Usefulness, incentives and knowledge management

Govind S. Iyer, Suryanarayanan Ravindran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the effect of "usefulness" and "incentives" on the joint decision to share and use knowledge objects. Design/methodology/approach - Using an experimental design, the authors explore the effects of different incentive systems, the effect of the usefulness of a knowledge management system on intent to contribute and intent to use knowledge, the effect of personal characteristics, specifically an individual's tolerance of ambiguity, and joint endogeneity of contribution and use along with potential complementarity of usefulness and incentives. Findings - For ambiguity tolerant individuals, an incentive mechanism that rewards the contributor for shared knowledge used by a knowledge user, and the knowledge user for the act of reuse, is more effective than a simpler incentive scheme that merely rewards knowledge sharing when usefulness level is low. Ambiguity intolerant individuals react equally to both types of incentive schemes regardless of usefulness. Ambiguity tolerant individuals display weakly complementary levels of sharing in response to coordinated increases in incentives and usefulness levels. This has powerful implications for practice as both incentives and usefulness need not be increased in a concerted manner in order to promote use. Research limitations/implications - This is an experimental study with the use of student subjects and the usual caveats apply. Originality/value - The contributions of this paper are deriving practitioner implications for the sharing/use of knowledge, the explicit consideration of ambiguity tolerance, and inclusion of both knowledge contribution and use in one comprehensive model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-430
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 23 2009


  • Corporate strategy
  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge sharing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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