A Relational View of Information Seeking and Learning in Social Networks
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Stephen P. Borgatti
Research in organizational learning has demonstrated processes and occasionally performance implications of acquisition of declarative (know-what) and procedural (know-how) knowledge. However, considerably less attention has been paid to learned characteristics of relationships that affect the decision to seek information from other people. Based on a review of the social network, information processing, and organizational learning literatures, along with the results of a previous qualitative study, we propose a formal model of information seeking in which the probability of seeking information from another person is a function of (1) knowing what that person knows; (2) valuing what that person knows; (3) being able to gain timely access to that person’s thinking; and (4) perceiving that seeking information from that person would not be too costly. We also hypothesize that the knowing, access, and cost variables mediate the relationship between physical proximity and information seeking. The model is tested using two separate research sites to provide replication. The results indicate strong support for the model and the mediation hypothesis (with the exception of the cost variable). Implications are drawn for the study of both transactive memory and organizational learning, as well as for management practice.