Knowledge creation: individual and organizational perspectives

Shih-Wei Chou and Yu-Hung Tsai
Department of Information Management, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, R.O.C. Received 15 October 2003 Revised 31 October 2003

mechanisms; knowledge management; organizations; surveys

1. Introduction
Given the crucial role that knowledge creation plays in contemporary business enterprises, a fundamental question arises: what processes are facilitating knowledge creation? Nonaka and Takeuchi [1] proposed a research framework to describe knowledge creation processes. This framework contains two dimensions: epistemological and ontological. The former stands for the characteristics of knowledge, which distinguish tacit and explicit knowledge, and the key to knowledge creation lies in the mobilization and conversion of tacit knowledge. They argued that knowledge is created through the interaction and intersection between tacit and explicit knowledge, following four different modes of conversion: socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization, i.e. the SECI processes. The second dimension of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s framework is ontological, which is concerned with the levels of knowledge-creating entities or mechanisms that may initiate the SECI processes such as individuals and organizations. In order to create knowledge effectively, the interactions and cooperation between the epistemological and ontological dimensions are important. Since Nonaka and Takeuchi only provided a theoretical framework for acquiring and converting knowledge, they did not identify the enabling conditions from the ontological perspective. This study aims to identify such factors. In other words, we argue that the proper context for facilitating knowledge creation on the individual as well as the organizational level is a problem deserving further analysis. In terms of individual perspective, according to Nonaka et al.’s definition [2], information becomes knowledge when it is interpreted by individuals and 205

Abstract.
A comprehensive model that delineates the interrelationships among ‘user involvement’, ‘knowledge cognition’, ‘organizational mechanisms’, and ‘knowledge creation’ is absent. This study aims to fill this void. Unlike previous research, this study examined the issues of effective knowledge management from two perspectives: individuals, i.e. user involvement and knowledge cognition, and organizations, i.e. organizational mechanisms. In our framework, we argued that the composite effect of ‘user involvement’, ‘knowledge cognition’, and ‘organizational mechanisms’ influences the result of knowledge creation. In order to test the feasibility of this framework, we conducted an empirical study. This study employed a survey instrument to collect data from 500 organizations in manufacturing, trade, transportation, service industries, and academic institutions. A total of 271 useable responses were analyzed. The major contributions of this research are to: (a) develop a knowledge management framework based on individual and organizational perspectives; and (b) identify the impact of user involvement, knowledge cognition, and organizational mechanisms on knowledge creation. The implications of the study are provided, and further research directions are proposed.

Keywords: cognition;

knowledge creation; models; knowledge user involvement; organizational

Correspondence to: Shih-Wei Chou, 2 Juoyue Rd, Nantz District, Kaohsiung 811, Taiwan, R.O.C., 824. E-mail: swchou@ccms.nkfust.edu.tw

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given a context and anchored in the beliefs and commitments of individuals. In addition, in Nonaka and Takeuchi’s book [1], they argued that ‘autonomy’ is one of the most important factors that motivates individuals to create new knowledge. Although Nonaka and Takeuchi [1] and Nonaka et al. [2] provided a rich conceptualization of knowledge creation from the individual perspective, they did not identify concrete guidelines for enabling knowledge creation. Thus, we examined a selection of information science literature, and argued that two types of characteristics concerning individuals may have an impact on knowledge creation: user involvement from Barki and Hartwick [3] and cognition of knowledge from King and Ko [4]. With regard to user involvement, according to Barki and Hartwick’s theory [3], user involvement refers to a psychological state reflecting the importance and personal relevance of a new IS (information system) to the user. Various researchers (Debrabander and Edstrom [5]; Ives and Olson [6]; Powers and Dickson [7]) also contended that user involvement is a necessary condition for successful development of a computer-based IS. In addition, contemporary literature indicated the important role of ISs in facilitating knowledge management (e.g. Alavi and Leidner [8]; Nonaka et al. [2]). Thus, user involvement may have an impact on knowledge creation. Another individual characteristic is cognition of knowledge. Huber argued [9] that only when individuals are cognitively willing to ‘search and notice’ do they begin to appreciate the value and usefulness of knowledge. King and Ko [4] also contended that cognition is the most fundamental and important part of initiating knowledge creation. All the subsequent knowledge management processes, such as knowledge sharing and dissemination, elaboration, infusion, thorough understanding, and organizational performance, have their roots in cognition. From the environmental or organizational perspective, according to the theory proposed by Nambisan et al. [10], appropriate organizational design and activities may influence the result of knowledge creation. Therefore, we argued that organizations might adopt appropriate managerial interventions to facilitate knowledge creation. In order to represent the appropriate managerial interventions offered by organizations, we borrowed the term ‘organizational mechanisms’ from Nambisan et al. as embodying the various learning and knowledge-sharing activities. In summary, this research addresses the following question: what are the respective roles of individuals as well as organizations in facilitating knowledge creation? Since previous research did not examine the 206

impact on knowledge creation processes (i.e. SECI) from both individual and organizational perspectives (i.e. ontological entities), this study examines the factors that influence knowledge creation in a broader and comprehensive way. We argue that two characteristics of technology users – user involvement and cognition – might have an impact on knowledge creation. In addition, appropriately designed organizational mechanisms may also be critical to knowledge creation. Based on the aforementioned explanations, we developed our research framework as shown in Figure 1.

2. Theoretical development
2.1. Knowledge, knowledge creation, and ba Knowledge has been defined as ‘justified true belief’ (Nonaka and Takeuchi [1]). More specifically, the definitions of knowledge range from ‘complex, accumulated expertise that resides in individuals and is partly or largely inexpressible’ to ‘much more structured and explicit content.’ According to Nonaka et al.’s theory [2], knowledge is created through the interaction and intersection between tacit and explicit knowledge, following four different modes of conversion, i.e. SECI. Nonaka and Konno [11] suggest that the central theme of knowledge creation is the establishment of an organization’s ‘ba.’ They define ‘ba’ as a common place, context, or space for knowledge creation. Nonaka and Takeuchi [1] contend that four types of ba could be used to represent SECI. The first type of ba is originating ba. It is a place where individuals share experiences mainly through face-toface communication and by being at the same place at the same time. Originating ba is associated with the socialization mode of knowledge creation. The second one is interacting ba. It may contribute to the externalization mode of knowledge creation. Interacting ba indicates a place where tacit knowledge

Fig. 1. Research framework.

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S.W. CHOU AND Y.H. TSAI

is converted to explicit knowledge and shared among organizational members through dialogue and collaboration. The third one is cyber ba. It refers to a virtual community where individuals may choose either asynchronous or synchronous mode to communicate with other people. The combination mode of knowledge creation can be fulfilled by cyber ba. Finally, exercising ba stands for the conversion of explicit to tacit knowledge through the internalization mode. Thereby, exercising ba provides an environment in which organizational members accomplish individual and organizational learning actively.

Hypothesis 1: user involvement in IS is positively related to knowledge creation. According to King and Ko’s [4] theory, cognition plays a critical role in initiating knowledge management. They propose a framework that specifies the possible stages where knowledge creation and management occur. These stages include cognition, postcognition, organization related actions by the acquirer, diffusion, infusion, thoroughness, organization related actions by others, and organization performance. King and Ko also argued that individuals’ cognition of knowledge plays a critical role in facilitating organization performance. In addition, only when individuals are cognitively willing to ‘search and notice’ (Cohen and Levinthal 1990 [16]; Huber 1991 [9]) do they begin to appreciate the value and usefulness of knowledge. Then, knowledge creation is possible. Therefore, individuals’ cognition of knowledge is the fundamental part of knowledge creation. Organizations with more cognition of knowledge usually realize the importance of knowledge, thus are more willing to share, adopt, and analyze knowledge. As a result, such organizations achieve knowledge creation more effectively and usually acquire better organization performance. Although King and Ko’s conceptual framework specifies the importance of individuals’ cognition of knowledge in establishing successful knowledge creation, they do not empirically examine the relationship between cognition and knowledge creation. This study tries to fill this void. Thus, we have a second hypothesis: Hypothesis 2: the cognition of knowledge is positively related to knowledge creation. 2.3. Organizational mechanisms In Nambisan et al.’s research [10], a mechanism is defined as a structural arrangement or a variety of design actions to facilitate interactions and knowledge exchange among organizational members. Empirical studies also indicate that mechanisms concerning learning and knowledge acquisition can exhibit differential efficacy with regard to user innovation. Visionary teams (e.g. IT steering committees) have the ability to provide a strategic vision for their organization as well as to create contexts for the integration of business and technical knowledge (King and Teo 1994 [17]). Mechanisms (e.g. relationship manager) that establish partnerships providers help to maintain dialogue, between users and IS while training and learning 207

2.2. Individuals’ roles – involvement of IT and cognition of knowledge According to Nonaka et al.’s [2] theory, the roles played by individuals are the fundamental part of knowledge creation, because knowledge is created through the interactions among individuals or between individuals and their environments. Although the roles of technology users as a source of knowledge creation and creativity have been acknowledged in the literature (Ciborra 1991 [12]; Nambisan et al. 1999 [10]), little research has examined the roles of individuals in facilitating knowledge creation. Therefore, we conducted an empirical study to examine IT (information technology) users’ impact on knowledge creation. After examining a selection of MIS (management information systems) research, we identified two critical aspects concerning IT users’ roles in facilitating knowledge creation – user involvement and user cognition. The term user involvement has been used in a variety of fields to describe a subjective psychological state reflecting the importance and personal relevance of an issue (Sherif et al. 1965 [13]) such as an advertisement or product (Krugman 1967 [14]), and an individual’s job (Lawler and Hall 1970 [15]). In a system development context, user involvement should refer to a psychological state reflecting the importance and personal relevance of a new system to the user (Barki and Hartwick 1989 [3]). Nonaka et al. [2] have identified the critical role that information systems play in facilitating knowledge creation. In our study, user involvement represents the importance and personal relevance of a new system to users. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that IT users’ involvement may have a positive impact on knowledge creation. We developed our first hypothesis:

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activities (e.g. attending conferences or trade fairs) may provide awareness of working practices. Although the roles played by the aforementioned mechanisms in promoting interaction and knowledge transfer is widely acknowledged, no empirical research specifically investigates how effective alternative mechanisms are in facilitating the knowledge creation process. Thus, we have a third hypothesis: Hypothesis 3: the effect of OM is positively related to knowledge creation. Finally, in order to examine the effect on knowledge creation in a comprehensive perspective, we have considered the composite effect of the aforementioned variables on knowledge creation. Our last hypothesis is: Hypothesis 4: The composite effect of user involvement, cognition, and OM is positively related to knowledge creation.

(2)

3. Research methodology and development
The basic rationale of this study is to examine the possible impacts on the processes of knowledge creation from both individual and organizational perspectives. In addition, we also argue that knowledge creation is influenced by a composite effect that combines user involvement, cognition of knowledge, and organizational mechanisms. The research framework is shown in Figure 1.

(3)

3.1. Operationalization of variables 3.1.1. Independent variables (1) User involvement: according to Barki and Hartwick’s [3] definition, ‘user involvement’ refers to a subjective psychological state reflecting the importance and personal relevance that a user attaches to a given system. We have explained the critical role that user involvement may play in facilitating knowledge creation. Barki and Hartwick have developed an instrument that contains 11 unipolar scales pertaining to importance and personal relevance, e.g. non-essential/essential, trivial/fundamental, significant/insignificant and so on. They also conducted empirical research to examine the validity and reliability of this instrument, which demonstrates an acceptable result. So we employed this 11-item instrument 208

to represent the importance and relevance of IT users to IS usage; Cognition of knowledge: according to King and Ko’s theory [4], cognition of information/knowledge value chain is the fundamental and critical issue that influences the performance of knowledge management. In a knowledge management context, cognition of knowledge contains two elements: the willingness to search and notice new information and the process involved in doing so. In order to create knowledge, individuals have to acquire the necessary information and knowledge first. To do so, individuals may adopt appropriate tools such as Internet, search engine, or other IT. Other possible issues concerning cognition are ‘ability to identify useful information’, ‘ability to solve problems with the help of useful knowledge’, ‘ability to specify the characteristics of knowledge’, ‘ability to use existing experience to solve problems’, and ‘willingness to spend time to search for specific knowledge;’ and OM: Nambisan et al. (1999) [10] argued that knowledge creation could potentially be encouraged and facilitated by appropriate managerial interventions. Such managerial interventions are also referred to as mechanisms that facilitate structured and unstructured interactions between technology users and technology providers. A variety of mechanisms are defined such as an IT steering committee (Druy 1984 [18]), a relationship manager (Subramani et al. 1995 [19]), or an advanced technology group (Zmud 1988 [20]), as well as specific activities such as sending users to IT conferences and trade fairs (Nilakanta and Scamell 1990 [21]). Empirical studies also suggest that such mechanisms may have positive impact on organizational efficacy. For example, visionary teams (e.g. IT steering committees) may support strategic focus for organizational members and facilitate the integration of management and technical knowledge (King and Teo 1994 [17]).

3.1.2. Dependent variable The dependent variable in our study is knowledge creation. Nonaka and Konno (1998 [11]) claim that it is useful to provide an organizational context, situation, or environment, i.e. ‘ba’, in facilitating knowledge creation. Four types of ba are proposed to represent the corresponding modes of knowledge creation. They are originating ba, interacting ba, cyber ba, and exercising ba. We have explained these concepts in Section 2.1.

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3.1.3. Data Data were collected from firms in Taiwan through a survey instrument. An initial version of the survey instrument was developed based on the theorygrounded operationalization of the various constructs. This version was subsequently revised after pre-testing with academic and industrial experts who have knowledge concerning ‘user involvement and IS usage’, ‘cognition of knowledge’, ‘organisational mechanisms’, and ‘knowledge creation’. The instrument was further pilot tested with CIOs from different firms. The multiple phases of instrument testing and development resulted in a significant degree of refinement and restructuring of the survey instrument as well as establishing the initial content validity (Nunnally 1978 [22]). The responding firms represented a wide variety of organizations in manufacturing, trade, transportation and service industries, computer industries, finance, and academic institutions. The majority of the respondents held bachelor degrees. There was an even distribution among the types and sizes of these organizations. Respondents were asked to indicate on five-point scales ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree. A total of 271 usable responses were returned, providing a response rate of 27.1%. Given that the survey was unsolicited and the instrument quite complex, this response rate can be considered satisfactory and comparable to other studies in IS research (Jain et al. 1998 [23]). Table A1 in the appendix summarizes salient sample demographics.

4. Results
4.1. Validity and reliability Factor analysis using principal components factor analysis with factor extraction and VARIMAX rotation was conducted to examine the unidimensionality/ convergent and discriminant validity (Hair et al. 1998 [24]). The four commonly employed decision rules were applied to identify the factors (Nunnally 1978 [22]): (1) minimum Eigen value of 1; (2) minimum factor loading of 0.4 for each indicator item; (3) simplicity of factor structure; and (4) exclusion of single item factors. Reliability was evaluated by assessing the internal consistency of the indicator items of each construct by using Cronbach’s a, which is shown in Table A6 in the appendix (Hair et al. 1998 [24]). The results of factor analysis relating to unidimensionality/convergent validity are shown in the Appendix. A joint domain factor analysis was per-

formed, including all of the items used to develop the research constructs. The result provides significant support for factorial/discriminant validity of the measurement scales (see Tables A2–A5 in the appendix). The results of factor analysis relating to user involvement, cognition, organizational mechanisms, and knowledge creation are briefly described below: (1) User involvement: the results of factor analysis are shown in Table A3. Eleven unipolar scales are used to represent user involvement, i.e. the importance and personal relevance of a new system to the user; (2) Cognition: as shown in Table A4, 10 items are used to represent users’ cognition concerning knowledge creation and management. As can be seen from Table A6, the reliability of these measures is at a satisfactory level. The mean value of the overall measurement of knowledge cognition is 4.04, suggesting that, on average, the respondents believe that their companies have enough cognition concerning knowledge; (3) Organizational mechanisms: in Table A2, 18 items are used to represent various organizational mechanisms. As can be seen from Table A6, the reliability of these measures is at a satisfactory level. The mean value of the overall measurement of OM is 3.56, suggesting that, on average, the respondents believe that their companies provide enough OM; and (4) Knowledge creation: as shown in Table A5, 15 items are selected to represent various elements of knowledge creation ba. As can be seen from Table A6, the reliability of these four measures is satisfactory. The mean value of the overall KC (knowledge creation) measurement is 3.80, indicating that, on average, the respondents believe that their companies provide well-established bas in facilitating KC. The main objective of this study is to provide some rich insights, derived from previous research and theory, into three mechanisms, which represent two different perspectives that may possibly initiate the knowledge-creating processes. The first perspective is individual. We adopted ‘user involvement’ and ‘cognition’ to represent an individual’s characteristics, and identified their impacts on knowledge creation. The second one is from an organizational viewpoint. We employed organizational mechanisms to represent a variety of activities that may have influence on knowledge creation. In order to verify the feasibility of such a framework, as shown in Figure 1, we 209

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Table 1 Regression analyses of the effect of user involvement, cognition, and organizational mechanisms on knowledge creation Dependent Variable User involvement Cognition OM b 0.234 0.276 0.654 R 0.234 0.276 0.654 R2 0.055 0.073 0.427 F 15.523 22.202 200.67 t 3.94 4.712 14.17 p 0.000** 0.000** 0.000** Tolerance 1.000 1.000 1.000

Dependent variable: knowledge creation; OM: organizational mechanisms; b: standardized regression coefficient Note: significance level:** p < 0.05; * : p < 0.1

conducted empirical research. We employed regression analyses to examine four separate correlations in this research framework. (a) Relationship between user involvement and knowledge creation: in order to predict the relationship between user involvement and knowledge creation, we adopted simple regression. As results from Table 1 indicate, p is less than 0.05, which means there is a statistical significance between user involvement and knowledge creation. In addition, the standardized beta coefficient (b) shows that user involvement has a positive impact on knowledge creation. Thus, we conclude that user involvement has positive correlation with knowledge creation, and hypothesis 1 is substantiated; (b) Relationship between cognition and knowledge creation: we employed simple regression to examine the relation between cognition and knowledge creation. As shown in Table 1, p is less than 0.05, which means there is a statistical significance between cognition and knowledge creation. The standardized beta coefficient ðbÞ indicates that cognition has a positive impact on knowledge creation. Therefore, cognition has positive correla-

tion with knowledge creation, and hypothesis 2 is substantiated; (c) Relationship between organizational mechanisms and knowledge creation: we adopted simple regression to test the relation between organizational mechanisms and knowledge creation. In Table 1, p is less than 0.05, which means there is a statistical significance between organizational mechanisms and knowledge creation. The standardized beta coefficient ðbÞ shows that organizational mechanisms have a positive impact on knowledge creation. Thus OM has positive correlation with knowledge creation, and hypothesis 3 is substantiated; and (d) Relationship between the composite effect and knowledge creation: in order to assess the composite effect of user involvement, cognition, and organizational mechanisms on knowledge creation, we adopted stepwise regression analyses. With the help of this method, we can test the contribution of each independent variable to the regression model. As indicated in Tables 2 and 3, ‘organizational mechanisms’ (independent variable) is the best predictor of knowledge creation (dependent variable), since it was selected first.

Table 2 Stepwise regression analyses of the composite effect (user involvement, cognition, and organizational mechanisms) on knowledge creation Model Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 R 0.652a 0.673b 0.679c R2 0.426 0.453 0.462 Adjusted R2 0.424 0.449 0.456 Standard error of estimate 6.02 5.88 5.85 Durbin-Watson

2.152&

a: Independent variable: constant and OM b: Independent variable: constant, OM, and cognition c: Independent variable: constant, OM, cognition, and user involvement Dependent variable: knowledge creation

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Table 3 Stepwise regression analyses to assess the research model Dependent variable OM Cognition User involvement b 0.625 0.123 0.104 t 13.876 2.491 2.129 P 0.000** 0.013** 0.034** Tolerance 0.975 0.811 0.826

Dependent variable: knowledge creation; b: standardized regression coefficient Note: significance level: ** : p < 0.05; * : p < 0.1

‘User involvement’ is the worst predictor of knowledge creation, because it was selected last by the stepwise regression analysis. The cumulated variance is 45.6%. All three independent variables have significant influence on knowledge creation (at p < 0.05 level). In addition, the composite effect of ‘user involvement’, ‘cognition’, and ‘organizational mechanisms’ is positively related to knowledge creation. In order to test the impact of collinearity, we calculated the tolerance. As shown in Table 3, the values of tolerance are all close to 1, which indicates that the interpretation of the regression variate coefficients should not be affected adversely by multi-collinearity. In other words, the results of Table 3 are stable and generalizable. Therefore, hypothesis 4 is substantiated. The results of our hypotheses are shown in Table 4. Figure 2 demonstrates the final conceptual model of the relationships among user involvement, cognition, organizational mechanisms and knowledge creation. We split the sample ðN ¼ 271Þ into two parts at the medium ‘knowledge creation’ as shown in Table 5. As indicated in Tables 6 and 7, for the group with more

knowledge creation activities, all of the three independent variables, i.e. OM, cognition, and user involvement, have significant impact on knowledge creation. However, for the group with less knowledge creation activities, only OM has a significant influence on knowledge creation. These findings indicate that an individual’s characteristics—involvement and cognition—have an impact on knowledge creation provided the organizations have many SECI activities. Whether the knowledge-creating activities are many or few, OM demonstrates significant impact on knowledge creation. 4.2. Limitations There are two limitations in this study. First, the results might be skewed due to potential response bias associated with the informants, who are not diverse enough to provide all the necessary information about user involvement, cognition of knowledge, and organizational mechanisms. Diversified informants and structured methods of triangulation are perhaps the best methods to obtain appropriate data regarding user involvement, cognition of knowledge, and organizational mechanisms. Second, our study may not present a comprehensive description of individual characteristics as well as organization mechanisms. We developed the content of organizational mechanisms according to Nambisan et al. (1999 [10]), Subramani et al. (1995 [19]), Zmud (1988 [20]) and Raghunathan (1992 [25]). In addition, the theory of user involvement comes from Barki and Hartwick (1989 [3]). We also employed King and Ko’s (2001 [4]) framework to represent the cognition of knowledge. Since the individual and organizational perspectives that may influence knowledge creation vary a lot, our study only provides the contingencies that have an impact on knowledge creation. In order to establish a more comprehensive model concerning knowledge management, we may need more theory and empirical 211

Fig. 2. Relationships among OM, cognition, user involvement, and knowledge creation.

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Table 4 Results of hypotheses test Hypothesis Hypothesis 1: user involvement in IS is positively related to knowledge creation. Hypothesis 2: cognition of knowledge is positively related to knowledge creation. Hypothesis 3: the effect of OM is positively related to knowledge creation. Hypothesis 4: the composite effect of user involvement, cognition, and OM is positively related to knowledge creation. Result Substantiated Substantiated Substantiated Substantiated Reference Table 3, Figure 2 Table 3, Figure 2 Table 3, Figure 2 Table 3, Figure 2

research to examine the interrelationships among individual, organization, and knowledge creation.

5. Conclusion and Discussion
This study investigates the role of individuals and organizations in facilitating knowledge creation. More specifically, as stated earlier, we employed user involvement and cognition of knowledge to represent the characteristics of individuals (Barki and Hartwick 1989 [3]; Barki and Hartwick 1994 [26]; King and Ko 2001 [4]). In addition, we adopted organizational mechanisms to represent a variety of design actions provided by organizations that may influence IT users’ knowledge creation (Nambisan et al. 1999 [10]). Unlike previous research, this study examines the impact of both individuals and organizations on knowledge creation in a more comprehensive way. From the individual perspective, researchers (Alavi and Leidner 2001 [8]; Nonaka and Takeuchi 2000 [2]) have identified the critical role that information systems or information technology play in facilitating knowledge creation, such as knowledge storage/retrieval, knowledge transfer, and knowledge application. Research also indicates user involvement is a necessary condition for IS success. In addition, according to King and Ko’s (2001 [4]) knowledge value chain model, cognition of knowledge plays a critical role in initiat-

Table 5 Knowledge creation groups Group Low ðN ¼ 130Þ Mean(3.378) Group High ðN ¼ 141Þ Mean(4.301) F 438.61 Sign. 0.000

ing knowledge. Although it is reasonable to emphasize the importance of user involvement and cognition on knowledge creation, we cannot neglect the impact on knowledge creation of organizational factors, such as organizational mechanisms (Alavi and Leidner 2001 [8]; Nambisan et al. 1999 [10]). Since previous researchers analyzed the factors influencing the effectiveness of knowledge creation only from a single viewpoint, i.e. the individual (user involvement and cognition) or the organizational (organizational mechanisms) viewpoint, or proposed a conceptual framework (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995 [1], Nonaka et al. 2000 [2]) without any empirical experiment to indicate its feasibility, their research is either not comprehensive or not practical. Our study avoids such single viewpoint analysis by examining the influence of both individual and organization on the effectiveness of knowledge creation. Based on 271 respondents from organizations in manufacturing, trade, transportation and service industries, computer industries, finance, and academic institutions, we found that user involvement, cognition, and organizational mechanisms are all positively related to the effect of knowledge creation. As a whole, the composite effect of the aforementioned aspects also exerts a positive effect on facilitating knowledge creation. The research results support the theoretical framework shown in Figure 1. In order to identify the relationships of the components in this framework, we employed regression analyses. The results are shown in Figure 2. These results indicate that ‘user involvement’, ‘cognition’, and ‘organizational mechanisms’ all facilitate knowledge creation. The factor that has the most significant impact on knowledge creation is organizational mechanisms. As shown in Table A2, we identified several activities of OM that facilitate knowledge creation. The cognition of knowledge also demonstrates a positive influence on knowledge crea-

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Table 6 Pearson correlations for two knowledge creation groups Group Depend. Var. OM Cognition User involvement Knowledge creation (high) 0.604** 0.307* 0.274** Knowledge creation (low) 0.369* 0.045 0.067

Note: * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05

tion, although the impact is less than that of OM. Finally, ‘user involvement in IS’ has the least influence on knowledge creation. The major contribution of this study is the embodiment of a conceptual framework, which specifies the relationships among user involvement, cognition of knowledge, OM, and knowledge creation. We have seen that the implications of this study for theory development include extensions and refinement of the ideas proposed in different streams of research: user involvement (Barki and Hartwick 1989 [3]), user cognition of knowledge (King and Ko 2001 [4]), organizational mechanisms (Nambisan et al. 1999 [10]), as well as knowledge creation (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995 [1], Nonaka et al. 2000 [2]). The implications for the research model in Figure 2 are three-fold. First, as shown in Table 3, user involvement has a significant impact on knowledge creation. According to Barki and Hartwick’s definition (1994 [26]), user involvement is a subjective psychological state, reflecting the importance and personal relevance of an object or event. In our study, user involvement was used to represent the importance and personal relevance of an IS for a technology user. Since previous research did not identify the relationship between user involvement and knowledge creation, one of the contributions of our study is to demonstrate that an individual’s subjective judgement of IT influences the effectiveness of knowledge creation. Since IT

may facilitate knowledge creation (Nonaka et al. 2000 [2]), how to implement and utilize an IS becomes critical. According to previous research (Debrabander and Edstrom 1977 [5]; Ives and Olson 1984 [6]; Powers and Dickson 1973 [7]), user involvement provides a solution, because it contributes to improving system quality or acceptance. Combining this argument with our research result, we therefore argued that user involvement is a type of ‘ba’, which provides the appropriate context to facilitate knowledge creation. Second, we identified another important issue— cognition of knowledge–belonging to the individual level, that has an impact on knowledge creation. According to King and Ko’s (2001 [4]) definition, cognition of knowledge stands for the willingness to search and notice new information. They proposed a framework to specify the critical factors that can facilitate knowledge management. In this framework, cognition plays a fundamental role in a knowledgecreating value chain. In order to create knowledge, individuals have to be willing first to devote their time and energy to identify the useful information, and share their knowledge as well as adopt new knowledge. Our study also shows that individuals who know how to approach unfamiliar or new problems effectively usually achieve knowledge creation more easily. As shown in Figure 2, cognition and user involvement demonstrate almost the same effect on knowledge creation. Both of them have a positive influence on

Table 7 Stepwise regression analyses for two knowledge creation groups Group Depend. Var. OM Cognition User involvement Adjusted R square Knowledge creation (high) 0.567*** 0.183*** 0.152** 0.428 Knowledge creation (low) 0.369*** N.S. N.S. 0.129

Note: N.S. (not significant); * p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01

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knowledge creation. According to Nonaka et al’s (2000 [2]) definition, one of the categories of ba is to facilitate ‘interaction’. Knowledge is created through interaction among individuals or between individuals and their environments. Since individuals with a higher ‘cognition of knowledge’ are usually more eager to interact with other people or environments, they probably achieve more knowledge creation. Therefore, it seems that individual cognition is another type of ‘ba’ which facilitates knowledge creation. Finally, we identified 18 types of OM in facilitating knowledge creation as shown in Table A2. These items stand for a variety of mechanisms from the organizational perspective that can facilitate IT users’ knowledge. In other words, individuals’ knowledge creation activities can be encouraged through appropriately designed mechanisms. According to Nambisan et al.’s (1999 [10]) definition, some mechanisms can facilitate the acquisition of context-free knowledge in a firm, such as subscribing to general and advanced IT journals and encouraging employees to attend IT conferences and trade shows. In addition, OM can help organization members to acquire knowledge about the applications of IT in the general business/ industry (external) context. They range from acquiring new IT deployment opportunities from IT conferences/ trade fairs, inviting IT vendors to demonstrate new technologies and related applications, to cooperating with external agencies to develop IT applications. Other types of OM help to acquire knowledge about the application of IT in an organization’s own (internal) context and perform knowledge conversion; these include strategic IT planning teams which can establish the linkage between a firm’s strategic objectives and its IS portfolio, customer support units helping users to channel their feedback to the internal IS group, or helping users to achieve their day-to-day IS operations, IT benchmarking projects that sanction surveys and studies of IT practices in peer/competitor firms, and the like, see Table A2. These types of OM are very similar to those of previous researchers’ classifications of OM (Nambisan et al. 1999 [10]; Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995 [1]). Our study shows that the composite effects of these types of OM have a positive impact on knowledge creation. As shown in Figure 2, the impact of OM on knowledge creation is much higher than those of ‘user involvement’ and ‘cognition.’ Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995 [1]) used SECI to describe the interaction and conversion between tacit and explicit knowledge. Another issue of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s framework is ontological, which is concerned with the levels of knowledge-creating entities 214

such as individual and organization. Our study identified the linkage between the modes of knowledge creation and the various ‘ba’: ‘user involvement’, ‘cognition’, and ‘organizational mechanisms’ (Nonaka et al. 2000 [2]), which represent a context, place, or space for creating knowledge. Such linkage is valuable for managers to establish their knowledge creation environment. Without our empirical findings on the relationships between knowledge creation modes and the appropriate usage of ba, it is less likely that knowledge creation will be achieved. As shown in Figure 2, the impact of the three types of ‘ba’ on knowledge creation is different. The first two belong to the ‘individual’ ontological category. ‘Organizational mechanisms’ is the organizational level of the ontological category. Our findings indicate that the organizational-level ba has much more influence on knowledge creation than do individual-level ba. In summary, our study implies that when the ontological sphere of knowledge creation becomes broader, i.e. knowledge-creating entities move from individual level to organizational level, more knowledge creation processes will occur. In order to manage and facilitate knowledge creation effectively, both individual and organizational level activities are important, however, the latter are more important than the former. From a pragmatic standpoint, this study provides guidelines for those managers who want to establish an environment to facilitate knowledge exchange and creation. For development and advancement of theory, we may need to identify additional categories of individual as well as organizational-level characteristics, such as organizational context and IT characteristics that are relevant to knowledge creation.

Acknowledgements
We would like to acknowledge the comments from anonymous reviewers who have provided remarkable insights to improve the quality of this paper. This project was supported by the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan, R.O.C.

References
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Appendix
Table A1 Sample demographics Frequency Education High School Bachelor Master Position* >3 3 2 1 Experience (years) <1 1*2 3*5 6 * 10 > 10 Functional Area Computer industries Finance Transportation and Service Manufacturing Trade Academic institutions ðN ¼ 271Þ 1 171 99 124 105 36 6 10 46 76 61 78 77 41 35 52 43 23 Percentage (%) 0.4 63.1 36.5 45.8 38.7 13.3 2.2 3.7 17 28 22.5 28.8 28.4 15.1 12.9 19.2 15.9 8.5

Note: * In terms of number of positions away from the CEO

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Table A2 Factor analysis for organizational mechanisms No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Item Factor loading

Advanced technology group is responsible for maintaining an awareness of, disseminating knowledge 0.702 about, and managing the introduction of new information technologies Subscribe to general IT journals for employees 0.567 Subscribe to advanced IT journals for IS managers 0.684 Encourage employees to attend IT conferences/trade fairs 0.613 Acquire new IT deployment opportunities from IT conferences/trade fairs 0.596 Invite IT vendors to demonstrate new technologies and related applications 0.689 Cooperate with external agencies to develop IT applications 0.696 IT advisory board provides suggestions for IT deployment 0.802 IT steering committee provides the priorities for IT deployment 0.793 Strategic IT planning team can establish the linkage between a firm’s strategic objectives and its IS 0.766 portfolio IT benchmarking projects sanction surveys and studies of IT practices in peer/competitor firms 0.789 IT task group is responsible for the requirement analysis of a new IS 0.783 Customer support unit helps users to achieve their day-to-day IS operations 0.752 Customer support unit helps users to channel their feedback to the internal IS group 0.730 User groups exchange their experiences of IT deployment 0.738 User groups provide their feedback to IS managers 0.672 User lab is useful for users to experiment with new IT 0.717 Relationship manager is responsible for managing the relationships between IS department and end 0.767 users Eigen value ¼ 9.393; Variance ¼ 24.086; Cumulated Variance ¼ 24.086%; Mean (S.D.) ¼ 3.56(0.95)

Table A3 Factor analysis for user involvement No. Item How involved are you in using an IS? 1 Essential Non-essential 0.760 2 Trivial Fundamental 0.696 3 Significant Insignificant 0.687 4 Important Unimportant 0.770 5 Not needed Needed 0.708 6 Irrelevant to me Relevant to me 0.654 7 Of no concern to me Of concern to me 0.616 8 Matters to me Does not matter to me 0.458 9 Means nothing to me Means a lot to me 0.632 10 Exciting Unexciting 0.505 11 Of interest to me Of no interest to me 0.497 Eigen value ¼ 4.856; Variance ¼ 12.452; Cumulated Variance ¼ 36.538%; Mean (S.D.) ¼ 3.11(0.86) Factor loading

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Table A4 Factor analysis of knowledge cognition No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Item Factor loading

In order to acquire knowledge, I usually adopt internet, intranet, expert systems, and other search 0.594 engines. In order to search into a problem, I am willing to devote my time to collecting related knowledge. 0.710 I can distinguish whether the knowledge is useful or not. 0.760 I am willing to search for the related knowledge concerning unfamiliar problems. 0.738 I set up the possible goals that I want to achieve when I face a new or unfamiliar problem. 0.504 I am willing to share my experiences and knowledge 0.566 I can propose innovative ideas when I face a new or unfamiliar problem. 0.527 I can design appropriate solutions when I face a new problem. 0.667 I usually avoid the same problems coming up in advance. 0.584 In order to solve the same problems effectively, I employ the knowledge acquired from experiences. 0.681 Eigen value ¼ 4.838; Variance ¼ 12.404; Cumulated Variance ¼ 48.942%; Mean (S.D.) ¼ 4.04(0.72)

Table A5 Factor analysis of knowledge creation No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Item Factor loading

Trust the information provided by coworkers 0.624 Members of task group are willing to share their experience 0.648 Sharing knowledge by face-to-face interaction 0.641 Sharing individuals’ experience 0.678 Employ similar terminology and methodology to solve problems 0.538 Employ e-mail for knowledge exchange 0.456 Working environment facilitates communication and collaboration 0.731 To express knowledge by metaphor or analogy 0.520 Members of task group exchange ideas with one another with the help of advanced IT 0.692 IS with useful functions to easily access information 0.688 Transmit information by advanced IT 0.645 Document is standardized 0.598 Provide formal training 0.591 IS with simulation software 0.564 Learning by doing 0.715 Eigen value ¼ 5.887; Variance ¼ 39.246; Cumulated Variance ¼ 39.246%; Mean (S.D.) ¼ 3.80(0.84)

Table A6 Results of the reliability analysis Construct The composite effect of user involvement, cognition, and organizational mechanisms User involvement Cognition Organizational mechanisms Knowledge creation 0.8584 0.8532 0.9455 0.8848 Variable Cronbach’s a

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Journal of Information Science, 30 (3) 2004, pp. 205–218 # CILIP, DOI 10.1177/0165551504042803

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