Cultural characteristics of knowledge transfer

Uwe Wilkesmann (Professor based at Dortmund University of Technology, Dortmund, Germany)
Heike Fischer (Research Associate based at Dortmund University of Technology, Dortmund, Germany)
Maximiliane Wilkesmann (Consultant based at bkp, Dortmund, Germany)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 23 October 2009



In 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?


A 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.


The findings show that knowledge transfer depends on national cultural characteristics which are power distance, performance orientation, in‐group collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance.

Research limitations/implications

As 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 implications

If 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.


Findings 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.



Wilkesmann, U., Fischer, H. and Wilkesmann, M. (2009), "Cultural characteristics of knowledge transfer", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 13 No. 6, pp. 464-477.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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