Knowledge Sharing and Sociality: On the Linguistic Embeddedness of Knowledge Exchange in International Subsidiaries

Knowledge Sharing and Sociality: On the Linguistic Embeddedness of Knowledge Exchange in International Subsidiaries

Jakob Lauring (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and Toke Bjerregaard (University of Aarhus, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-270-1.ch001
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Abstract

This chapter deals with the role of language use and knowledge sharing in the context of international subsidiaries. The chapter analyzes the role of language use for the control and sharing of knowledge in a multicultural organizational setting using findings from an ethnographic field study in a subsidiary. Whilst previous research has addressed how objective, static cultural differences impede communication and knowledge sharing, the perspective of the chapter is on the actual use of language in knowledge sharing. The empirical study thus shows how language use shapes the flow of knowledge in an international subsidiary. The findings describe the use of language differences for controlling knowledge flows and highlight how this affects the execution of long-term corporate strategies of international development. The chapter argues that the management of language use should not be viewed as an outpost of cross-cultural management but as an integral element of the effective management of international operations. This perspective is supported by research in other disciplines covering the use of language and the social dimensions of knowledge communication such as social anthropology.
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Introduction

Research has addressed how the management of communication and language has become increasingly crucial for the acquisition of competitive advantage with the intensified internationalization of business and the expanding knowledge-based economy (Dhir, 2005). Dhir and Goke-Pariola (2002) thus argue that multinational corporations need to acknowledge the fact that essential language skills form the basis of organizational human resources, and that business communication ensures the right information for the right people (Lagerström & Andersson, 2003). This is even more important in an international context where sharing of knowledge across national, cultural and linguistic boundaries may be crucial for the understanding of foreign markets (Hambrick, Davison, Snell, & Snow, 1998). In addition, language not only communicates information, but also facilitates the creation of value through the exchange of ideas, making it a vital resource in all developmental activities (Buckley, Carter, Clegg, & Tan, 2005).

One context in which language may constitute a particular important managerial challenge is international subsidiaries. Park and his associates (Park, Hwangt, & Harrison, 1996) thus argue that communication problems within subsidiaries located in countries that do not share the language of the headquarters, primarily stem from three different sources: an inequitable internal communication structure, different cultural backgrounds, and ethnocentrism. Language is associated with the communication and understanding of knowledge, which, in the context of international business, has long been identified as a key part of the firm’s comparative advantages in doing business in foreign markets (Dunning, 1993). Knowledge sharing refers to the process through which knowledge is communicated from one individual to another or from a group to an entire organization, a process that may cross linguistic boundaries. Consequently, much work may have to be done in order to understand the shared knowledge. Knowledge sharing is thus dependent on the use of language and communication to enable knowledge absorption (Lagerström & Andersson, 2003).

So far, only limited research has investigated the practices of language use in international corporations (Janssens, Lambert, & Steyaert, 2004; Marschan, Welch, & Welch, 1997). Unfortunately, the role of language in multinational corporations has not always been properly recognized in the theory of international transfer and management (Dowling & Welch, 2004; Janssens et al., 2004; Marschan-Piekkaria, Welch, & Welch, 1999). In this regard, Marschan et al. (1997) note that language, for a while, had almost disappeared from the research agenda in the topic of cross-cultural management. A reason for this may be the tendency to associate the concept of language in an international context with cross-cultural communication, focusing solely on measurable parameters with regard to cultural distance, as for example, reflected in the work of Hofstede (1991) and others (e.g., Kim, 2005). This extensive work on cross-cultural communication (e.g., Beamer & Varner, 2001; Gudykunst, 2004), to a certain extent, has led researchers to neglect the studies of the dynamic role played by language use in cross-cultural communication and focus more on the apparently static cultural traits, such as Hofstede’s (1991) description of national differences in norms and values (Welch, Welch, & Marschan-Piekkari, 2001).

Complete Chapter List

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Dedication
Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Jakob Lauring, Toke Bjerregaard
This chapter deals with the role of language use and knowledge sharing in the context of international subsidiaries. The chapter analyzes the role... Sample PDF
Knowledge Sharing and Sociality: On the Linguistic Embeddedness of Knowledge Exchange in International Subsidiaries
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Chapter 2
Ruth Alas
This chapter analyzes organizational changes and organizational learning in Estonian companies. During the last decades, Estonia has transformed... Sample PDF
Organizational Learning During Changes in Estonian Organization
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Chapter 3
Giovanni Schiuma
Today’s global business is characterised by interconnectedness, interdependence, and an increasing level of complexity that force organisations to... Sample PDF
Strategies for Assessing Organisational Knowledge Assets
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Chapter 4
Poul Houman Andersen
In order to capture market dividends and stay at par with the competition in the knowledge-based economy, firms must constantly develop their skill... Sample PDF
Division of Interfirm Activities in the Knowledge-Based Economy: The Crucial Role of Knowledge Processors
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Chapter 5
Luiz Antonio Joia, Paulo Sérgio da Silva Sanz
Since the early 1990s, research has been conducted in an attempt to establish a viable and reliable manner of measuring the intangible assets, also... Sample PDF
The Conundrum of Valuing a Company's Intellectual Capital: The Role of Taken-for-Granted Indicators
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Chapter 6
Tongo Constantine Imafidon
This chapter avers that over the past years, monolithic organizations, as opposed to multicultural organizations, have been created by many top... Sample PDF
The Multicultural Organization: A Historic Organizational Theory for Gaining Competitiveness in Global Business Environment
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Chapter 7
Arla Juntunen
This chapter focuses on the challenges of developing a knowledge management platform to support organizational memory and knowledge transfer. The... Sample PDF
Developing a Corporate Memory as a Competitive Advantage in the ICT-Sector
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Chapter 8
Corrado lo Storto
This chapter reports the findings of an empirical study whose purpose is to identify the attributes of the organization infrastructure that support... Sample PDF
Learning Organizations or Organizations for Learning? How Small Firms can Learn from Planned and Random Technical Problem-Solving: Implications for Technical Education
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Chapter 9
Ernesto Villalba
The present study explores the relationship between the knowledge-enabling environment and the demand of training in 18 small private companies... Sample PDF
Learning at the Core: Knowledge Management as an Employer Strategy for Lifelong Learning
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Chapter 10
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The increasing pressure of today’s highly globalised markets has lead organisations to continuously compete for knowledge and innovation. Despite... Sample PDF
An Integrated Knowledge Innovation Process Management Model: The Case of Skandia
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Chapter 11
Christian Nielsen, Robin Roslender, Per Nikolaj Bukh
During the last decade, many calls for improving disclosure practices, in relation to intellectual capital and intangibles, have been uttered in the... Sample PDF
Intellectual Capital Reporting: Can a Strategy Perspective Solve Accounting Problems?
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Chapter 12
Huei-Chen Hsu
The main points of this chapter are probing for the combination of information technology and virtual work, and how to change the distribution of... Sample PDF
Managing the Information Technology: Knowledge Transfer in Virtual Teams
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Chapter 13
Miltiadis D. Lytras, Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos
Multinational companies (MNCs) are facing important challenges within the current economic context. Rapid technological changes, the globalization... Sample PDF
The Building of the Intellectual Capital Statement in Multinationals: Challenges for the Future
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Chapter 14
Pedro López Sáez, José Emilio Navas López, Gregorio Martín de Castro
During more than a decade, the literature has provided several intellectual capital models. Nevertheless, empirical evidence is still necessary in... Sample PDF
Intellectual Capital in Knowledge-Intensive Firms: Exploring the Concept and Main Components in Boston's Route 128
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Chapter 15
Weiling Ke, Kwok Kee Wei
This chapter uses organizational learning as a lens to study how firms implement the enterprise system. The core research questions are: What are... Sample PDF
Organizations and Learning Process: Its Antecedents and Consequences in Enterprise System Implementation
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Chapter 16
Kholekile L. Gwebu, Jing Wang
Improvements in technology have led to innovations in training such as Electronic Learning (E-learning). E-learning aims to help organizations in... Sample PDF
The Role of Organizational Environmental, and Human Factors in E-Learning Diffusion
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Chapter 17
Mikel Sorli, Dragan Stokic
Managing of knowledge for innovation in an extended enterprise (EE) environment is a key issue. This in turn requires effective utilization of... Sample PDF
Supporting Innovation Through Knowledge Management in the Extended Enterprise
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Chapter 18
Luis Felipe Luna-Reyes
Contemporary organizations face the challenge of growing and advancing in a complex and changing environment (Johannessen, Olaisen, & Olsen, 2001;... Sample PDF
Government Innovation Through Knowledge Management
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Chapter 19
Marc Henselewski, Stefan Smolnik, Gerold Riempp
Today’s business environment is characterized by highly transparent markets and global competition. Technology life cycles are decreasing due to the... Sample PDF
A Technology-Focused Framework for Integrating Knowledge Management into Strategic Innovation Management
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About the Contributors