Knowledge transfer across dissimilar cultures

Wai Fong Boh (Based at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
T.T. Nguyen (Based at B.I. Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway)
Yun Xu (Based at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 15 February 2013



The purpose of this paper is to examine factors that impact knowledge transfer from the parent corporation to subsidiaries when there are differences in the national culture of the parent corporation and the subsidiary. Transferring knowledge can be especially difficult when the source and recipient do not share common beliefs, assumptions and cultural norms. Therefore, this study examines how trust, cultural alignment, and openness to diversity influence the effectiveness of knowledge transfer from the HQ to the employees in the subsidiary.


Specifically, the study examines knowledge transfer between the headquarters of a multinational corporation in Norway and its Vietnamese subsidiaries, making use of a survey administered to all 70 employees in the Vietnamese subsidiaries.


The results show that individual's trust of the HQ and their openness to diversity are key factors influencing local employees' ability to learn and obtain knowledge from foreign HQ. The extent to which there is alignment between the organization's corporate culture and the individual's cultural values, on the other hand, appear to make little difference to knowledge transfer from the HQ.

Practical implications

This paper contributes to the literature in cross border knowledge transfer, showing that due to geographical distance or cultural differences between the HQ and the subsidiary, the cultivation of trust and openness to diversity on the part of local employees is critical for knowledge transfer.


The paper also contributes by examining knowledge transfer in an international context.



Fong Boh, W., Nguyen, T. and Xu, Y. (2013), "Knowledge transfer across dissimilar cultures", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 29-46.

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