Sharing is Caring: A Qualitative Study of Idea-sharing in Large Organizations
Background and Purpose: It is widely known that knowledge is a critical component of firms' ability to innovate. Although large organizations usually have a large pool of human capital, and thus knowledge, they face challenges to motivate employees to share their valuable knowledge across silos (i.e., business units). The purpose of this thesis is to explore how knowledge sharing among employees at the early stage of the innovation process can be encouraged. The research is further focused on motivation, enablers, and challenges and/or barriers of intra-organizational idea-sharing occurring among employees with and without managerial or leadership responsibilities in large organizations. Method/approach: The research followed a cross-sectional qualitative research design with an abductive approach, where the empirical findings were examined using thematic analysis. While the abductive approach allowed the authors to iterate between literature and empirical data, the cross-sectional design facilitated identification of patterns and variation across the data sample and supported the production of general findings between two sample groups. Thematic analysis was deemed as a rigorous method for analyzing the empirical findings. Further elaborated, the undertaken research included a total of 23 respondents: 1 expert respondent and 22 respondents from 7 organizations across 5 industries. These respondents were classified into two sample groups: employees without managerial or leadership responsibilities and employees with managerial or leadership responsibilities. Then, a thematic analysis was conducted to analyze the empirical findings. Findings: The findings of this research suggest that individual motivators, organizational structure, communication channels, organizational culture, leaders, the team, and top-management, organizational activities, and organizational position might be important concepts to consider when encouraging employees to share ideas. The authors present a conceptual model, which includes the above-mentioned concepts, which to some extent might explain how employees can be encouraged to share knowledge at the early stage of the innovation process. Research limitations: The research limitations adhere to its qualitative nature, which might have implications for the robustness of the empirical findings. In other words, the findings are rooted in respondents' subjective views, as well as the authors’ interpretations of it, rather than being based on quantitative inferences. Practical implications: The research has practical implications on the individual, the managerial, and the organizational level. Specifically, our findings suggest employees without managerial or leadership responsibilities should choose a job area and organization that aligns with their interests and personal drive. Employees with managerial or leadership responsibilities should both choose a leadership style that empowers employees and fosters interactions, and they should also involve, give freedom, and recognize their employees and their ideas. At an organizational level, the characteristics of the organizational structure, culture, and activities should be considered and aligned to encourage employees to share their ideas, going towards a more employee-driven innovation approach.