The Search-Transfer Problem: The role of Weak Ties in Sharing Knowledge Across Organization subunits, Hansen, M. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 44. 1999 (pp. 82-111)


The main finding of this study is that neither weak nor strong relationships between operating units lead to efficient sharing of knowledge among them. Weak and strong inter- unit ties have their respective strengths and weaknesses in facilitating search for and transfer of useful knowledge across organization subunits. The net effect on project completion time of having either weak or strong interunit ties is contingent on the complexity of the knowledge to be transferred across subunits. Strong interunit ties provide the highest relative net effect (or least negative effect on completion time) when the knowledge is highly complex, whereas weak interunit ties have the strongest positive effect on completion time when the knowledge is not complex.


 Another finding from this study is that weak interunit ties are not primarily beneficial because they are associated with nonredundant contacts. The main positive effect of weak interunit ties remained significant when redundancy measures were added to the model. Another explanation for this effect is that weak interunit ties are advantageous because they are less costly to maintain than strong ones. Project engineers in this company may well obtain the same information about opportunities for knowledge use from weak interdivisional ties than from strong ones, but they obtain this information at lower search costs and can therefore dedicate more time and energy to completing the focal project. This cost argument for the benefits of weak ties pro- vides an alternative explanation to the predominant claim that weak ties are beneficial because they provide access to nonredundant information.

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