zeitunabhängigen Ideenaustausch ermöglichen.

Die Verfügbarkeit vieler, verschiedenster Ideen ist eine potenzielle Quelle von Disputen, wenn es darum geht, Einigkeit über Prioritäten und ‚richtige’ Entscheidungen zu erlangen. Darüber hinaus wirft die ‚offene’ Natur von Online-Communities neue Fragen auf, z.B. wie man die verteilte Arbeit am besten delegiert und bewertet.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.02.2017

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Abstract

This project aims to advance understanding of how actors collaboratively organize knowledge creation in new forms of organizing. We address this emerging question in organization theory by exploring the impact of coordination and leadership on collaborative knowledge creation. Specifically, we examine how fundamental organizational problems (i.e., the resolution of disputes, delegation of tasks, and evaluation of ideas) are resolved in online communities-a new form of organizing characterized by a flat hierarchy, voluntary membership, and open organizational boundaries.As organizations increasingly adopt open and collaborative approaches to knowledge creation, ideas for new products and services can be sourced from anywhere and anyone. The abundance of diverse ideas is a potential source of dispute, and it becomes increasingly challenging to form consensus over priorities and “correct” solutions. Moreover, open approaches to knowledge creation pose new challenges for delegating and evaluating distributed work. Organizational questions such as how to resolve disputes among diverse contributors, when to self-implement ideas and when to delegate idea implementation to others, and how to integrate information technology (IT)-enabled evaluation mechanisms in knowledge creation are of critical importance for collaborative knowledge creation. We seek to answer these questions by uncovering the underlying leadership influence and coordination mechanisms, and aim to expand current organization theory by addressing knowledge creation in new forms of organizing. In doing so, our study will contribute to the literature on leadership, organizational design, and coordination, as well as the literature on online communities in particular.We conduct our empirical investigation in the context of two online communities: GitHub and OpenStack. These communities keep a complete archival record of participants’ actions and comments and thus provide particularly suitable settings for exploring our research questions. We have planned a combination of qualitative (Studies 1 and 2) and quantitative (Studies 3 and 4), inductive and deductive methods to fully utilize the richness of the empirical data sources. We have already specified a sampling frame and started data collection and initial exploration of the data. We expect to start systematic data analysis of a more comprehensive dataset 1 October 2016. 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.
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