Organizational and knowledge management related antecedents of knowledge use: The moderating effect of ambiguity tolerance

Sury Ravindran, Govind S. Iyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


To leverage their knowledge resources, many organizations deploy knowledge management systems (KMS), which contain at their core a knowledge repository. Successful use of the knowledge/repository depends largely on knowledge workers who must contribute to the knowledge base as well as use those knowledge objects. We develop and validate an empirical model that explains mechanisms required to reduce knowledge gaps in a firm or business unit, through knowledge contribution and use or reuse. Using the theory of planned behavior and its derivative the technology acceptance model, we find that a feature rich user friendly KMS combined with extrinsic rewards (or incentives) and knowledge self-efficacy are critical to KM success. Tolerance of ambiguity (a personal trait) is a key influence in the causal relationship between incentives and knowledge gaps as well as knowledge self-efficacy and knowledge gaps. The main findings of this study are (1) for ambiguity intolerant individuals, incentives and self-efficacy are as important as the KMS as motivators for knowledge sharing and use, (2) for this group, it is necessary to stress the importance of KM as a means of social persuasion in building knowledge self-efficacy, (3) for the ambiguity tolerant, incentives are not required, and self efficacy is self-determined i.e., KM champions are not required to highlight the importance of KM; in fact the technology (KMS) is all important, a finding that negates conventional wisdom that technology is merely an enabler. In summary, a one-size fits all mindset is not effective, a firm must carefully consider the ambiguity tolerance levels of employees before forging ahead with KM efforts. This becomes all the more important to practitioners because of the recently highlighted differences in ambiguity tolerance between “Millennials” and” Generation Xers”. In addition to theory testing in KM, this research also informs KM practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-290
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Technology and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Incentives
  • Knowledge reuse
  • Knowledge self-efficacy
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Knowledge use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Communication
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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