Why organizations fail to share knowledge: An empirical investigation and opportunities for improvement

John Israilidis, Lia Siachou, STEPHEN KELLY

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Purpose: This paper explores critical failure factors (CFFs) in the context of knowledge sharing. It provides further insights into what can cause knowledge- sharing failures, inflexible knowledge-sharing strategies and ineffective knowledge- sharing mechanisms. It also examines how practitioners can reduce or even mitigate such dysfunctions. Design/methodology/approach: A case-based inductive approach was conducted. Data were collected from two studies applying mixed methods. The first data set included nine in-depth, semi-structured interviews with highly skilled personnel from an aerospace and defense organization. The second data source included 375 successfully completed questionnaires from participants employed at the same organization. Findings: The paper identifies six CFFs with an impact on knowledge sharing. It also reveals that managing organizational ignorance can play a key role in generating new knowledge and averting failure. Study findings provide insights into the importance of identifying these failures when sharing knowledge and propose relevant mitigation strategies. Originality/value: This paper identifies a range of empirically validated CFFs that complement the extant work on the complexity of knowledge sharing and have hitherto not been seen in the literature. It also provides a more nuanced understanding of why both organizations and their people often fail to share knowledge by exploring the role of organizational ignorance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Technology and People
Early online date24 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sep 2020


  • Aerospace and defense industry
  • Critical failure factors (CFFs)
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Mixed methods
  • Organizational ignorance

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