Organisations need networks to leverage external knowledge, particularly for SMEs with their limited resources. Organisations use networks for knowledge sharing to foster innovation. This use of networks bears risks like the unwanted spill-over of knowledge. Consequently, organisa-tions need to balance sharing and protecting knowledge. While scholars have extensively inves-tigated the sharing perspective, they have so far neglected knowledge protection in network set-tings and especially the interplay between sharing and protection. This paper illuminates the motives and practices of network members switching from open sharing to stronger protection on the basis of 53 interviews with members from 10 SME networks. We describe three patterns of switching behaviour and explain how the interviewees adapt the use of collaborative IT to manage the switches. Employees switch from sharing to being open to (a) a certain extent, (b) a certain group, or (c) a certain topic. We find that the three types of switching behaviour are re-lated to network characteristics and to corresponding adaptions in using collaborative IT. Col-laborative IT does not necessarily hamper knowledge protection, but adapted use can support both knowledge sharing and knowledge protection. We argue that organisations should develop protection capabilities to manage the switches.
Manhart, Markus; Thalmann, Stefan; and Maier, Ronald, "The Ends of Knowledge Sharing in Networks: Using Information Technology to Start Knowledge Protection" (2015). ECIS 2015 Completed Research Papers. Paper 129.