IMAGINE yourself leaving your current organization. As time passes, how do you think
you will talk about your experiences at and memories of this organization? These
feelings reflect emotional connection.
To what extent is your organization successful at instilling a sense that you matter and
make a difference? To what extent do you feel the organization matters to you? This is
your current state of influence.
Innovator’s dilemma is about choosing between two difficult alternatives. For
companies, the choices are 1. To continue doing what is producing results, or 2. To
proactively adopt new, approaches anticipating the horizon. Some bedeviled companies
solve this dilemma by trying to manage both—that is, maintaining status quo and running
entrepreneurial skunkworks simultaneously. Their hedged response causes R&D costs to
increase steeply, yet there is too little to show for the investments. Think Microsoft vs.
Apple or Volkswagen vs. Tesla, similar companies with vastly different R&D budgets
and innovation results.
Our research finds that while R&D investments, business strategies, and skilled talent are
crucial, they only account for 75 per cent of innovation success. The rest—that which
separates the disruptors from the disrupted—comes at no cost at all and is dependent on
how effective organizations are at building a sense of community. Two factors--
influence and emotional connection—in particular contribute more than 20 per cent to
innovation ability. They represent feelings of trust in organizational structure and in
being together and freedom of self-expression.
An Existential-Humanistic Process Model of Knowledge Creation
Evidence, Limitations, and Potential for Innovation in Virtual Organizations
Cisco Systems, Inc.
Roseville, CA, USA
Murtuza Ali Lakhani
Apollo Education Group
Roseville, CA, USA
Abstract—Despite having rigorous business strategies, astute
leadership, abundant capital, state-of-the-art technology and
tools, creative skilled workforce, and established processes,
many companies are waking up to a scene of despair. The
tumultuous times of change marked by a complex business
environment, exponential technologies, and market turmoil are
driving the race to the finish for innovation. The premise of
this study was that if people are ultimately responsible for
leveraging organizational assets and their own intellectual and
imaginative resources for creation of knowledge, then their
need for sense of community should matter and guide the
social structure of their omni-connected work environment.
With participation of 264 knowledge workers from more than
12 industries, this quantitative study found that 48% of
knowledge creation effectiveness is attributable to sense of
community marked by feelings of co-leadership, connection,
belonging, give and take, influence, and creative growth. The
results revealed that both high-tech and high-touch work
practices, such as telecommuting, spontaneous face-to-face
interactions, and synchronous and asynchronous collaboration
lend positive support for sense of community. The strategic
outcome of this study is an existential-humanistic process
model of knowledge creation that not only takes into account
the way people live and work, but also embodies concern for
their well-being and interests. The model is presented along
with evidence, limitations, and potential for knowledge
creation and innovation in virtual organizations.
Keywords-knowledge creation; innovation; sense of community;
technology-mediated collaboration; virtual organization;
telecommuting; needs fulfillment; emotional connection; group
membership; influence; socialization; externalization;
A business environment characterized by shocks,
disorder, and volatility can drive unadaptive companies to
extinction, while persistently favoring, to the bitter end,
companies that are prepared to innovate. Knowledge
creation has therefore long been recognized in the business
literature as a crucial construct . Scholars and
practitioners from a range of disciplines have devoted their
energies to uncovering ways to foster the creation of
knowledge . The reality is that knowledge creation,
rather than being about the talent of a single individual, is an
interpersonal process . Knowledge is created out of
a rigorous dialectical exercise of gathering, interpreting,
communicating, synthesizing, and applying collective
reasoning, observations, and experiences .
Dialectic collaboration is a means for amalgamating
human ideas permeated in a multiplicity of social, cultural,
and historical contexts . Exponential technologies have
opened doors for ever more participants to collaborate
virtually  to solve challenges facing their organizations.
Increasingly, companies are adopting a distributed,
networked structure, in which collaboration among dispersed
people is mediated by technology. In such virtual
organizations, as they are called, knowledge workers are
considered the most valuable asset . Virtual collaboration
is, however, more impersonal and inhibited than face-to-face
interactions and can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings
 as well as increased risk of perpetuated acrimony and
stress . This dilemma surrounding virtual work has
spawned off a vociferous debate among practitioners and
scholars. Meanwhile, companies across the board are
struggling to find ways that not only promote social bonds,
workplace fluidity, and serendipitous encounters, but also
foster employee flexibility, engagement, and loyalty .
Yahoo! and Hewlett Packard, two of the companies caught
in the dilemma of the spatio-temporal structure of knowledge
work, have reversed their longstanding telework practices
, not comprehending how that makes them
vulnerable to a subtractive effect detrimental to innovation
Knowledge is a complex, organic asset  that
arises out of an interdependent process of collective
imagination . Literature is replete with evidence that
throwing money perfunctorily into research and development
or incentive systems does little to promote innovation
capabilities. Apple ranked the most innovative company for
three consecutive years, yet its spending on research and
development was nearly half as much as that of its nearest
rivals . The fact that the companies judged the most
innovative and the best places to work for are vastly different
 suggests that innovation is neither a result of
inundating research and development with resources nor is it
about pampering employees with over-the-top perks.
The most powerful strategy for companies seeking to
build and sustain the capacity for innovation is to focus on
the virtues, skills, and knowledge of people and how to
connect their talents . For companies aspiring to
produce game-changing breakthroughs for their markets, the
game change must begin at home. We argue that sense of
community, the imperceptible link that connects and drives
people, is both an antecedent and a consequence of
knowledge creation and, as such, that the overarching
priority of organizations must be to shape the social
structures of knowledge work with a careful consideration to
sense of community.
The next section summarizes the extant literature on
knowledge creation, sense of community, and virtual
organizations. Following this, the researched problem is
defined and purpose of the study elucidated. The sections
that follow examine the research questions, underpinned
instruments, and research framework of this study. The
presentation results then follows supported by conclusions,
limitations, and scope for future work.
II. LITERATURE REVIEW
Enduring companies are built by people having the
passion to bring innovative products to life . To such
companies, success is more than material gains.
Knowledge, the root of innovation, is fueled by humanity.
When the participants feel a sense of belonging, know that
they make a difference, and believe that their commitment
will get them what they need, they are said to share a sense
of community , which helps build trust, inspire
sacrifice, and power collaboration . The social
connection renders the knowledge creation process organic
by helping grow the participants’ personalities and extend
the response repertoire of the company sustainably over
time. While the human ability to find patterns in random
noise and apply imagination is crucial , knowledge
creation is not about the talent of a soloist with bounded
Dyer et al.  observed that innovators are consistent
exemplars of the skills for questioning, observation,
networking, experimentation, and association. Knowledge
creation includes “generation, improvement, application,
and utilization” of new ideas [31, p.70], the basis of which
is in the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the
individual . However, interpersonal networks are
indispensable to a dynamic evaluation, permeation, and
adoption of knowledge , characterized as complex,
tacit, subjective, embedded, and socially constructed
Sense of community is an invisible force that unites
people, embodying trust and affection associated with
feelings of sacrifice, loyalty, and engagement . It
affords an aggregation of human assets needed to deal with
forces in the external and internal environments , and
delimits in-groups from out-groups, creating a form of
safety, belonging, and intimacy among the participants .
Interpersonal configurations flourish if the relationships that
underpin them are accumulative . Hirshi  held that
attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief in
common values were principal aspects of social bonding, a
facet of the sense of community. A measure of bonding is
social capital, which Putnam  referred to as the currency
of trust, partnership, compassion, and communal interplay
that not only satisfies the social needs of an individual, but
also bears the potentiality for the improvement of the
collective unit to which the individual belongs. Nisbet and
Perrin  observed, “First and foremost of the social bond
is the symbolic nature of all true behavior or interaction” (p.
39). Sense of community stimulates extension of the
interpersonal selves of participants in the knowledge
creation process, resulting in a broadening of the response
repertoire of the organization .
Companies across the board are in a battle for talent.
Drucker  observed that managers must treat knowledge
workers as volunteers who are more concerned about
autonomy and empowerment, connection with their peers,
and engagement in organizational governance than they are
about pay. Virtual organizations work when they offer
workers a share in collective success, a way to govern
themselves, effective collaborative structures and processes,
and technologies for communication and coordination .
Technology-facilitated collaboration has its downsides.
Virtual contact is relatively more inhibiting and impersonal
than proximate interface and exacerbates the possibility of
conflicts and misunderstandings among participants .
Since social interplay is at the heart of knowledge creation,
an understanding of optimal new age work practices and
social dynamics in virtual organizations becomes crucial.
Social technologies, including video telephony, have
altered the concept of virtual organization. Pervasively
available synchronous and asynchronous collaboration tools
afford geographically-distant employees with the feeling of
being together by enabling them to track position, opinions,
movement, actions, and voice . However, the
fundamental prerequisite to knowledge creation is a free and
fresh flow of ideas across organizational levels in physical
and virtual work environments , for only when the
participants’ subjective and objective discernments afforded
the opportunity to fuse is knowledge utilized and
proliferated . Hamel  suggested that being prisoners to
the paradigms established and supported by the bureaucratic
class may have limited further innovation. Changing these
paradigms is counter to the traditional way of thinking and
being . McMillan and Chavis  observed that “the
first task of the community is to make it safe to tell ‘the
Truth’” (p. 316). Adverse group and intergroup
relationships are the sources of anti-learning behaviors and
organizational defenses detrimental to knowledge creation
, a sense of community fostered by healthy
interrelationships is the foundation of knowledge making in
human-centered organizations .
Knowledge creation is widely embraced as a dynamic
process of continuously resolving contradictions, chaos, and
conflicts , often sources of stress rather than gratification
. Employees noted for leading Apple’s transformation to
the world’s most innovative company described their journey
as both inspiring and unsettling . Just as human muscles
get stronger when subjected to weight training ,
knowledge creating organizations benefit from pressure,
disorder, and unpredictability, provided their energies are
suitably invested in talent, process, and tools . In a
global environment where innovation is front and center on
the agenda of companies , it is crucial to understand how
to sustainably foster knowledge creation.
III. PROBLEM STATEMENT
Exponential technologies have placed a dilemma on
organizations by lifting the barriers to borderless
collaboration , while rendering social
interrelationships more impersonal and inhibited .
Ever more people are able to collaborate with great
flexibility, yet their interplay is prone to conflict,
misunderstanding, and distress . Collaboration remains
situated in legacy work practices and a leadership mindset
that favors hierarchy, silos, and rigidity over practices that
free people to stay human, express their creativity, and
empower them to design their own work spaces . Sense
of community, the tacit link that allows people to build
bridges across departments and geographic boundaries, can
aid in resolving this dilemma by helping companies balance
inclusion, cohesion, and empowerment. Knowledge
creation and sense of community have long and
independently been investigated , but the
linkages between the two constructs have not been
adequately explored in the ubiquitous context of omni-
connected virtual organizations. Moreover, knowledge
creation has been treated in the literature with a stoic social-
process viewpoint, ignoring important existential and
humanistic considerations. The existential consideration is
significant because the human-centered process of
knowledge creation needs to relate to the way people
actually live and work, and the humanistic reflection is vital
because the process has to show concern for its participants
and their well-being and interests . There is an
urgent need, therefore, to embrace an existential-humanistic
perspective in exploration of the connection between sense
of community and knowledge creation and in search of an
instrumental model of work practices toward optimizing
sense of community.
IV. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this quantitative research was to
investigate the relational linkages between sense of
community and knowledge creation in the context of virtual
organizations and to explore the optimization of the spatio-
temporal structure of knowledge work with regard to sense
of community. The capability for knowledge creation can
only be sustained with the adoption of an existential-
humanistic perspective by offering workers a share in
communal success, ways to express and govern themselves,
and autonomy to leverage work structures, tools, and
processes in alignment with their living conditions and
sense of well-being.
V. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following three research questions guided this study:
1. What is the nature of relationship between sense of
community and knowledge creation?
2. What is the nature of relationship between sense of
community and social structure of knowledge work in a
globally connected virtual environment?
3. What are the most important variables in the above
VI. RESEARCH FRAMEWORK
Sense of community has been described as “a feeling that
members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter
to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that
members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be
together” [26, p. 9]. The four factors that encompass the
force of sense of community are group membership,
influence, needs fulfillment, and emotional connection.
Group membership is a perception of oneness that leads
members to act along the salient characteristics of the group.
Influence is a mutual sense of significance and making a
positive impact. It is a bidirectional concept that applies to
the group member as well as the group. The needs of group
members may include status, success, and association. A
strong community arranges members and provides them
with opportunities to satisfy their mutual needs. Emotional
connection arises from the history the members share or
recognize with. The more the positive experiences the
members have experienced together, the greater their bond.
In essence, sense of community is built from members
sharing a sense of oneness; feeling a bidirectional influence;
having their needs of status, success, and association
addressed; and experiencing a growth of social bonds with
In Nonaka and Takeuchi’s  constructionist model, new
knowledge forms a spiral resulting from four modes of
interactions between implicit and explicit forms of current
knowledge, namely socialization, externalization,
combination, and internalization. Socialization is the
process of transferring implicit knowledge through a sharing
of day-to-day experiences. Externalization is the process of
making implicit knowledge explicit through articulation and
communication. Combination is the process of synthesizing
the implicit and explicit forms of current knowledge into an
explicit form of new knowledge. Internalization is the
process of assimilating or making implicit the explicit
knowledge gained through the combination process. The
process of incorporating knowledge into the regular
activities of the organization has also been termed
routinizing . Knowledge creation is, in essence, a
continuous and dynamic process of bringing latent
knowledge to the foreground and enabling dialectical
interactions among the participants--both internal and
external to the organization--for a creative and constructive
fusion of ideas.
The premise of this research is that sense of community
forms the locus and work practices the mechanism of the
knowledge creation outcome. Collaborative technologies
have enabled telecommuting, whereby employees are able
to work remotely. The technologies for communication and
coordination in virtual organizations include email, audio
and video interactions, and asynchronous tools, such as
wikis, blogs, and e-learning forums. The consideration of
the demographics of the participants, namely the diversity of
age (generations), gender, role, tenure, and national culture
is also important to the understanding of sense of
community and knowledge creation.
Fig. 1 illustrates the conceptual framework of this
research. Based on the above discussion of knowledge
creation, sense of community, and spatio-temporal work
structure, the following fundamental linkages were
H1. Sense of community is positively related to
H2. Work practices are positively related to sense of
Figure 1. Locus (Sense of Community) and Mechanism (Work Practices)
of the Outcome (Knowledge Creation).
The 8-item Brief Sense of Community Scale (BSCS) 
represented the sense of community dimensions of needs
fulfillment, group membership, influence, and emotional
connection. The BSCS was used with certain adaptations to
be consistent the format of the combined survey and the
research context. The 10-item Knowledge Creation
Practices (KCP)  assessed the construct of knowledge
creation based on Socialization, Externalization,
Combination, and Internalization (SECI) processes of the
knowledge creation theory. The KCP scale was used with
certain significant adaptations not only to be consistent with
the format of the combined survey and research context, but
also to add further clarity to questions. The authors
demonstrated their respective scales to possess acceptable
levels of psychometric robustness.
Data for this research were obtained through a combined
survey composed of adapted versions of the BSCS and KCP
survey instruments supplemented by five demographic
items and eight items related to work practices. The
assessment was hosted on Constant Contact, an online
hosting company. The combined instrument, including the
13 new items and modifications to the original BSCS and
KCP scales, was re-tested for reliability and factor
goodness. The final instrument was confirmed to be
psychometrically sound. Results of the reliability and factor
analyses are available upon request.
From a professional contact database comprising 15,979
knowledge workers, such as skilled and qualified engineers,
scientists, and managers, a random sample of 2,354 names
was drawn, representing a wide range of industries and
demographics. Emails were sent to the selected participants
informing them of the purpose of the research and soliciting
their voluntary and confidential participation. Of the 2,354
invitees, a total of 286 knowledge workers participated. 22
entries had to be discarded due to incomplete entries. A
tally of 264 participants made this study, representing an
11.21% return rate. Data were analyzed using both SPSS
v.13 and Minitab 16.
45 (17.2%) of the research participants were from the
education industry, 44 (16.8%) were from healthcare, 34
(12.9%) from technology and telecommunications, 31
(11.7%) from service, 23 (8.6%) from government, 10
(3.9%) from consumer products, 9 (3.5%) from energy, 8
(3.1%) from banking, 7 (2.7%) from manufacturing, 7
(2.7%) from consulting, 5 (1.9%) from biotechnology, 4
(1.6%) from entertainment and leisure, and the remaining 35
(13.4%) were from the defense; software; food, beverage,
and tobacco; transportation; aircraft; automotive; cargo
handling; chemical; real estate; and sports industries.
More than twice as many females participated in the
study as males. Participants whose work location was the
United States dominated the study in terms of raw count.
All age groups were represented in the study, except for
workers under the age of 21. The participants spanned the
entire range of tenure in their organizations. The largest
representation was of those with more than 15 years of
experience. Similarly, all the roles in the organization were
represented, with senior managers having the largest
representation. Shapiro-Wilk and K-S tests of normality
indicated that the constructs of sense of community and
knowledge creation as well as their subfactors possessed
bivariate normality, making it possible to run parametric
Data analysis supported both hypotheses, H1 and H2.
We concluded that 0.48 (or 48%) of the variation in
knowledge creation could be explained by the linear
relationship between sense of community and knowledge
creation. This means that about 52% of the variation in
knowledge creation can be explained by factors other than
sense of community. Such other factors include the skills
and creativity of the participants, leadership effectiveness,
processes and tools, organizational culture, R&D and capital
investments, and so on. The p value of .00 indicates there is
sufficient evidence to support the claim of a linear
relationship between sense of community and knowledge
creation. Fig. 2 presents the linkages across work practices,
sense of community, and knowledge creation, representing
the first of the three parts of the existential-humanistic
process model of knowledge creation.
Although the factor of group membership was found to
be independently related to socialization (r=.50, p=.00),
externalization (r=.42, p=.00), combination (r=.49, p=.00),
and internalization (r=.50, p=.00), it was found not to be
significant when the influence of all the sense of community
factors was considered collectively. It was noteworthy that
audio teleconferencing and video teleconferencing were not
significant to sense of community. This may be attributable
to their limited deployment and usage in the participating
organizations. Face-to-face interaction was found unrelated
to sense of community both on its own and when considered
with other work practice factors.
Figure 2. Part I: The Existential-Humanistic Process Model of Knowledge
The results of ANOVA and general linear modeling
indicated the significance of work practices on sense of
community. The extent of telecommuting was found to be
related to sense of community, needs fulfillment, emotional
connection, and influence. The extent of ad hoc
interactions, defined as the interfaces using instant/text
messaging and spontaneous face-to-face meetings, was
found to be related to sense of community, group
membership, influence, and emotional connection. The
extent of synchronous interaction, defined as the interfaces
over face-to-face communications, instant/text messaging
and audio/video conferencing, was found to be related to
sense of community, emotional connection, group
membership, and influence. The extent of asynchronous
interaction, defined as those interactions taking place over
email, wikis, blogs, and e-learning forums, was found to be
related to sense of community, group membership, and
A significant difference in the needs fulfillment score was
found across the genders, with females reporting a higher
mean score. The scores for sense of community, emotional
connection, influence, and group membership were found to
be significantly different across age and role. A significant
difference in the needs fulfillment score was also found
across age. No significant difference was found to exist in
any of the sense of community dimensions across tenure.
Participants aged 60 and above reported the highest scores
for needs fulfillment, group membership, influence,
emotional connection, and sense of community, whereas
those between the ages of 21 and 30 reported the lowest
scores. Senior managers reported the highest scores for
group membership, influence, emotional connection, and
sense of community, whereas individual contributors
reported the lowest scores.
Fig. 3 illustrates the second part of the existential-
humanistic process model of knowledge creation. Virtual
collaboration is defined as the interface that occurs over
email, text and instant messages, and asynchronous means,
whereas proximate collaboration is defined as the interface
that occurs over a face-to-face contact and over audio and
Figure 3. Part II: The Existential-Humanistic Process Model of
All four types of collaboration namely, virtual,
proximate, synchronous, and asynchronous were found to be
positively related to sense of community. The relationship
of sense of community was found to be stronger with virtual
collaboration than with proximate collaboration. Similarly,
the relationship of sense of community was found to be
stronger with synchronous collaboration than with
asynchronous collaboration. In essence, the five findings of
this study were as follows:
1. Sense of community is positively related to knowledge
creation. 48% of the variation in knowledge creation
can be explained by its linear relationship with sense of
2. Needs fulfillment, influence, and emotional connection
are positively related to the four stages of knowledge
creation, namely socialization, externalization,
combination, and internalization.
3. Work practices are positively related to sense of
community. Email, text and instant messaging,
asynchronous interaction, telecommuting, and
spontaneous face-to-face interactions are supportive of
sense of community.
4. Virtual collaboration is more positively related to sense
of community than proximate collaboration.
Synchronous collaboration is more positively related to
sense of community than asynchronous collaboration.
Despite their positive relationship with sense of
community, telecommuting and spontaneous face-to-
face interactions are in sparse use across virtual
5. The more senior the member in both age and role terms,
the higher his or her score for sense of community.
IX. DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
Finding #1: The significant strength of the relationship
between sense of community and knowledge creation
indicates that knowledge-creating ability is pinned on the
sense of connection and belonging experienced by people.
Given the social nature of knowledge, organizations able to
instill a sense of community can be more successful at
knowledge creation. Management of knowledge is a
paradox that requires the encouragement of dissonance on
the foundation of reconciliation and unity. Underlying the
process of knowledge discovery is the need for diverse
people to interact and differ and yet coalesce without lasting
Dialectical collaboration is needed when companies
venture into challenging times , but strong social
connectedness makes them better adapted to handling the
change and stress. Contradictions unresolved over a period
of time lead to feelings of resentment, burn out, and
overload  and without sense of community the process
of knowledge creation can be rendered unsustainable. The
bond resulting from sense of community enables
participants to remain, open, honest, caring, and candid,
while, at the same time, providing them with the ability to
transcend individual differences in service of the collective
interests of the group. For tacit and explicit knowledge to
be successfully transacted in service of creating new
knowledge, organizations need to ensure that the needs of
their employees are fulfilled and that they feel a sense of
influence and emotional connection.
Such factors as business strategy, leadership, culture,
skill and creativity of employees, investments, technology
and tools, and processes may help explain the remaining
52% of the variation in knowledge creation. Lakhani 
recognized the relationship between visionary leadership
and organizational learning across national cultures. Senge
 stressed the importance of learning cultures, where
“people continually expand their capabilities to understand
complexity, clarify vision, and improve shared mental
models” (p. 340). Hamel and Prahalad  observed that
the pace of strategic renewal in knowledge-driven
organizations must be proactive, not reactive. While sense
of community may not provide an end-all and be-all
solution to the problem of knowledge creation, it can serve
as a source of significant accretive advantage to knowledge
creating companies, given its influence as established by
Sense of community serves as an antecedent as well as a
consequence of knowledge creation. As an antecedent,
sense of community influences the perception of connection
and commitment among individuals. Kahn  argued that
employees are influenced by three questions when
determining how much to attach to their organization :
How meaningful is it for me? The significance of
attachment might be assessed by the nature of the job,
power and influence afforded by the role and a feeling
of connectedness and cooperation that creates a space
for mutually-beneficial interactions.
How safe is it to do so? Safety might be evaluated by
the ability to engage without harm to esteem or career,
backing of the leadership, and roles that align to the
How available am I to do so? Availability might be
assessed by the opportunity cost of spending physical,
cognitive, and emotional energies with the organization.
The factors of influence, needs fulfillment, and
emotional connection within the sense of community
construct help meet the criteria for meaningfulness, safety,
and availability. Influence imparts a feeling of mattering
and making a difference, the individual to the group as well
as the group to the individual. Needs fulfillment addresses
the cognitive, physical, and emotional motivations.
Emotional connection encompasses interpersonal cohesion
and its impact on affect and behavior. The consequence of
sense of community reinforces the antecedent itself. That is,
the more successful the organization is at knowledge
creation, the greater the reinforcement of sense of
Finding #2: The significant strength of the relationship
between factors of sense of community (needs fulfillment,
influence, and emotional connection) and factors of
knowledge creation (socialization, externalization,
combination, and internalization) indicates the need to adopt
a humanistic perspective of knowledge creation. Figure 4
presents the third part of the existential-humanistic process
model of knowledge creation, illustrating how factors of
sense of community interlink with factors of knowledge
Socialization, the process by which implicit knowledge
is transferred from one person to another, is the first step in
the knowledge creation process. Following socialization is
the externalization stage, where tacit knowledge is
enunciated. For both implicit and explicit forms of
knowledge to be successfully transmitted, the participants
have to engage in social interaction and share experiences.
The results indicate that influence, needs fulfillment, and
emotional connection are positively associated with
socialization and externalization. In every socialization act,
there is an implicit or explicit teacher, the one who imparts
learning, and an implicit or explicit learner, the one who
receives. A sense of mattering to the organization and of
making a difference is important for the teacher to feel
motivated to get involved in process. Similarly, the learner
needs to feel that the organization matters to him or her.
The transfer of learning and the resulting personal growth
are the impetus for the learner to remain engaged in the
knowledge creation process. For socialization and
externalization to be sustained, a mechanism for behavior
reinforcement is essential for the needs of the participants
have to be fulfilled. The needs of the participants, however,
may vary. Some may be driven for the benefit of learning
and competence building, while others for material rewards
or status. However, the more the feeling of shared values in
the organization, the easier the participants find it to meet
the needs of others while meeting their own. Emotional
connection is a feeling of attachment nurtured by time.
Time serves as the instrument for measuring continuity of
words and actions that engender trust. Competition and
individualistic behavior detract from emotional connection
. The more the time spent together and success
achieved in collaboration, the stronger the connection at an
emotional level among the participants.
Figure 4. Part II: The Existential-Humanistic Process Model of
Combination is the process of reflecting upon, testing,
and synthesizing tacit and enunciated insights to result in
new knowledge in explicit form, whereas internalization is
the process of assimilation of knowledge. Internalization
submits new knowledge to the organizational subconscious.
The institutionalization of knowledge thus serves as the base
for all future work carried out by the organization. Being an
absorptive process, internalization is less dependent on
reinforcement. However, the degree to which the member
remains open to influence by the organization and the
degree to which the member has influence on the
organization determines the extent to which the combination
and internalization processes are successful.
Although group membership by itself influences
knowledge creation, it is not a significant factor compared
to the other factors of sense of community, namely
influence, needs fulfillment, and emotional connection. As
a means of social identification, group membership can
afford a feeling of oneness within the organization and lead
members to act along their collective identifying
characteristics, but it also poses certain challenges. Its role
in the creation of in-groups and out-groups has been well
recognized . The negative effects of group membership,
such as out-group conflict and constraints, are exacerbated
by an overuse of virtual technologies in a way that leaves
members physically detached. The knowledge creation
process can benefit from group membership when both
direct (e.g., face-to-face interaction) and vicarious (e.g.,
email, blogs) means of collaboration are deployed.
Finding #3: The significant strength of the relationship
between spatio-temporal work practices (email, text, instant
messaging, asynchronous interactions, telecommuting, and
spontaneous face-to-face interactions) and sense of
community indicates the need to adopt an existential
perspective of knowledge creation. The results of this
research indicated that work practices play a positive role in
helping address the existential needs of the participants.
Specifically, email, text and instant messaging,
asynchronous interaction, telecommuting, and spontaneous
face-to-face interactions are supportive of sense of
Ashforth and Mael  argued that a collection of
people who work asynchronously can share the same social
identification. Turner  claimed that “social identity is
the cognitive mechanism, which makes group behavior
possible” (p. 21). Social identification enables individuals
to attach themselves to their organizations and feel loyal and
committed . Emotional connection suggest that the
more people interact constructively, they more become
attached. The finding of this study that emotional
connection is more readily formed through synchronous
collaboration indicates that strong personal attachments are
much more difficult to achieve with asynchronous
collaboration. Synchronous interactions should not be
interpreted as exclusively face-to-face interactions.
Technology-mediated interactions have enriched the ability
of people to connect synchronously and, through that
broader view of synchronous interactions, positively
influence sense of community. While asynchronous
interactions engage the participants at a cognitive level,
synchronous interactions enable them to be fully engaged
with all five senses. That said, both types of collaboration
are effective at creating among the participants the feeling
of common identity where members of the group have a
strong sense of community connection and a commitment to
one another and to organizational success .
Brief, informal and spontaneous ad hoc interactions
enable employees to capture serendipitous opportunities to
solve problems, investigate solutions, and create knowledge.
Ad hoc interactions help the feeling of belonging and
personal empathy, increasing the degree to which group
members are attracted and motivated to remain together.
The more successful the ad hoc interactions, the more
positive the experience, and the more positive the
experience, the greater is the sense of community. Driven
to tap the power of spontaneous interactions in problem
solving and innovation, companies have been modeling
workplaces to be fluid in a way that enables everyone in the
company to participate . Organizations have the
opportunity leverage exponential technologies to lift the
barriers to borderless collaboration, ensuring that experts
always remain on tap for intellectual stimulation and
Finding #4: Virtual collaboration is more positively
related to sense of community than proximate collaboration.
Synchronous collaboration is more positively related to
sense of community than asynchronous collaboration.
Despite the positive relationship with sense of community,
telecommuting and spontaneous face-to-face interactions are
in sparse use across virtual organizations. The results
showed that employees develop sense of community to the
extent to which they are empowered to telecommute, so
long as telecommuting is not used exclusively and is
adequately accompanied by opportunities for face-to-face
connections. The feeling of physical and emotional well-
being afforded by telecommuting leads to self-investment in
the organization. In turn, self-investment increases the
sense of influence and emotional connection felt by
employees. Another benefit of telecommuting is boundary
expansion, which enables employees to connect with their
co-workers across functions and geographies more freely
and flexibly. Gajendran and Harrison  found
telecommuting to have a small but positive influence on
perceived empowerment and work-life balance.
Telecommuting was found to be positively related to job
contentment, functioning, retention, and role anxiety .
The consequences of telecommuting were observed to be
positive for both employees and employers. Gajendran and
Harrison  also observed that when employees spent
more than 50 per cent of their time telecommuting, they
tended to harm their relationships with coworkers. These
observations are consistent with the findings of this study.
Telecommuting and face-to-face connections interact
positively to support sense of community and should be
carefully complemented. Used prudently, they could be
levers for inspiring connectedness, which can be so vital to
the process of knowledge creation.
Finding #5: The more senior the member in both age
and role terms, the higher his or her score for sense of
community. The result of this study showed that the level
of influence, group membership, emotional connection, and
fulfillment one feels decreases significantly with one’s role
in the organization, which helps explain why senior and
middle managers feel a greater sense of community in the
organizations than individual contributors and first line
managers. Such forms of exclusion and discrimination can
be a source of shirking, resulting in the members giving less
than their best effort. Knowledge creation can be optimized
only when the differing gifts of the members of the
organization are tapped and fully synergized. This finding
is demonstrative of the need on the part of leaders to adapt
their approaches with sensitivity to include each member
regardless of his or age and role in the organization.
X. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
Breathing life into the innovation DNA. Possessing the
DNA is not enough. Knowledge creation is a generative
and continuous social process. Breathing life into the
innovation DNA requires a culture of autonomous thinking,
free sharing of ideas, tolerance for failure, and propensity to
act. The capacity for innovation is optimized only when
the intellectual and creative quotients of the employees in
the organization are coalesced to serve a shared purpose.
Job alignment to employee strength and passion is an
imperative for knowledge creation. The sense of renewal
and connectedness after each challenge is made possible
only when employees do not feel like they are trapped in a
cage of control or see themselves as disposable objects in
the slots of organizational hierarchy. Given that emotional
connection is tied to collaboration history, memories of
fruitful past interactions help to inspire even greater social
connection. As such, preservation of the symbols and
artifacts in the organizational memory reminding people of
their collective experiences can help reinforce sense of
community. Figure 5 maps knowledge creating capability
against sense of community and, in doing so, positions
companies into four broad categories: innovation leaders,
laggards, losts, and losers.
Innovation leaders do not settle with rigorous business
strategies, astute leadership, abundant capital, state-of-the-
art technology and tools, creative skilled workforce, and
established processes. Such companies also ensure that
people, who are ultimately responsible for leveraging the
assets, including their own intellectual and imaginative
resources, feel a sense of community and are empowered to
design the social structure of their work environments. For
them, innovation is simply a continuous process. They
invest in management practices that afford flexibility, make
work easier not difficult, and allow the collective creativity
of people to shine. The laggards are companies where sense
of community takes a backseat. Managers here may be
more focused on managing-up than in managing well across
every level, while the employees feel trapped, unconnected,
and unappreciated. The losts are companies that may have
walked a high wire, but then lost their way from failing to
adapt to the shocks, disorder, and volatility of their business
environment. People policies here may be more cosmetic
than enduring, and these companies may be using
yesterday’s tools to solve today’s problems. The loser
companies represent mediocrity in an environment that
demands excellence. Talent here is only a commodity that
is unaccompanied by the exceptionality of association.
Some of the laggard, lost, and loser organizations may be
making it to the list of best places to work for, but evidence
suggests that the measures that seek to examine employee-
centricity do not measure the connectedness attributes most
critical to an organization’s ability to compete, invent, and
Figure 5. Part II: The Existential-Humanistic Process Model of
The group leadership imperative. The results showed
that senior managers tend to feel more emotional connection
in the organizations than the individual contributors and first
line managers. Considering that individual contributors and
first line managers constitute more than 60 per cent of a
company’s workforce, this finding should be very
concerning to leaders. This suggests that the mindset of
organizations has not yet evolved beyond a legacy view of
hierarchy into that of knowledge-creating organizations.
Authority is largely still vested in roles, and those in senior
roles give orders to those they manage. Neal and Conway
 challenged leaders to honestly evaluate if collaboration
in their organizations is simply touted or actually practiced.
Leaders have four main imperatives when it comes to
innovation: 1) They need to ensure that their organizations
are structured for growth and innovation; 2) They need to
align their people, process, products, business model, and
organizational platform around the biggest opportunity; 3)
Encouraging their people, at times, to rise above their self-
interest in service of the greater good; and 4) Making
organizational hierarchy almost imperceptible in order to
encourage best ideas to flourish from any place and at any
level . Knowledge workers, in particular, feel
influential when afforded the ability to influence the
organization and when they believe that the organization
influences them too in a constructive way. As such, there is
a need to focus on leadership behaviors that support
increasing employee autonomy and empowerment, creating
inclusive communities to facilitate connection among
employees , and affording employees more direct roles
in organizational governance.
Leveraging technology for organizational innovation.
Technology is a rare silver bullet for business. When
deployed effectively with collaborative processes, it can
help organizations implement distributed, networked
structures necessary for producing knowledge. Technology-
mediated virtual organizations work only when they
empower participants and give them a share in the collective
success. Sense of community fostered by healthy
interrelationships is foundational to success. Collaborative
technologies have changed the idea of organizational
behavior. With growing frequency, employees carry out a
large proportion of their work from a distance, while
accommodating the occasional need for face-to-face
interactions. Telecommuting has evolved into one of the
human resources management practice. It is a tool in a
company’s arsenal for ensuring that the best and most
suitable people for the work are engaged intellectually and
emotionally. Hiring the best talent for the job without
regard to the geographic location becomes the hallmark of
knowledge-centered companies. Despite prior research
reporting an increase in employee satisfaction, productivity,
retention, and morale from telecommuting, the practice has
been a subject of vociferous debate, leaving organizations to
ponder the pros and cons. Without empirical confirmation
at hand, some companies have shifted longstanding flex
work policies, cutting telecommuting with the intent to
promote collaboration and knowledge creation. As the
results of this study showed, telecommuting is positively
related to needs fulfillment, influence, emotional
connection, and overall sense of community, which, in turn,
are linked to knowledge creating ability. Telecommuting
can lead to a feeling of physical and emotional well-being
and results in employees’ self-investment, which, in turn,
increases the sense of connection. Eliminating
telecommuting completely can be detrimental to a
knowledge-based company’s long-term ability to produce
innovations. The effect is a focus on where the employees
sit versus how they contribute. The impact of
telecommuting can be positive for both employees and
employers, yet 63% of the workforce telecommutes to a
little or very little extent. Organizations could benefit by
designing the telecommuting practice in proportional
balance with face-to-face collaboration, so as to more
enduringly support knowledge creation. Ad hoc
interactions, synchronous collaboration, and asynchronous
collaboration have similarly been validated in this study as
beneficial tools for fostering employees’ sense of influence
by means of engaging them in more effective
communication, coordination, and collaboration. The social
structure of the work space designed with regard to sense of
community can give organizations an important and
sustainable competitive advantage.
Changing the learning and training paradigm. The
results allowed an examination of education through the
lens of social connection. The study found that emotional
connection and the sense of influence are more positively
supported through synchronous interactions than
asynchronous interactions. When collaborating
synchronously, learners are more apt to developing the
commitment and belief of having a shared experience they
value. Similarly, synchronous collaboration is more
significant at influencing the sense of connection and group
membership among learners than asynchronous
collaboration. Purely-online educational programs offered
through colleges, universities, and the K-12 systems are
growing rapidly. The focus is on developing highly
interactive, machine-guided, adaptive, online systems for en
masse delivery of learning. No doubt the adoption of
asynchronous technologies has made it possible to lower
instructional costs and increase student outreach, but the
same has hampered the ability for open, honest, and direct
communication among human beings. Instilling a strong
sense of community requires interactions in both
synchronous and asynchronous modes. The relative
weakness in the sense of emotional connection and
influence felt through asynchronous interactions could help
explain the staggering dropout rates of the MOOCs, which
are reliant on the asynchronous modality. Classrooms of the
future will need to embody a barbell function by leveraging
digital, asynchronous technologies, while making learning
programs tailored and social to address learners’
proclivities. Education and learning are front and center on
the agenda of nations and businesses. Long-term success is
possible with learning strategies that not only maximize
learning, but also optimize sense of community.
Synchronous modality provides the opportunity to
contextualize learning and build a sense of community
among the learners. Asynchronous modality enables the
scaling of the classroom and brings efficiencies to
institutions. Synchronous methods complemented with
asynchronous methods provide the opportunity for
improving learning outcomes and preparing the learners for
sustained success. As such, MOOCs and other learning
formats would ultimately need to evolve onto social,
tailored open classrooms (STOCs) to be effective.
The cross-sectional nature of this study yielded only a
snapshot of the understanding of sense of community,
knowledge creation, and work practices. The sample for
this study was not representative of the workforce. For
instance, twice as many females participated in this study
than males. As such, the results could not be generalized.
To keep its scope sharp, this study limited the references
possible to the relevant sociology of knowledge literature on
communities of practice and epistemic communities.
A limitation to the reliability stemmed from the low
Cronbach’s alpha for the factor of influence, suggesting a
small degree of inconsistency in the meaning drawn by the
participants for the factor. The influence of microeconomic
and macroeconomic conditions, the honesty of the
participants in their responses, and the culture and maturity
of the participating companies was uncontrolled. No
definitive cause-and-effect relationships could be drawn.
Further, exploration of antecedent-consequence directions
of relationships found in this study presents opportunities
for future work in the field.
XII. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
Innovation, a burning topic in organization, is a multi-
layered construct. Its innermost and the most important
layer is knowledge, the most prized asset in organizations.
Companies that create knowledge succeed and those that
stop innovating wither away. New knowledge forms the
basis of innovation. The construct of knowledge has been
examined for more than three millennia from a number of
perspectives. In the epistemic or axiomatic perspective,
knowledge was treated as a product of hard logic and
absolute truths. Successively, increasing weight was lent to
experiences of individuals or groups in consideration of
knowledge—which formed the empirical perspective. The
socio-process line of thought for knowledge adopted a
systematic and collaborative approach. In this quantitative
study, two additional dimensions were added to the socio-
process perspective: existential and humanistic. Existential
because the process of knowledge has to relate to the way
people actually live and work, and humanistic because the
process of knowledge has to show concerns for people, and
for their well-being and interests.
While this study investigated the existential-humanistic
linkages between the constructs of sense of community and
knowledge creation, follow-on research may focus on
associated factors that may work together to sway the
constructs. This study evaluated the constructs of sense of
community and knowledge creation without considering the
influence of other contributing factors, such as business
strategies, leadership, capital and R&D spending, state of
technology and tools, creativity and skills of the workforce,
and processes in use. Subsequent research may replicate
this research study with longitudinal approaches and
triangulation methods to test the consistency of findings.
Such studies might explore the lived experiences of the
participants and the performance of their organizations over
time. This study serves as a reflection of technological
adoption at a given point in time. Follow up studies might
track shifts in the use of technology. As previously
mentioned, it cannot be said that geographic and national
culture differences do not contribute to relational outcomes.
The opportunity to repeat this study across national cultures
is also present in order to grow a multicultural
understanding of knowledge and people practices.
This study did not attempt to examine the physical
environment within which knowledge work is
accomplished. Future research may explore the blend of
work practices, such as telecommuting, ad hoc interactions,
and synchronous and asynchronous collaboration in order to
optimize sense of community and knowledge creation.
Research may be supplemented with more in-depth
evaluation of the specific work practices within companies,
prevailing extent of sense of community, and innovation
outcomes. In particular, research is warranted in
understanding the influence of sense of community among
the learners in online universities and its long-term
consequences on the overall development and success of
their graduates. The participants in this study indicated a
limited use of video technology, making it difficult to glean
the influence of video-based collaborative technologies on
sense of community. It might be worth replicating this
study in companies where video technologies are more
The relationship between sense of community and
knowledge creation suggests that organizations stand to
enhance their ability to create new knowledge and innovate
by paying careful attention to the humanistic and existential
considerations of people. Sense of community can provide
organizations a foundation to address the paradox of
knowledge creation in part by helping accelerate dialectic
collaboration among diverse people through virtual
technologies while lowering any lasting side-effects of
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