Skip to content

Conference papers

29 APR 2018

Social contagion and knowledge acquisition in construction firms

As global construction markets evolve, knowledge intensive construction professional service firms (CPSF) are required to formulate and implement a strategy in pursuit of competitive advantage.

This research examines two latent social contagion processes inherent in the acquisition of knowledge in CPSFs: response to new knowledge from an industry knowledge leader (referred to as “Egonetwork” in social networks terminology) and the knowledge diffusion process whereby individual firms eventually become clustered and almost non-differentiated in knowledge terms (henceforth termed “contagion”).

The construction industry in Ireland, including professional service firms (PSF’s) operating therein, are undergoing a period of change and uncertainty driven by economic, demographic, political and technological factors. While considerable evidence exists demonstrating the relationship between environmental turbulence on organisational decision making, there remains a distinct lack of focus on behavioural patterns affecting decision-making process of construction firms.

Social contagion (SC) theory asserts that the spread of ideas, attitudes, or behaviour patterns in a group is achieved through imitation and conformity, and is well established within social sciences research, and is increasingly being used to analyse organisational behaviour.

However, limited inquiry has been launched into SC theory within construction contexts, particularly within high knowledge intensive PSFs. Using a literature-based meta-synthesis, an exploration as to the usefulness of SC theory in the field of knowledge management in construction is presented. A framework for the analysis of knowledge acquisition using SC theory is provided, as part of an ongoing doctoral study.

Based on the interpretations that social contagion research and learning for construction PSF’s are in fact two sides of the same social epistemological coin, a theoretical framework for the synthesis of social contagion into the body of theoretically informed research in construction is thus proposed.