To hoard or to share? Strategic management of knowledge and ICTs in complex economic systems

Agustí Canals


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to achieve a better understanding of the effects of strategic decisions related to the management of knowledge taken by organizations in complex economic systems. These effects are seen in the long term performance of organizations in the system choosing different strategic paths. As knowledge-related processes make intensive use of ICTs, the influence of the degree of development of these technologies is taken into account.

Design/methodology/approach: An agent-based simulation model, ImbySim, based in the I-Space conceptual framework, is used to represent the evolution of a group of knowledge-intensive organizations located in a given geographic space. Those organizations engage, among others, in processes of creation and transfer of knowledge assets. Organizations show different levels of performance, which may be related to their knowledge-related strategic choices. The main knowledge-related strategies available for the agents are, on one side, sharing or hoarding knowledge and, on the other side, structuring or de-structuring knowledge.

Findings: The results of the simulation suggest that it is not adequate to adopt an 'always sharing' or 'always hoarding' strategy. The hoarding or sharing of knolwedge assets need to be applied in a discriminating way depending on the specific asset or the situation of the organization.  Also, different levels of development of ICTs favour different strategic choices concerning the adequate structuring of knowledge assets and the degree of knowledge sharing. In general terms, ICT development calls for more sharing and more structuring of knowledge.

Originality/value: From the simulations, a number of empirically testable hypotheses have been extracted. Should these hypotheses get empirically corroborated, they would challenge a certain body of theorising—associated with organizational ecology and organizational demography—thus demonstrating the fruitfulness of the simulation approach to complex knowledge-based problems in the field of strategy.

Practical implications: The hypotheses developed from this research may be very useful, once empirically tested, for strategic planning. Policy makers in charge of complex economic systems and firms and institutions present in them may benefit from the insights obtained and define their strategic moves according to them.


Knowledge management, strategy, information and communication technologies (ICT), knowledge flows, spatial location, agent-based modeling

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2022

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience