Social knowledge sharing networks are central to organizational success, but with the growth in distributed global organizations, many firms are struggling with the challenge of creating and maintaining relationships that cross geographic, disciplinary, national, and cultural boundaries. This study investigates communities of practice within multinational engineering and construction organizations to build a theory of inclusive, global, knowledge sharing networks. Through social network analysis and qualitative interviews, the research team will theorize knowledge connection formation drivers and knowledge flow patterns. Existing techniques allow us to map networks of relationships, this project will go much further by (1) identifying and measuring the influence of geographic location, discipline, business practice, and generation on knowledge sharing connections; (2) determining the central sources of knowledge and directional flow of knowledge within the networks; (3) analyzing and explaining the conditions facilitating and impeding intra-organizational boundary-spanning knowledge sharing connection creation; and (4) determining why knowledge flows in a particular direction.
As the movement toward distributed international organizations grows, the networks of social relationships that encourage the transfer of knowledge within a firm will weaken and knowledge sharing will become increasingly difficult. A better understanding of the drivers underlying the formation of knowledge-sharing connections and their ongoing maintenance can improve our effectiveness in addressing major societal and organizational challenges. This research will advance social science theory of knowledge sharing in global, interdisciplinary, technology-based communities of practice and provide recommendations for creating and maintaining multi-lateral knowledge sharing connections to enhance interdisciplinary communities of practice in multinational engineering and construction firms.