Working across Cultural Spheres: The Knowledge Sharing Practices of Boundary spanners in a Global Insurance Firm

Helena Heizmann

Abstract


As organisations are becoming increasingly complex from a cultural perspective, it is important to understand how practitioners manage the differences that arise when working with peers that engage in different cultural (national cultural, professional, functional) spheres. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to practice-based research on knowledge sharing by using a discourse analytic lens which exposes the link between the knowledge (sharing) practices of boundary spanners at cultural interfaces and its immediate power effects for the subjects involved. The paper examines how a community of in-house consultants in a global insurance firm shifts from translating to transformational knowledge sharing practices depending on the power relations that link them to their audiences, highlighting: (1) the political nature of boundary spanners’ knowledge sharing practices, (2) the power effects for the subjects involved and (3) the relational character of communities of practice. The study suggests that knowledge (sharing) practices are not neutral but have power implications that need to be considered in cross-cultural boundary work if participants want to achieve more meaningful forms of mutual engagement.


Keywords


Knowledge sharing, boundary spanning, communities of practice, cross-cultural, power, discourse analysis, cultural diversity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v7i1.4245