Balancing Affordances and Constraints: Designing Enterprise Social Media for Organizational Knowledge Work

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Publication History

Received: November 1, 2019
Revised: September 29, 2020; July 30, 2021; January 25, 2023; March 11, 2023; March 25, 2023
Accepted: March 27, 2023
Published Online in Issue: March 1, 2024

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Enterprise social media (ESM) is changing how knowledge workers interact and share information; however, a debate persists as to whether ESM is an adequate knowledge management system. ESM provides a rich set of affordances for organizational knowledge work, such as improved organizational memory, but also constrains knowledge work performance because of digital interruptions. Extending and complementing existing scholarship, this study asks the following research question: How can organizations design ESM to realize its knowledge work benefits? Using a computational agent-based model that incorporates the design features of ESM, workers’ attitudes, and resulting ESM-use affordances and constraints, this study shows how ESM-use outcomes are contingent both on the design of and users’ attitudes toward ESM. Specifically, the negative effects of ESM interactivity are mitigated when employees have a low transparency preference and access ESM without posting as much. The study further unpacks asymmetric engagement as the mechanism that leads low transparency configurations to be more resilient to the negative effects of interruptions driven by ESM interactivity. Asymmetric engagement—learning from posted content without interacting often—enables the gradual creation of organizational memory while maintaining a broad user base by minimizing interruptions. These results ultimately contribute a multilevel model of ESM use and knowledge work outcomes, enhancing the theoretical understanding of previously studied mechanisms such as communication visibility and providing implications for organizations designing ESM.

Additional Details
Author Hani Safadi
Year 2024
Volume 48
Issue 1
Keywords Enterprise social media, interactivity, visibility, transparency, ambient awareness, socialization, knowledge work, digital interruptions, asymmetric engagement, agent-based model
Page Numbers 347-374
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