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Cultural characteristics of knowledge transfer

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PurposeIn most of the literature, knowledge management is treated as a universal practice, which is transferable from one country or company to another. There are some empirical hints that this is not always the case. The main research question, which this paper aims to answer, is: Which cultural characteristics in Germany and Hong Kong influence knowledge transfer? Design/methodology/approachA qualitative and exploratory approach has been used to answer the research question. A series of 13 in-depth interviews was conducted during April and May 2008 with experts from a range of various professional backgrounds in Hong Kong and Germany. Approaches of cultural characteristics are discussed and linked with the topic of knowledge transfer. FindingsThe findings show that knowledge transfer depends on national cultural characteristics which are power distance, performance orientation, in-group collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance. Research limitations/implicationsAs the research was conducted in two countries only, the findings cannot be generalized. In addition the sample is limited to only 13 interviewees. Therefore, further and also quantitative research is necessary. Practical implicationsIf companies introduce knowledge management systems in order to support worldwide knowledge transfer, national cultural characteristics have to be taken into account; it is not enough to provide only the technology. Originality/valueFindings of cultural studies (e.g. GLOBE) and the approach of knowledge transfer are linked with each other. Moreover, empirical evidence is given for the cases Hong Kong and Germany.
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Keywords: Germany; Hong Kong; Knowledge transfer; National cultures; Organizations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-10-23

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