Whose brain to pick? The interplay of boundary spanning and transactive memory in inter-group knowledge integration

Julija N. Mell, Daan Van Knippenberg, Wendy P. Van Ginkel, Pursey Heughens

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Knowledge exchange and integration across group boundaries are critical for knowledge intensive organizations. Prior research has investigated boundary-spanning ties on the individual as well as on the group level, neglecting, however, the question of how individual boundary spanning shapes and contributes to inter-group knowledge integration. In our study, we address this gap by integrating boundary-spanning literature with literature on group information processing and suggest that, contrary to the perspective taken by earlier research, not all individual boundary spanning ties equally contribute to inter-group knowledge integration. Rather, we hypothesize that the effect of individual boundary spanning ties on inter-group knowledge integration depends on the individuals’ positions in their groups’ transactive memory systems. We tested our predictions in a network study of 457 engineering consultants nested in 22 interdependent business units within an organization. Our results indicate that individual boundary spanning ties contribute to inter-group knowledge integration only when the knowledge seeker chooses a person who is central in his or her own group’s transactive memory system as a source of information. Seeking knowledge from persons who are peripheral in their own groups’ transactive memory systems, on the other hand, did not increase inter-group knowledge integration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-647
Number of pages6
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Event74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2014 - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 1 Aug 20144 Aug 2014


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