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An investigation of barriers to knowledge transfer

Peter Yih‐Tong Sun (Previously the Chief Executive Officer of Sabre Technologies (Pte) Ltd and Rapier Consulting (Pte) Ltd. The two organizations specifically deal with factory floor automation and SAP consulting, specific to the apparel industry. He is currently undertaking doctoral studies and lectures at the Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand (E‐mail:
John L. Scott (Associate Professor and teaches and researches in the Department of Management Systems at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. He tries to encourage independent learning with students under his care in a range of settings, from a large, first‐year class to a graduate class on learning organizations. Dr Scott's research interests are in the area of learning organizations, decision science, and mathematical modeling, and he has over 80 publications to his name (E‐mail:

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 1 April 2005




The purpose of this research is to provide academics and practitioners with an insight to the barriers involved in knowledge transfer, arising from the levels of learning in the organization (i.e. individual, team, organizational, and inter‐organizational).


An empirical research methodology, called the Delphi technique, was employed to investigate these barriers. Owing to the non‐threatening nature of the process, and its usefulness in obtaining a reliable consensus of opinion from a group of experts, it was deemed suitable for this research. The Delphi process was applied in two stages. In the first stage the major barriers in the transfer of knowledge in the levels of learning were obtained. Only the primary paths of transfer were considered, i.e. individual to team (and vice versa), team to the organization (and vice versa), and organization to inter‐organization. In the second stage Delphi process, the critical sources from which these barriers arise were derived.


A total of 14 sources from which the barriers arise were obtained. The significant impact of these sources on the levels of learning, as perceived by the Delphi participants, was derived.

Practical implications

This research provides useful insights for practitioners wanting to minimize barriers and optimize knowledge transfer across the organizations. It also serves as a useful base for researchers to expand further research into barriers of knowledge transfer.


This research is the first attempt made, using Delphi methodology, to analyze the barriers to knowledge transfer from a holistic perspective. It considers the levels of learning, providing academics with a base to consider other paths of knowledge transfer.



Yih‐Tong Sun, P. and Scott, J.L. (2005), "An investigation of barriers to knowledge transfer", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 75-90.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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