Small Family Firms: How Knowledge is Shared

One could imagine that every small family firm has their particular habits when knowledge sharing, especially when the success (or failure) of the business relies on effective communication.

A recent study published in Family Business Review analyzes the different leadership approaches to knowledge sharing, and we are pleased to welcome one of the authors, James Cunningham, who reflects on the foundation and findings of the research. The paper, entitled “Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Amongst Small Family Firm Leaders–A Structural Equation Model,” is co-authored by Claire Seaman and David McGuire. From Cunningham:]

Family firms are known for the unique ways in which they view and run their business. This has led many to believe that firms with a family influence behave differeFBR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgntly to their non-family counterparts. While a lot of research focuses on the many implications of this difference for the economic impact family firms, in terms of strategi
c direction, longevity, etc., we were more curious to know how the influence of family impacts what it is like inside the firm.

In this respect, knowledge is increasingly becoming the most important internal resource for a competitive organisation in the contemporary business environment. Integrating and exploiting the knowledge of people in the business has become one of the key activities of the modern business leader. The impact of leadership on how the firm manages knowledge is long established in the broader management literature, but our instincts would tell us that family firms will have their own way of approaching and managing knowledge. In this article, we uncover the different leadership behaviours played out in small family firms and how these behaviours are related to the leader’s perception of knowledge sharing in the firm. Essentially, we ask the question, does family influence help or hinder the development of a knowledge resource?

Unsurprisingly, we found a variety of leadership behaviours employed by family firm leaders. We present a choice in how the family firm views its knowledge resource. We suggest that a greater level of family influence implies more guidance-based leadership when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge here is considered a quality the family leaders have, which must be ‘distilled’ to other organisational members. While, the alternative is a participative approach to knowledge in the firm, one more accepting of input from others, but with the potential to reduce family control.

This choice of leadership approach is important for family business leaders to consider, as there are important implications for the development of their knowledge resource. We see these findings as part of a research direction which moves away from viewing family firms as a homogenous group, subject to the overbearing influence of family. Instead, we present the behaviours inside these organisation as choices, and these choices at the most basic level represent the business intentions of family firm leaders.

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This entry was posted in Business, Family Business, Leadership, Relationships, Strategy, Teams by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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