Cross-site Knowledge-Sharing Patterns in Multinational Corporations: the Disparate Effects of Contingency and Globalization

Helmut Kasper, Mark Lehrer, Jürgen Mühlbacher, Barbara Müller


To investigate knowledge-sharing practices in multinational corporations (MNCs), a total of 72 interviews were conducted at the headquarters and two foreign subsidiaries of eight firms to examine the impact of environmental and organizational factors on cross-site knowledge sharing. While globalization and the accelerating diffusion of knowledge across borders may promote the intensification of cross-site knowledge-sharing practices in some industry contexts, the results suggest that in others firms rely on highly centralized structures that allow little scope for cross-site knowledge sharing. Although most interviewees took as given the notion that firms should promote the implementation of cross-site knowledge-sharing systems, the overall findings cast some doubt on this very notion. The requisite intensity of knowledge sharing in MNCs is evidently a function of the firm’s level of product standardization/adaptation and the associated degree of centralization or decentralization of strategically relevant knowledge.


Keywords: multinational corporations, knowledge sharing, globalization, contingency, standardization, decentralization, knowledge management, industry contexts



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