Thinning Knowledge: An Interpretive Field Study of Knowledge-Sharing Practices of Firms in Three Multinational Contexts

Kasper, Helmut and Lehrer, Mark and Mühlbacher, Jürgen and Müller, Barbara (2010) Thinning Knowledge: An Interpretive Field Study of Knowledge-Sharing Practices of Firms in Three Multinational Contexts. Journal of Management Inquiry, 19 (4). pp. 367-381. ISSN 1056-4926


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Knowledge is often tacit and "sticky", i.e. highly context-specific and therefore costly to transfer to a different setting. This paper examines the methods used by firms to facilitate cross-site knowledge sharing by "thinning" knowledge, that is, by stripping knowledge of its contextual richness. An interview-based study of cross-site knowledge sharing in three industries (consulting, industrial materials, and high-tech products) indicated that highly developed knowledge-sharing systems do not necessarily involve extensive codification and recombination of personalized knowledge. Many multinational firms evidently conceive their knowledge-sharing systems with more modest objectives in mind than any large-scale "learning spirals" featuring iterative conversion of personalized knowledge into codified knowledge and vice-versa. A typology of knowledge-thinning systems was derived by interpreting the field study results from the perspective of knowledge-thinning methods used in earlier eras of history. The typology encompasses topographical, statistical and diagrammatic knowledge-thinning systems. (authors' abstract)

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: To see the final version of this paper please visit the publisher's website. Access to the published version may require a subscription. The definitive version is available at
Keywords: Knowledge Thinning / Cross-Site Knowledge Sharing / Knowledge Management / Multinational Corporations / Personalized and Codified Knowledge
Divisions: Departments > Management > Change Management und Manag. Development > Kasper
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Variance from Published Version: Typographical
Depositing User: ePub Administrator
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2013 10:23
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2015 02:01
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