Cultural impacts on knowledge sharing: empirical data from EU project collaboration.

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Siakas, Kerstin V. ; Georgiadou, Elli ; Balstrup, Bo (2010)

Purpose – EU sponsored Lifelong Learning Projects involve a variety of experts of diverse cultural, organisational, and professional backgrounds connected together in one project with time and money constraints. The members of the consortium, often unknown to each other from the beginning, come together for a specific period of time to accomplish certain distinctive objectives. A special Knowledge Sharing strategy is needed in order to incorporate culturally diverse values, and to overcome the technical difficulties of dispersion and limited access to informal communication. This paper explores the way in which EU projects appreciate diverse cultural (national, organisational, and professional) influences on Knowledge Sharing in project-based collaboration.\ud Design/methodology/approach – This paper is based on longitudinal studies, own multicultural experiences and earlier conceptually grounded arguments regarding cultural complexities to Knowledge Sharing in project environments. The key cultural issues highlighted here were empirically tested through a survey in the context of Knowledge Sharing in several EU Lifelong learning projects. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of dealing with cultural issues in fostering good Knowledge Sharing practices within dispersed projects.\ud Findings – It is apparent that culture has a most significant influence on the Knowledge Sharing capability of time and money restricted dispersed project. Cultural awareness and the use of new Information and Communication (ICT) tools, such as WEB 2.0 are factors supporting Knowledge Sharing.\ud Research limitations/implications – This paper puts forward experiences and opinions of a number of project partners from different EU lifelong learning projects regarding their general opinions about knowledge sharing and their experiences from knowledge sharing in EU projects they have participated in. The findings are not statistically tested due to the small sample, but highlight certain issues that will be further investigated in future work.\ud Practical implications – At the project level, people and processes must be the first priority for project managers who wish to nurture a „Knowledge Sharing culture‟ in a dispersed context. At the team level, the project manager can help to create a team culture favourable to Knowledge Sharing by emphasising appropriate values and beliefs to the team members and by introducing suitable enablers for virtual communities.\ud Originality/value – Previous studies have not examined knowledge sharing in EU projects. The paper aims to help practitioners and academics, who participate in EU projects to recognise that the different EU project team members usually are dispersed in terms of geography, expertise and working methods) and to understand that diverse cultural values (national, organisational and professional) can be a competitive advantage. As a result of gaining such understanding it is expected that EU project performance will improve if diversities are handled in a right manner and in addition Web 2.0 is used as a communication and sharing platform to enable increased knowledge sharing, interactive participation and digital democracy in practice.
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