A Qualitative Study of Knowledge Management: The Multinational Firm Point of View

A Qualitative Study of Knowledge Management: The Multinational Firm Point of View

Patrocinio Zaragoza-Saez (University of Alicante, Spain), Enrique Claver-Cortes (University of Alicante, Spain) and Diego Quer-Ramon (University of Alicante, Spain)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch019
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Abstract

Knowledge is one of the basic production factors owned by enterprises, and knowledge management is one of the main dynamic capabilities on which enterprises can base their competitive advantages. The creation, transfer, and later use of knowledge have become increasingly important, and multinational corporations (MNCs), being scattered in various places, constitute the appropriate environment to implement knowledge management processes meant to maximize their intellectual assets. This chapter has as its aim to answer three questions: (a) what actions do MNCs undertake in order to set knowledge management processes in motion; (b) what main variables impact on their knowledge creation capability; and (c) what main variables impact on their knowledge transfer capability? A qualitative research work based on a multiple case study has served to achieve that aim, allowing us to carry out an exploratory study of six MNCs which have shown their proactivity in the knowledge management area. The results of the analysis have led to eight propositions which highlight the most relevant variables facilitating the processes for the creation and transfer of knowledge within a MNC.
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Introduction

In recent years, the environment surrounding enterprises has characterized by high levels of dynamism and complexity. The accelerated globalization, the widespread business restructuring and the strong competition in practically every economic sector have forced enterprises to become highly flexible and able to react before the new dynamics that may arise. These ingredients have led to the appearance of the knowledge society, which imposes new requirements on organizations. In order to compete effectively, the organizations need to learn new skills to be able to find, manage, share and use both information and knowledge (Abell & Oxbrow, 1999). As a result, competitive advantages increasingly derive from strategic assets, such as knowledge, and from a set of dynamic capabilities which mainly materialize in innovation and learning. Due to all this, knowledge management is now of paramount importance within organizations.

Firms have to face another unquestionable fact, namely, the ever-increasing level of globalization which is causing practically all economic sectors to shift from a local market toward a global one. The MNC, which has as one of its main characteristics the possession of scattered resources in various countries, appears as a diversified-knowledge corporation and provides the ideal environment to implement knowledge management processes, as it will be necessary to coordinate the creation and transfer of this resource between its various locations for the purpose of leveraging and achieving the maximum global performance.

In accordance with these ideas and taking as a reference the knowledge theory as well as the MNC theory, this study seeks to answer the following three questions: (a) what actions do MNCs undertake to set knowledge management processes in motion? (b) what main variables impact on their knowledge creation capability? and (c) what main variables impact on their knowledge transfer capability? In our opinion, the answers to these questions can make a contribution to the literature in two ways: from the empirical point of view, they will provide further empirical evidence of the knowledge-MNC link through a focus on the actions undertaken for the purpose of managing knowledge and on the mechanisms which make possible the generation and transfer of this resource; and from a practical perspective, they will be the basis of an exploratory study which shows that management is facing new patterns. One of the main challenges lies in understanding the role of knowledge as a strategic intangible resource and, once managers have recognized the value of management, they must take a leading role in the promotion of knowledge management building the necessary mechanisms that favor this process; empowering employees to proactively participate in knowledge creation and transfer through the decentralization of the decision-making process (autonomy); promoting corporate socialization with the aim of creating a work context in which closer relationships between employees are possible; and combining internal and external ways of creating and/or acquiring knowledge.

We have structured the chapter in five sections. After the introduction, there is a literature review which highlights the strategic nature of knowledge, along with the role of knowledge management in the creation of sustainable competitive advantages. A detailed description of the qualitative research work follows, the findings being reported in the next section. Finally, the closing section summarizes the main conclusions drawn from the study, along with its limitations, and suggests future research lines.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Creation: It implies both an individual and a shared reflection on the new working processes, on the products and services that a firm delivers, on the understanding of business strategy and, last but not least, on the analysis of the environment. It takes place through R&D activities, learning by doing, team work, strategic alliances, and benchmarking.

Knowledge Transfer: In the case of this chapter, the concept of knowledge transfer is similar to the concept of “intracorporate knowledge flow” given by Gupta and Govindarajan (1991). It is defined as the transfer of either expertise (e.g., skills and capabilities in product and process design or marketing know-how) or external market data (information on customers, competitors or suppliers) with a high strategic value.

Corporate Socialization: Set of mechanisms developing interpersonal ties within the multinational (Van Maanen & Schein 1979) and its purpose partly coincides with that of corporate culture.

Triangulation Technique: It is the combination of three methodologies during the research in order to avoid a potential bias introduced by researchers themselves and/or by informants. In this study, triangulation technique is carried out using: in-depth interviews, observation and consulting documents.

Knowledge: Knowledge originates from creativity, individual experiences and organizational learning, and it can be found not only in the written documents but also in the routines, tasks, processes, practices, rules and values that shape an organization (Bhagat, Kedia, Harveston & Triandis, 2002). Knowledge is therefore a dynamic concept resulting from the interactions between individuals and organizations and is also specific to a context defined by some particular time and place circumstances (Hayek, 1945; Nonaka, Toyama & Konno, 2000).

Knowledge Management: Set of business policies and actions undertaken to aid the creation of knowledge, its transfer to all members of the company, and its subsequent implementation, with the aim of achieving distinctive competencies that provide the company with a long-term competitive advantage.

Case Study: According to Yin (1994) it is an empirical study that examines a contemporary phenomenon within its real context, especially when the limits between the phenomenon and its scope are not clearly defined and multiple sources of evidence are used.

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Acknowledgment
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Chapter 1
Davydd J. Greenwood
This chapter questions the clarity of the concepts of “knowledge society” and “knowledge-intensive organization”. In particular, the author asserts... Sample PDF
Are Research Universities Knowledge-Intensive Learning Organizations?
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Chapter 2
Juha Kettunen
The aims of knowledge management are to create knowledge and stimulate innovation. Knowledge management allows the knowledge of an organization to... Sample PDF
Construction of Knowledge-Intensive organizations in Higher Education
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Chapter 3
Jeff Gold, Richard Thorpe
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is usually conceived as a planned and formulated process for individual members of professional... Sample PDF
Collective CPD: Professional Learning in a Law Firm
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Chapter 4
Paul Trott, Andreas Hoecht
The United States and European economies have witnessed an enormous increase in the amount of specialized business services, which now provide... Sample PDF
Innovation Risks of Outsourcing within Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS)
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Chapter 5
Lars Steiner
A new knowledge management perspective and tool, ANT/AUTOPOIESIS, for analysis of knowledge management in knowledge-intensive organizations is... Sample PDF
Actor-Network Theory and Autopoiesis: A New Perspective on Knowledge Management
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Chapter 6
Jo A. Tyler, David M. Boje
This chapter fits the theme, the interplay between creativity and control in organizations. Story is often claimed to be a way to elicit tacit... Sample PDF
Sorting the Relationship of Tacit Knowledge to Story and Narrative Knowing
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Chapter 7
Louise Grisoni
The central discussion in this chapter is that poetry can be used to provide a bridge between tangible, rational and explicit knowledge and tacit or... Sample PDF
Exploring Organizational Learning and Knowledge Exchange through Poetry
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Chapter 8
Ester Barinaga
“How do we define our project goal?” “How are we going to coordinate our independent national studies?” “Who is responsible for what?” “How are... Sample PDF
Vagueness: The Role of Language in the Organizing Process of Knowledge Intensive Work
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Chapter 9
Stephen Sheard
In this chapter the author offers an argument towards the resurgence of a proto-alphabetic imagination in electronic and mobile communications. It... Sample PDF
Tyranny of the Eye? The Resurgence of the Proto-Alphabetic Sensibility in Contemporary Electronic Modes of Media (PC/Mobile Telephony); and its Significance for the Status of Knowledge
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Chapter 10
Krzysztof Klincewicz
The chapter discusses the role of IT Research & Analysis firms in the diffusion of knowledge management. The research is based on content analysis... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management and IT Research and Analysis Firms: Agenda-Setters, Oracles and Judges
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Chapter 11
Fatima Guadamillas-Gomez, Mario J. Donate-Manzanares
This chapter analyses the implementation of knowledge management strategies (KMS) in technologyintensive firms. Firstly, a review of KMS in the... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management Strategies Implementation in Innovation Intensive Firms
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Chapter 12
Arla Juntunen
This chapter focuses on the development of the Knowledge Management (KM) platform, and, more generally, the knowledge- and resource based view (RBV)... Sample PDF
Developing a Corporate Knowledge Management Platform in a Multibusiness Company
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Chapter 13
Jonathan D. Owens
Success in new product development (NPD) can be considered a general aim for any company wishing to survive in the 21st Century. It has been found... Sample PDF
Modeling the New Product Development Process: The Value of a Product Development Process Model Approach as a Means for Business Survival in the 21st Century
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Chapter 14
Anders Örtenblad
The ambition of this chapter is to pay some attention to more obvious, as well as more subtle, methods for organizations to become independent of... Sample PDF
Achieving Organizational Independence of Employees' Knowledge Using Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, and the Learning Organization
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Chapter 15
Angelo Ditillo
Knowledge-intensive firms are composed of various communities, each characterized by specialized knowledge. These communities operate as critical... Sample PDF
Balancing Stability and Innovation in Knowledge-Intensive Firms: The Role of Management Control Mechanisms
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Chapter 16
Aino Kianto, Jianzhong Hong
Nowadays knowledge and competencies are the key productive factors, and the organizational capability for continuous learning, development and... Sample PDF
The Knowledge-Based Approach to Organizational Measurement: Exploring the Future of Organizational Assessment
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Chapter 17
Vidar Hepsø
In knowledge management literature, common information spaces (CIS) are believed to be instrumental in the development and sharing of knowledge.... Sample PDF
Common Information Spaces in Knowledge-Intensive Work: Representation and Negotiation of Meaning in Computer-Supported Collaboration Rooms
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Chapter 18
Agnieszka Postula
This chapter presents and discusses two factors – creativity and control – which correspond to every organizational reality. IT specialists’... Sample PDF
Creativitiy and Control in IT Professionals' Communities
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Chapter 19
Patrocinio Zaragoza-Saez, Enrique Claver-Cortes, Diego Quer-Ramon
Knowledge is one of the basic production factors owned by enterprises, and knowledge management is one of the main dynamic capabilities on which... Sample PDF
A Qualitative Study of Knowledge Management: The Multinational Firm Point of View
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Chapter 20
Cliff Bowan, Pauline Gleadle
The chapter addresses a central dilemma from the viewpoint of dynamic capabilities and the resource based view of the firm: how to manage creativity... Sample PDF
Culture as a Dynamic Capability: The Case of 3M in the United Kingdom
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Chapter 21
Maria E. Burke
The purpose of this chapter is to consider an original way of improving Knowledge Management relationships. This is done within the context of an... Sample PDF
Cultural Issues, Organizations and Information Fulfillment: An Exploration Towards Improved Knowledge Management Relationships
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Chapter 22
Darius Mehri
The author worked in the research and design department at a large Toyota company in the late 1990s and experienced an innovative process where... Sample PDF
Engineering Design at a Toyota Company: Knowledge Management and the Innovative Process
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Chapter 23
Federica Ricceri, James Guthrie
The shift towards a knowledge based economy is at the core of the debate of contemporary management and accounting literature and organisations are... Sample PDF
Critical Analysis of International Guidelines for the Management of Knowledge Resources
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Chapter 24
Christiane Prange
Internationalization has accelerated the speed of knowledge generation and innovation. Thus, companies increasingly need to pool and create new... Sample PDF
Strategic Alliance Capability: Bridging the Individual Back into Inter-Organizational Collaboration
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Chapter 25
Meryem Sevinc, Lawrence Locker, John D. Murray
In the contemporary context of knowledge discovery, the amount of information and the process itself has increased in complexity. Relevant to the... Sample PDF
Automation vs. Human Intervention: Is There any Room Left for the Analyst in the Data Mining Process?
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Chapter 26
Joanna Shih
The hi-tech firms that predominate in Silicon Valley contain a large proportion of knowledge workers—employees with high levels of education and... Sample PDF
Temporality and Knowledge Work
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Chapter 27
Alice MacGilivray
Knowledge management is often associated with the need for change and related shifts in ontologies, ways of knowing and ways of working. Combine the... Sample PDF
Knowledge Intensive Work in a Network of Counter-Terrorism Communities
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Chapter 28
Tatiana Andreeva
Contemporary literature usually views knowledge creation and knowledge sharing as either independent or positively related processes. However, based... Sample PDF
Tensions between Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing: Individual Preferences of Employees in Knowledge-Intensive Organizations
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Chapter 29
Steffen Boehm, Chris Land
Knowledge is implicitly assumed to form an increasingly important, or even the dominant source of values for today’s knowledge based organizations.... Sample PDF
The 'Value' of Knowledge: Reappraising Labour in the Post-Industrial Economy
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Chapter 30
Alexander Styhre
This chapter discusses the use of media in knowledge-intensive organizations. Media is defined here as the integration of technologies, practices... Sample PDF
New Media and Knowledge Work
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Chapter 31
Ben Tran
This chapter examines knowledge and innovation as invaluable factors affecting the longevity of large organizations. It presents the history and... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management: The Construction of Knowledge in Organizations
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Chapter 32
Premilla D’Cruz, Ernesto Noronha
Scholars researching the area of the sociology of professions had earlier predicted that as occupations seek to improve their public image... Sample PDF
Redefining Professional: The Case of India's Call Center Agents
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Chapter 33
Dariusz Jemielniak, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Knowledge management and knowledge-intensive work are two of today’s hot buzzwords, though both already have a history of managerial usage. While... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management: Fad or Enduring Organizational Concept?
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About the Contributors