Managing reverse knowledge flow in multinational corporations

Nishant Kumar (Department of Marketing and Management, Stockholm University School of Business, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 9 September 2013



This study aims to provide insight to the little-researched phenomenon of reverse knowledge flow within multinational corporations (MNCs) and to explain the role of managerial attention in exploiting the prospect of knowledge transfer from subsidiaries located in developing countries.


Existing literature across disciplines has been integrated to provide a clear description of the concept of reverse knowledge flow and managerial attention, in order to explain the role of managerial attention in reverse knowledge transfer activities within MNCs. Two pilot studies were conducted on European MNCs to build the background for this study.


Managerial attention is a key factor in recognising potential source of knowledge within the multinational network, and a prior requirement for knowledge transfer to take place. Attention decisions are partially based on the knowledge source location, awareness/attractiveness, and the strategic importance. Thus, MNCs can adopt managerial practices and control mechanisms to influence the attention of executives and achieve higher knowledge flow from subsidiaries.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need to undertake empirical research and in-depth case studies of knowledge management practices using the arguments and framework provided in this article.

Practical implications

MNCs can develop mechanisms for overcoming attention biases influence on reverse knowledge flow. The attention based approach can lead to better subsidiary integration and knowledge management practices in MNCs.


This study advances the theory on reverse knowledge flow in MNCs by presenting an attention based theoretical framework for effective knowledge transfer.



Kumar, N. (2013), "Managing reverse knowledge flow in multinational corporations", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 695-708.

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