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To scale service operations requires retrieving knowledge across the organization. However, prior work highlights that individuals on the periphery of organizational knowledge networks may struggle to access useful knowledge at work. A knowledge repository has the potential to help peripheral individuals gain access to valuable knowledge because it is universally available and can be used without social interaction. However, for it to successfully serve this equalizing function, those on the periphery of the organizational knowledge networks must actually use it, possibly overcoming barriers to doing so. In this paper, we develop a multilevel model of knowledge retrieval in teams to explore how individuals on the periphery of knowledge networks—because of their inexperience, location, lack of social capital, gender, or role—access knowledge from such a knowledge repository. Unexpectedly, we find that individuals whose experience and position already provide access to vital knowledge use a knowledge repository more frequently than individuals on the organizational periphery. We argue that this occurs because the knowledge repository—despite its appearance of equivalent accessibility—is actually more accessible to central than to peripheral players. Thus, knowledge retrieval is not driven primarily by the need to overcome limited access to other knowledge sources. Rather knowledge retrieval is facilitated when actors know how to reap value from the knowledge repository, which ironically improves with increasing access to other sources of knowledge. We conclude that a knowledge repository is unlikely to scale service operations without additional intervention.

This paper has been accepted for the Manufacturing & Service Operations Management Special Issue on Value Chain Innovations in Developing Economies.

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