This paper explores the dynamics of trust, collaboration, and knowledge sharing in the context of a multigovernmental, interorganizational project to design and implement a new information system. Drawing on research and a case study of a successful project, the authors construct a system dynamics model and simulate a base case scenario. They then explore several scenarios in which trust, knowledge of other agencies’ work, and skill in meeting facilitation are varied, and they theorize about why certain facilitation attributes and objects can effectively build cross-boundary trust and collaboration.
Trust, knowledge sharing, and collaboration are central elements of effective interorganizational relationships. These elements are particularly important when the interorganizational relationships involve the development of innovation or new business processes. This paper reports on efforts to model the dynamics of trust, knowledge sharing, and collaboration in a such a project, to develop a new information system to be shared across public and private organizations.1 By constructing a dynamic model we strive to enrich the theoretical and practical understanding of trust, knowledge sharing, and collaboration in the context of interorganizational information technology (IT) intensive projects. The research group at the Center of Technology in Government (CTG) and the modeling group at the Rockefeller College have been working for about a year to develop a model of collaborative processes observed in a particularly successful case. The model presented in this 1
The research reported here is supported by National Science Foundation grant #SES-9979839. The views and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and do not reflect the views or policies of the National Science Foundation.
paper constitutes the second iteration of this effort. The exploration has linked operationally the concept of trust with knowledge of a partner’s role and objectives, which emerges through working together in a project. A key assumption in this model, consistent with the case studied, is that learning arises when meeting facilitation effectively combines conversational methods and artifacts (here, project management tools and IT system requirements analysis documentation) as “boundary objects” . Themes of trust, knowledge sharing, and collaboration are closely related in several theoretical perspectives and research streams. The view of trust as a foundation of social order spans several disciplines and levels of analysis . Interpersonal and interorganizational trust is a construct considered an important factor in coordinated and effective interaction in a variety of settings [17, 50], including effective teamwork  and interorganizational collaboration [27, 23]. As pointed out by Porter [see 32], however, “Trust …tends to be somewhat like a combination of weather and motherhood; it is widely talked about, and it is widely assumed to be good for organizations. When it comes to specifying what it means in an organizational context, however, vagueness creeps in.” Therefore a variety of conceptions of trust help frame that aspect in the model. A broad-based conceptual approach also informs the model’s treatment of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Knowledge sharing can involve explicit forms as well as tacit and embedded forms expressed in action, groups, procedures, and artifacts [11, 52], and may vary considerably across communities of practice . Knowledge may involve different...