Knowledge Transfer within Multinational Corporations: An Intercultural Challenge

Knowledge Transfer within Multinational Corporations: An Intercultural Challenge

Parissa Haghirian (Sophia University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-540-5.ch005
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A growing interest in the various aspects of knowledge transfer within multinational corporations has been evidenced by a recent surge in empirical research. Despite the fact that the number of empirical studies investigating various aspects of knowledge transfer within multinational corporations has significantly increased, very few insights into the influence of culture on knowledge transfer, however, have come to light. In fact, the cultural aspects and the individuals involved in the transfer and communication of corporate knowledge within multinational corporations seemed to have been overlooked by researchers. This chapter attempts to fill this gap and investigates the impact culture has upon knowledge transfer processes within multinational corporations. It presents a comprehensive intercultural knowledge transfer model and identifies which aspects of national culture hinder and which aspects foster an effective transfer of knowledge.
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Knowledge And Its Relevance In The Modern Corporation

As businesses globalize and thus face global competition, they come under pressure to change and renew their existing practices (Choi and Lee, 1997). Thus, it is increasingly difficult for firms to sustain competitive advantages through the reallocation of capital (Bresman and Birkinshaw, 1999). Goods and services have become more sophisticated in content and production, which forces companies to increase their competitiveness. The foundation of competition has become increasingly knowledge-based, with the focus on developing valuable and hard-to-imitate knowledge that yields sustainable competitive advantages (Soo, 2005).

Knowledge in an organizational context refers to the intellectual assets of an organization. Knowledge refers to “valuable information arising from reflection, synthesis, and other cognitive activities of the human mind. It is often, but not always, hard to structure, difficult to capture on machines, sometimes tacit, and hard to transfer” (Mockler 2001, p. 3673). The most relevant feature of knowledge is its division into tacit and explicit knowledge. Maasdorp (2001) considers this a distinction between focal (explicit) and background (tacit) knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the most articulable and the most context-free type of knowledge. It exhibits the highest degree of fit between the knowledge and its representation to others (Doz and Santos, 1997). It is knowledge that can be separated from its owner and expressed in a formal and systematic language (Nonaka, 2000), learned by observation and study (Doz and Santos 1997) and can be shared in the form of data, scientific formulas, specifications, manuals, (Nonaka, 2001), patents, technical blueprints, computer software, etc. (Doz and Santos, 1997). Because of its explicit form it is easily processed, transmitted and stored (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka, Toyama et al. 2001). The role of explicit knowledge in organizations is expanding and it is considered a key factor of production within the knowledge economy (Zack, 1999). Explicit knowledge is largely characterized by the separation of the individual that holds knowledge and the known. This, however, does not mean that explicit knowledge is easy to handle.

Tacit knowledge on the other hand is based on the unity of the person who knows and the object of knowledge (Scharmer, 2000). It is deeply rooted in action, commitment, and involvement in a specific context (Nonaka, 1994). Polanyi (1985) puts it like this: “We know more than we can say”. He observes that although people may be able to perform certain tasks, they may not be able to articulate the way they managed to perform them. Being able to perform an activity does not imply that it is also possible to explain the very same action (Polanyi, 1985). Tacit knowledge is therefore not only strongly connected to its knowledge owner, but is also located within an individual. It refers to knowledge that is not easily articulated and is defined as “non-codified, disembodied, know-how that is acquired via the informal take-up of learned behaviour and procedures” (Howells 1996). In fact, knowledge can never be fully explicit and always shows a certain degree of tacitness. Even if knowledge can be separated from its owner and put down in words or other explicit ways, there is still a part of it which stays tacit and can not be extracted and therefore can not be easily shared.

Knowledge-based theory of the firm, which considers knowledge and information the core resources of a firm (Wernerfeld 1984), has helped to raise important questions about the sustainability of competitive advantages and cumulative strategic change within the organization (Choi and Lee, 1997) and deals with the importance of knowledge within the corporation. Drucker (1992) describes the importance of knowledge:

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Nick Bontis
John P. Girard
John P. Girard
Chapter 1
Peter Stoyko
This chapter describes how organizational culture is both a “vessel” for preserving organizational memory and a force that conditions the way... Sample PDF
Organizational Culture and the Management of Organizational Memory
Chapter 2
Nicholas N. Bowersox
Recent business practices over the past decade have been tainted with corporate restructuring strategies such as downsizing, reorganizations, and... Sample PDF
Downsizing and Building Organizational Memory: A Paradoxical Relationship between “Brain-Drain” and “Brain-Gain”
Chapter 3
Nicholas P. Robinson, Prescott C. Ensign
This chapter argues that a trusting corporate culture predicated on values that emphasize sharing and encourage interactions amongst stakeholders at... Sample PDF
Effective Stakeholder Knowledge Sharing for Effective Organizational Memory
Chapter 4
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses the revision of the SECI model originally based on Japanese organizational culture into a model based on American... Sample PDF
Revising the SECI Model for American Organizational Culture
Chapter 5
Parissa Haghirian
A growing interest in the various aspects of knowledge transfer within multinational corporations has been evidenced by a recent surge in empirical... Sample PDF
Knowledge Transfer within Multinational Corporations: An Intercultural Challenge
Chapter 6
Patrice Dunckley, Suzanne Roff-Wexler
This chapter provides perspective and practical techniques that individuals and organizations can use to maximize knowledge transfer efforts. It... Sample PDF
Valuing a Multiplicity of Views: How to Tap Informal Networks to See the (W)hole
Chapter 7
Haris Papoutsakis
This chapter explores the ways that Knowledge Sharing Networks support the flow of organizational knowledge within a firm. Based on the assumption... Sample PDF
Organizational Knowledge Sharing Networks
Chapter 8
Raul M. Abril, Ralf Müller
This chapter suggests established research approaches to capture and validate project lessons learned. Past research indicates that due to the... Sample PDF
Lessons Learned as Organizational Project Memories
Chapter 9
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses employee recall due to training presentations. Recall is an employee’s ability to remember what they knew or have learned via... Sample PDF
Will You Recall What You Knew?
Chapter 10
Maria de los Angeles Martin, Luis Olsina
With the aim to manage and retrieve the organizational knowledge, in the last years numerous proposals of models and tools for knowledge management... Sample PDF
Added Value of Ontologies for Modeling an Organizational Memory
Chapter 11
Juha Kettunen
This study analyses how strategic management is integrated with budgeting in the cities using the Balanced Scorecard approach, which provides a... Sample PDF
The Collective Process and Memory of Strategic Management
Chapter 12
Kimiz Dalkir
Research on how organizational memories can be created, preserved and made available for future reuse in NPOs is presented. An initial review of the... Sample PDF
Organizational Memory Challenges Faced by Non-Profit Organizations
Chapter 13
Susan G. McIntyre
The case study of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), a Canadian... Sample PDF
Creating and Sustaining Meta Organizational Memory: A Case Study
Chapter 14
David Bennet, Alex Bennet
This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the basic concepts related to the unconscious life of an organization, and then addresses specific... Sample PDF
Associative Patterning: The Unconscious Life of an Organization
Chapter 15
Michael JD Sutton
This chapter introduces the research domain of knowledge management educational programs and issues associated with the preservation of knowledge... Sample PDF
A Manifesto for the Preservation of Organizational Memory Associated with the Emergence of Knowledge Management Educational Programs
Chapter 16
Marie-Hélène Abel
Learning can be considered an outcome associated with acquiring new competencies (Sicilia, 2005) and adding new knowledge. A competence is a way to... Sample PDF
An Organizational Memory Tool for E-Learning
Chapter 17
Sajjad M. Jasimuddin, N.A.D. Connell, Jonathan H. Klein
It is generally recognized that Walsh and Ungson (1991) “provided the first integrative framework for thinking about organizational memory”... Sample PDF
Understanding Organizational Memory
Chapter 18
Les Miller, Sree Nilakanta, Yunan Song, Lei Zhu, Ming Hua
Organizational memories play a significant role in knowledge management, but several challenges confront their use. Artifacts of OM are many and... Sample PDF
Managing Knowledge in Organizational Memory Using Topic Maps
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