Online knowledge sharing among Chinese and American Employees: Explore the influence of National Cultural Differences

Wei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates what are the national cultural factors that influence employees' cross-cultural knowledge sharing in online environments and in what way. The article draws on findings from 41 in-depth interviewees conducted with 20 Chinese and 21 American employees who worked for a large multinational corporation. The rich interview data identified three national cultural differences that impacted Chinese and American participants' knowledge sharing through an online system, namely, language, differences grounded in collectivism/individualism, and different levels of uncertainty avoidance. English created a barrier for Chinese users to post their ideas, but it did not seem to stop them from consuming knowledge. Differences grounded in collectivist/individualist values were mainly reflected in these two cultural groups' different logic regarding the relationship between different working contexts and the necessity to share. Chinese also showed a higher level of uncertainty avoidance than Americans. Together these cultural differences could explain why Chinese shared knowledge less frequently than their American peers. Despite these reported cultural differences, findings from this research suggest that the actual cultural differences were smaller than what literature would predict. Possible explanations for fewer cultural differences are explored. Practical implications for knowledge management practitioners are also provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-72
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Knowledge Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Knowledge Management
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • National Culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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