Exploratory research into the knowledge gap hypothesis and the effect network centrality has on production, innovation and social activity information gain in knowledge based organisations : a research report presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Business at Massey University
When information is infused into a system, the likelihood that individuals of high socio-economic status will gain knowledge faster than those individuals with a lower socio-economic status has been described as the knowledge gap hypothesis. The literature relating to the hypothesis maintains that, as the growth in knowledge is greater amongst higher socio-economic status individuals, a relationship tends to exist between education and greater knowledge. The present study explores whether a knowledge gap exists between the most central and the least central individuals in the verbal production, innovation and social activity networks of ten knowledge organisations based in New Zealand. Once self-reported responses to a sociometric questionnaire were gathered, network analysis was carried out in order to reveal the communication relationships in the three networks. The most and least visible individuals in the network in terms of centrality were then determined by use of the "degree", "closeness" and "betweenness" indices. Once the centrality of the actors in each network was established the socio-economic status, as measured by the educational attainment of each actor, was applied. A significant difference was found to exist between the means for the most central and least central actors in the innovation network. The closeness and betweenness measures exhibited much higher mean results for the most central actors in the innovation network. This illustrates that a difference may exist with respect to information access, whereby, the most central actors appear to have more access to, and control over, the information resources. The demographic characteristics of the most central and the least central actors revealed that actors occupying central positions in the innovation network tended to have managerial roles. Those actors that exhibited a lack of centrality had generally been employed with their respective organisation for between 6 and 10 years. Therefore, the suggestion is that any difference in knowledge concerning information relating to the communication of organisational goals is not related to educational attainment. This may provide a modicum of support for the contention that socio-economic status, as measured by education, is not the only variable that contributes to the existence of a knowledge gap. Managers in the knowledge organisations were perceived to be influential with respect to control over and access to information relating to solving organisational problems and the development of organisational goals. The implications for organisational environments are briefly discussed, followed by recommendations for future research concerning the application of the knowledge gap hypothesis to organisational settings.