Discussion paper

DP14299 Workplace Knowledge Flows

What prevents the spread of information among coworkers, and which management practices facilitate workplace knowledge flows? We conducted a field experiment in a sales company, addressing these questions with three active treatments. (1) Encouraging workers to talk about their sales techniques with a randomly chosen partner during short meetings substantially lifted average sales revenue during and after the experiment. The largest gains occurred for those matched with high-performing coworkers. (2) Worker-pairs given incentives to increase joint output increased sales during the experiment but not afterward. (3) Worker-pairs given both treatments had little improvement above the meetings treatment alone. Managerial interventions providing structured opportunities for workers to initiate conversations with peers resulted in knowledge exchange; incentives based on joint output gains were neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge transmission.


Sandvik, J, R Saouma, N Seegert and C Stanton (2020), ‘DP14299 Workplace Knowledge Flows‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14299. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14299