Knowledge complementarity and knowledge exchange in supply channel relationships

Kyung Kyu Kim, Narayan S. Umanath, Joo Young Kim, Fred Ahrens, Beomsoo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Existing literature on knowledge exchange in inter-organizational relationships (e.g., a supply channel) reveals two opposing forces at work: (1) collaborative behavior and (2) opportunistic behavior. A concurrent assessment of the opposing perspectives and the contingencies under which each is relevant for supply channel performance can add valuable insights about the dynamics of knowledge exchange. We juxtapose the two behavior patterns using social capital theory and transaction cost economics (TCE) respectively as the explicators and employ knowledge complementarity as the contingency to reconcile the opposing behavior patterns. The choice of knowledge complementarity in this role stems from ample theoretical and empirical support in prior literature about the criticality of this factor in inter-firm knowledge exchange. We propose a research model, and use data from a field study of 82 firms in the Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) industry to test our model. Our findings indicate that overall inter-organizational trust (a surrogate for social capital) and knowledge complementarity promote knowledge exchange behavior in a supply channel. The retarding effect of risk of opportunism (a TCE dimension) manifests only when knowledge complementarity is low. However, when knowledge complementarity is high, contrary to expectations, inter-organizational trust appears to impede knowledge exchange. Our post hoc analysis of this intriguing, counterintuitive result leads us to knowledge interdependence and dependence asymmetry as potentially critical antecedents to knowledge complementarity. Implication of our findings to academic research and supply chain scenario is also articulated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Marketing
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Artificial Intelligence


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