Knowledge Transfer

Argote and Ingram¹ wrote a stellar article that helped introduce me to what knowledge transfer was all about. They wrote this article with the intention of arguing that “creation and transfer of knowledge in organizations provide a basis for competitive advantage in firms” (pg. 151).

HiRes1-470x260First off, what is knowledge transfer? Argote and Ingram define knowledge transfer (in organizations) as “the process through which one unit (e.g. group, department, or division) is affected by the experience of another. Because they are analyzing knowledge transfer at an organizational level, the ‘unit’ of measure is not individuals but groups or larger. Argote and Ingram state that while knowledge transfer at the individual level does happen, the “problem of knowledge transfer in organizations transcends the individual level to include transfer at higher levels of analysis” (pg. 151). They use an example of how one manufacturing team may learn from another team a more efficient way to assemble a product.

The part of the article¹ that stood out to me was their talk of “the nature of social ties” (pg. 162) and how it affects the transference of knowledge. When social ties are weak (infrequent, distance relationships) between two units, if the knowledge is simple to understand and codified then knowledge was easily transferred. When knowledge was more complex and not codified (i.e.: tacit), stronger relationships were needed in order for easy transference to occur. I like that they’re not saying that, for knowledge transference to work well, you must have close relationships because that doesn’t work in every organization and with every person. However, depending on the type of knowledge, a strong relationship can make it easier.

Organizations have to create new knowledge continuously to maintain their competitive advantage in rapidly changing environments. However, knowledge creation is not a process that necessarily creates completely new knowledge but an operation that recombines and reorganize existing knowledge.³ (pg. 8155)

It’s always nice when the first paragraph of a paper is the one that speaks to you. Kang, Rhee, and Kang³ are speaking to my need for efficiency. I feel a lot of people (me included) assume that knowledge creation means the creation of brand new knowledge. I love Kang et al. because I feel it almost gives me permission to do what I normally do, which is use previously created items as a base to move on instead of creating new knowledge every time. I feel like it’s less exhausting, more efficient, and can lead to more new knowledge being created because it is maximizing the value and benefits of the knowledge that’s already out there. Like Kang et al. says “innovations are generated by a  recombination of knowledge, it can be a driving force of innovation to acquire new knowledge from knowledge sources”.

The knowledge that transfers from knowledge sources becomes the raw material in knowledge creation for a recipient organization, and successful knowledge transfer is an important driving force in knowledge creation.³ (pg. 8155)

Like Kang et al., the first paragraph of Connelly, Zweig, Webster, and Trougakos² stood out to me, but not in a good way. The first sentence says “Organizations do not ‘own’ the ‘intellectual assets’ of employees, and as such, cannot coerce workers to transfer their knowledge to other organizational members” (pg. 64). This read as a total lie to me. Wikipedia says that “Human Capital is inherent in people [tacit] and cannot be owned by an organization. Therefore, Human Capital leaves an organization when people leave” (Source). I see where people would say this is true but, and this may be because of the places I have worked, the ‘intellectual assets’ of employees, aka human capital, were basically mandated to be shared or you weren’t seen as a team player.

Figure-1-Knowledge-hiding-and-other-behaviors-in-organizations-extended-from-Pearson-et.png.jpegI can completely understand why knowledge hoarding and knowledge hiding would occur. In my experience, when a ‘boss’ sees you have a good idea, it doesn’t always end up well for you. The idea is either taken or you’re forced to share it until it doesn’t feel right anymore. Or your fellow employees look at you like you’re a horrible person because you had a good idea and the ‘bosses’ noticed which makes you social interaction at work more difficult.

Connelly et al.² definitely made me feel a little better about my future in the work force. I’m hoping that my issues happened just because of where I used to work. I have a habit of creating things that make work easier and I would love to share them, if they’re were respected and I wasn’t punished for it. I feel validated that this is an issue and it’s being researched. Because I want to go into special collections or knowledge management, I hope this means that the people I will be working for and with will be more open to knowledge sharing. Hopefully…

Words: 810

Words I Had to Look Up

Competitive Advantage: an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices (Source).

Codification: to organize or arrange systematically, especially in writing; to establish or express in a conventional form or standard formulation (Source). The process of creating systematic rules to govern a specific activity, such as the cataloging of bibliographic materials. In the United States, Britain, and Canada, the joint efforts of the American Library Association, the Library Association (UK), and the Canadian Library Association have produced Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, which apply to library materials in various formats (books, manuscripts, cartographic materials, music, sound recordings, motion pictures and videorecordings, graphic materials, computer files, three-dimensional artifacts and realia, microforms, and serials) (Source).

Human Capital: the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. Alternatively, human capital is a collection of resources—all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population (Source).


¹ Argote, L. and Ingram, P. (2000). Knowledge transfer: A basis for
competitive advantage in firms. Organizational Behavior and Human
Decision Processes, 82(1):150–169.

² Connelly, C. E., Zweig, D., Webster, J., and Trougakos, J. P. (2012).
Knowledge hiding in organizations. J. Organiz. Behav., 33(1):64–88.

³ Kang, J., Rhee, M., and Kang, K. H. (2010). Revisiting knowledge transfer:
Effects of knowledge characteristics on organizational effort for knowledge
transfer. Expert Systems with Applications.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge Transfer

  1. Pingback: Social Interaction, Wikis, and Knowledge Management | Mary's Blog

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