Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to seek to develop a theoretical framework for understanding the structure of effective knowledge sharing networks in professional organizations.
Design/methodology/approach – A literature review is performed to achieve the purpose. This article integrates two streams of literature: related to knowledge network structure and related to professional complex systems, to gain insight into the structure of effective knowledge sharing networks in professional complex systems. This preliminary theoretical framework is then used to put forth strategies for knowledge management and collective learning in professional organizations.
Findings – An analysis of knowledge networks and complex systems literatures suggests that effective knowledge sharing networks in complex systems may be richer in density compared to brokerage. However, integrating this analysis with the literature on professional organizations, including “subgoals” theory, suggests that the reverse may be true in professional complex systems, i.e. that effective knowledge sharing networks in professional complex systems may be richer in brokerage and hierarchy, rather than in density.
Research implications/limitations – The paper provides a foundation for future research avenues in the professional organizational context. For instance the framework could be used to explore effective knowledge sharing structures across professional subgroups and hierarchical levels in a hospital context; and across faculty, staff, and administrators in a college/university context.
Practical implications – A key implication is that, in order to enable collective learning in professional organizations, senior executives must make proactive and unceasing efforts to: coordinate knowledge exchange across professional subgroups; create cognitive linkages between subgroup actions and organizational outcomes; and connect professional subgroups with the changing external environment.
Originality/value – The theoretical framework lays a foundation for addressing the gap in the literature related to knowledge creation and collective learning in professional organizations.