Session 211

Knowledge Transfer

Track I

Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Time: 10:00 – 11:15

Common Ground

Room: Meeting Room 12

Robert Grant, Bocconi University

Title: Best Practice Transfer: Resolving the Replication vs. Adaptation Puzzle


  • Adeline Thomas, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Matthias Meier, Free University Berlin

Abstract: Best practice transfer poses an organizational challenge, especially across heterogeneous contexts. Though adaptation is ultimately desirable, the prevailing studies indicate that it is very problematic. Therefore, scholars frequently suggest adaptation’s delay in favor of accurately replicating the practice first. We challenge this position arguing that different situations demand different transfer approaches. In order to establish this argument, we integrated previous research on the replication and adaptation of best practices to present a coherent transfer theory including four propositions to be tested in future research. We expect that the chosen transfer approach will depend on three interdependent factors: context-dependence, context-disparity and the firm’s level of understanding. Our model thereby identifies situations requiring replication and adaptation respectively, while also clarifying what determines the adaptation extent and timing.

Title: Between Availability and Exploitation: Inter-Organizational Interaction, Knowledge Transfer and Value Creation


  • Simone Santoni, City University London
  • Andrea Lipparini, University of Bologna

Abstract: This study focuses on the factors that foster an effective knowledge transfer among organizations operating in dynamically-competitive market environments (Grant 1996). Drawing on social capital theory, strategic alliances literature and the knowledge based view of the firm we attempt to show the relative importance of a series of sociological antecedents of knowledge transfer activities. Furthermore we suggest that knowledge transfer activities represent the ‘glue’ keeping together the socio-technical system underlying a set of organizations and the value creation process occurring at firm level. The set of hypothesis was tested on primary data about an inter-organizational community of high-tech firms.
This preliminary result suggests that network centrality positively influences the performance of the firm, however its role is fully mediated by fine-grained knowledge transfer activities.

Title: Knowledge Transfer and Role Changes: A Case Study of an International Professional Service Firm


  • Sverre Tomassen, BI Norwegian Business School
  • Randi Lunnan, BI Norwegian Business School

Abstract: In many cases, subsidiaries are assigned or create roles as knowledge hubs and premise providers in MNCs. However, over time the roles may shift due to changes in the environment, modifications in the headquarters strategies, or changes in subsidiary initiatives. These transformations are often confronted with major obstacles as former central hubs may be reluctant to cede influence resulting in power games with time consuming bargaining among actors within the MNC. Through the lenses of organizational justice and the network perspective, role changes may affect knowledge management and financial performance through perceptions of fairness and already established network structures.Based on longitudinal research we are able to look into the changes taking place in this company, and speculate about the possible effects of these changes.

Title: Managing Knowledge Transfer in New Environments: A Study of Chinese Firms


  • Feng Tian, University of Newcastle Australia
  • Julian Lowe, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
  • David Lynch, University of Ballarat

Abstract: The paper reports on a research study of knowledge acquisition by Chinese firms involved in collaborative ventures with foreign enterprises. The study uses 152 Chinese businesses located around the cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai and examines how the successful transfer of knowledge into recipient (or learner) companies occurs and whether management interventions in that process can significantly improve successful knowledge absorption and exploitation. The study uses a multivariate modeling approach to examine the impact of various factors on successful knowledge transfer. It finds that absorptive capacity (ACAP), as conceptualized by Cohen and Levinthal (1990) and developed by Zahra and George (2002), and the structural antecedents associated with the knowledge to be transferred, have a significant effect on successful knowledge transfer. However the strength of communication relationships adds significantly to successful learning by recipient companies. This is similar to the social integration mechanisms proposed Zahra and George (2002).

Title: The Cost of Knowledge Transfer: Disruptive Effects of Transferring Environmental Knowledge Among Business Units


  • Luis Diestre, IE Business School
  • Rui Wu, Tsinghua University

Abstract: Current research on knowledge transfer often assumes scale-free knowledge, or the sending party remain intact after knowledge transfer. We challenge this assumption and propose a new perspective about the disruptive impacts on the performance of the knowledge sender. We argue that, in intrafirm knowledge transfer, a sender may suffer from losses of strategic resources when transferring key inputs to another business unit. Senders’ performance is also affected by two types of distance between the sender and the recipient: geographic and technological distance. Proximity on both distances increases the impacts of knowledge transfer on the sender’s performance, operationalized as environmental efficiency. We test our hypotheses in a longitudinal sample of public US manufacturing firms from 1995 to 2005.

Title: The Motivational Foundations of Knowledge Transfer


  • Petra Nylund, Universitat de Vic

Abstract: If the firm is a superior vehicle for tacit knowledge (Kogut & Zander,1993), how come knowledge with a large tacit component is transferred outside the firm? In this paper, I investigate why firms are small in industries with high use of tacit knowledge. I thus go outside the much used setting of the multinational enterprise, and can explain a dimension of the firm boundaries which has previously not been investigated. I recur to the motivational micro-foundations of knowledge transfer and hypothesize that firm boundaries depend on the degree of interesting knowledge, i.e. knowledge which holds the attention of the recipient. I find empirical support in quantitative data. The practical implications include contextualization of knowledge to make it more interesting.

All Sessions in Track I...

Sun: 10:00 – 11:30
Session 264: Strategy in an Uncertain World: “Black Swan” Implications for K&I Scholars
Sun: 13:00 – 14:30
Session 265: The Changing Governance Landscape: Implications for Knowledge and Innovation Scholars
Sun: 15:00 – 16:30
Session 266: Integrating Theories of Problem Formation
Sun: 16:30 – 17:30
Session 313: Knowledge & Innovation, IG Meeting
Mon: 12:45 – 14:00
Session 201: 50th Anniversary of Penrose's (1959) The Theory of the Growth of the Firm
Session 212: Technological Innovation
Mon: 15:45 – 17:00
Session 218: Let the Knowledge Flow...
Session 223: Exploration and Novelty
Mon: 17:15 – 18:30
Session 209: Learning and Collaboration
Session 221: Innovation and Management Practice
Tue: 10:00 – 11:15
Session 202: Microfoundations of Knowledge and Learning
Session 235: Regulating the Market for Ideas: The Role of Communities, Norms, and Networks
Tue: 11:30 – 12:45
Session 203: Dynamic Capabilities
Session 224: Governing Knowledge
Tue: 14:30 – 15:45
Session 207: How Do Capabilities Develop?
Session 210: The Complex Roles of Experience
Wed: 10:00 – 11:15
Session 211: Knowledge Transfer
Session 215: Knowledge-Based Strategic Interaction
Wed: 11:30 – 12:45
Session 213: The Human Factor in Knowledge and Innovation
Session 219: Ambidexterity

Strategic Management Society

Washington DC