Given that the performance of public-sector organizations is tied to the efficient use of knowledge, this exploratory study examined factors that influence knowledge acquisition by work groups in knowledge-intensive public-sector organizations. Based upon a review of the absorptive capacity and knowledge management literature, we defined knowledge acquisition as the change in the collective knowledge of groups over time. The amount of individual prior knowledge, and common knowledge among group members, managerial practices, and perceptions of knowledge applicability were identified as independent variables. Data were collected from 179 individuals representing 28 work groups in 7 public-sector organizations. Using multi-level regression, we found that homogeneity of knowledge at the group level and perceptions of knowledge applicability influenced acquisition, but that, contrary to much of the literature in this domain, prior-related knowledge did not have such an influence. Middle-management practices moderated the impact of knowledge applicability, suggesting that middle managers provide contextual information that permits group members to better understand the relevance of external knowledge. Implications for practice include the importance of training staff in teams to build homogeneity of knowledge, and ensuring that middle managers understand the organization's strategy and their roles in the knowledge-utilization process. Implications for theory include the notion that prior knowledge can either encourage or obstruct knowledge acquisition.

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Journal Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Richards, G.S. (Gregory S.), & Duxbury, L. (2015). Work-Group Knowledge Acquisition in Knowledge Intensive Public-Sector Organizations: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 25(4), 1247–1277. doi:10.1093/jopart/muu034