An exploration of inter-firm knowledge transfer in multinational organisations
This thesis explores knowledge transfer between firms in multinational organisations. The subject of knowledge transfer is undisputedly important because knowledge is the essence of competitive advantage. In addition, multinational organisations are believed to be more effective at facilitating inter-firm knowledge transfer. The theoretical framework of this thesis is based on four constructs of knowledge transfer: motivation to transfer knowledge; richness of communication channels; absorptive capacity and organisational context. The research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore these constructs. The research confirms the positive relationship between these constructs. Importantly, it highlights three knowledge transfer levels namely: pooling; assimilation; application and integration of knowledge into the multinational organisation. The research shows that knowledge must move through each of these levels if the focus is knowledge creation, these levels not to be treated as isolated but in fact overlapping. The research also found that high levels of espoused motivation are not always supported by proactive knowledge transfer behaviours. It demonstrated that at a certain level of knowledge transfer encouragement becomes less important than other motivational factors. Importantly, the multinational needs to manage knowledge transfer. To do this, the nature of knowledge must be considered and there needs to be an understanding that ad hoc knowledge transfer patterns can inhibit knowledge being transferred to where it may be needed. The research highlights how important it is for multinational inter-firm knowledge transfer to begin with the individual and then move to the organisation. The individual needs to have the necessary attitudes and ability to understand the benefits. Also, they need to understand that knowledge is not transferred through acceptance alone, but needs to be implemented. This means the multinational must provide strategic direction and structure that facilitates the movement of knowledge across the multinational organisation. Knowledge transfer routines must be managed to allow knowledge to move to where it can create unique knowledge because it is this unique knowledge that can be a strategic benefit to the organisation.