Dynamics in organizational problem solving and the leveraging of social capital: An agent-based modeling (ABM) perspective
Organizational problem solving - the pooling of individual members' efforts to solve a problem - includes knowledge exchange and knowledge creation, both of which are important for overall organizational performance. Interpersonal knowledge exchanges disseminate temporally good solutions across the organization, encouraging organizational members to create solutions based on these good ideas. The recombination of individual knowledge, however, leads to increasingly similar knowledge bases and a decline in organizational knowledge diversity, thus reducing the chance of creating even better solutions in the future. The success of knowledge exchanges or creation is significantly influenced by individuals' leveraging of social capital, which mostly resides in informal organizational structure. The outcome of social capital leveraging relies not only on the opportunity presented to an individual (determined by the individual's position in an organizational social network), but also on the individual's motivation and ability to seize that opportunity. Additionally, social capital goes through complex structural changes while being leveraged, thus affecting its subsequent impacts. Considering all the above issues, this dissertation study investigated how overall organizational problem-solving performance would be affected by individual members' autonomous leveraging of social capital for knowledge exchange or creation purposes. The research method, agent-based modeling (ABM), provided a unique perspective on this question while other approaches cannot. It allowed to account for emergent collective outcomes by dynamic and decentralized individual interactions. The simulation results suggested non-linear relationships between organizational problem-solving performance and (a) individual members' motivation to leverage social capital, (b) individual members' preference on what social capital to leverage, and (c) the impact of existing social capital. This study advanced the understandings of organizational ambidexterity, organizational social capital, and organizational networks. The agent-based model developed in this study can benefit future research.
- Information science