Paul Leonardi

 

Faculty Speaker Professor Paul Leonardi [Northwestern University]
Title Ambient Awareness: Using Social Media to Improve Accuracy of Organizational Metaknowledge
Date & Time Friday, February 7, 2014 at 10:30am
Place UCLA Anderson School of Management 
Room D-310 

 

Abstract
Accurate metaknowledge (knowledge of "who knows what" and "who knows whom" within the organization) is necessary for a variety of work processes. But organization theorists know little about how people develop and can improve the accuracy of their metaknowledge. The argument in this paper is that use of enterprise social networking sites can increase the accuracy of people's metaknowledge and increase the similarity in metaknowledge held by coworkers in the organization (also known as a transactive memory). The results of a quasi-natural field experiment in which only one of two matched sample groups within a large financial services firm was given access to the enterprise social networking site for six months revealed that by making communicative messages visible and people's social networks translucent, the technology enabled observers to learn vicariously from the communications occurring amongst their coworkers and, consequently, improve the accuracy of their metaknowledge (a 31% improvement in knowledge of "who knows what" and an 88% improvement in knowledge of "who knows whom"). The results also show that individuals' metaknowledge became more similar to each other when using the technology, thus creating a transactive memory. Based on these findings, I discuss how the concept of "ambient awareness" - awareness of ambient communications occurring amongst others in the organization - can contribute to the work of organizational theorists interested in understanding and enabling the conditions for effective knowledge transfer.