Incompatible Assumptions: Barriers to Producing Multidisciplinary Knowledge in Communities of Scholarship

Corinne Bendersky
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – Human Resources & Organizational Behavior (HROB) Area

Kathleen McGinn
Harvard Business School – Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit

December 2007

Harvard Business School NOM Working Paper No. 08-044


Co-locating knowledge workers from different disciplines may be a necessary but insufficient step to generating multidisciplinary knowledge. We explore the role of assumptions underlying knowledge creation within the field of organizational studies, and investigate how incompatible assumptions across subgroups may inhibit the generation of multidisciplinary knowledge. While organizational studies research commonly assumes dynamic open systems with recursive influence between environments and interactions, studies of micro-processes in organizations often assume implicitly that interactions among organizational members are closed systems. We suggest that this incompatibility between assumptions may inhibit knowledge sharing in organizational studies research. We empirically assess this assertion by analyzing studies of negotiation published in top peer-reviewed management, psychology, sociology, and industrial relations journals from 1990 to 2005. Our findings illuminate a continuum of open-systems to closed-systems assumptions underlying this micro-process research. Analysis of the rate of citation of the articles in our data set by non-negotiation organizational studies research reveals that open systems assumptions increase the likelihood that a negotiation article will be cited in organizational studies, after controlling for other known effects on citation rate, such as outlet, discipline, length, number of citations and methodology. Our findings suggest that multidisciplinary fields can enhance their knowledge sharing by attending to the compatibility of assumptions held by sub-groups within the field.

Incompatible Assumptions- Barriers to Producing Multidisciplinary Knowledge in Communities of Scholarship

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