Purpose - This study aims at analyzing the features of knowledge flow and the role-specific nodes in knowledge networks among individuals and business units of six organizations in different industries, and suggesting prescriptions to prevent the organizational knowledge sclerosis.
Design/methodology/approach - This research conducts multiple case studies on the organizational knowledge paths of six companies in the multiple industries through social network analysis (SNA) tool developed by the authors of this paper.
Findings - This study provides four major findings which shed a new light on how to comprehend the features of knowledge flow and the role-specific nodes in knowledge networks in organizations: the within-business unit knowledge flows are more dominant over the inter-business units knowledge flow; the downward knowledge flows are dominant over the horizontal and upward knowledge flows in the management levels; distributions of knowledge owners and providers are like L-shape and the gap between knowledge owing and providing expands as the management levels go up; and the top 20 percent people in an organization dominate over a large portion of the knowledge brokerage activities.
Research limitations/implications - Cultural difference issue might arise because data collection was limited to Korean organizations. Therefore, the findings from this study needs to be cautiously interpreted considering the cultural difference/deeper understanding of the organizational knowledge paths through social network lens can make it possible for more context-specific KM strategies (e.g. suitable for a specific functional unit, management level, or industry type) to be identified and implemented.
Practical implications - Managers can have a solid grasp about knowledge flows and knowledge node roles in their organization through social network analysis in order to facilitate the knowledge transfer and eliminate the knowledge link lapse in organizations.
Originality/value - This study could be a stepping stone for further empirical research since it expanded the level of organizational knowledge network analysis from individual and team to inter-unit and inter-management level through the block modeling analysis of knowledge network.