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Knowledge flow transfers in multinational corporations: knowledge properties and implications for management

Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos (Professor in the Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Economics, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain (

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



The aim of this paper is to analyze knowledge flows transfer within multinational corporations. In particular, it is focused on to what extent multinational companies can replicate headquarters’ human resource management systems in subsidiaries. This paper is structured into three major sections. The paper analyzes the transfer of knowledge flows in multinational companies. To analyze this “old problem” and shed light on its solution, the paper draws on the knowledge‐based view of the firm and reviews both seminal and recent contributions to this field of research. This paper develops a conceptual framework for the analysis of knowledge transfer at international level. It also examines the influence of four human resource management models (exported, adapted, hybrid and open models) on organizations. It addresses particular factors that influence the transferability of organizational knowledge such as the features of this knowledge and both organizational and national culture. Afterwards, these issues are addressed in the scenario of North‐American and Japanese multinational corporations. Multinational firms face important challenges in the actual economic environment. On the one hand, the firm must learn how to exploit its specific resources either acquired in the country of origin or in foreign markets. On the other hand, these firms cannot forget that the source of sustained competitive advantage takes place in the variety of skills and the diversity of knowledge, no in these resources homogeneity. Finally, multinational firms can benefit from international fertilization, because knowledge exploring and exploitation activities are closely relationed with the concepts of synergies, interdependence and interactive organizational learning. That is, the organizational capacity to innovate is the result of the interrelation among the units that form the firm. This paper offers a knowledge‐based view of the firm to help managers with the management of knowledge flows in multinational companies.



Ordóñez de Pablos, P. (2004), "Knowledge flow transfers in multinational corporations: knowledge properties and implications for management", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 8 No. 6, pp. 105-116.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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