A Grounded Theory for ICT-Mediated Tacit Knowledge Transferability in MNCs

Mohammad Sharaf Qdah, Amer Nizar Fayez AbuAli, Juhana Salim, Tarek Issa Khalil
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 13  •  2018  •  pp. 311-335

A vital business activity within organizations is tacit knowledge (TK) transfer. This work aims to propose a novel framework for TK transferability in multinational corporations (MNCs) from the information and communication technology (ICT) perspective.

In the past two decades, researchers have developed several frameworks for TK transfer based on humanistic, business, and educational perspectives. However, a review of the existing work revealed that TK transfer has seldom been examined from an ICT perspective.

A qualitative method was adopted because it was considered the most appropriate for the research requirements. A grounded theory approach was employed to generate the items that potentially affect the transferability of TK. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data, along with observations when possible. The study sample consisted of 20 expert interviewees in Malaysia. An inductive ongoing data analysis process based on grounded theory via open, axial, and selective coding was used as the primary analysis method. In addition, comparative and frequency count analyses were used to examine the collected data.

The main contribution of this study is its use of the grounded theory approach, which resulted in the generation of items that affect the transferability of TK, not all of which had been identified by previous researchers. This paper reports one of the few inductive studies conducted on TK transferability among MNCs and, therefore, makes distinct contributions to the literature on TK management, specifically bringing to the fore the intricacies involved in TK transferability.

Information and communication technology plays a crucial role in and has a positive impact on TK transfer in MNCs. This study evaluated the potential of various ICT channels to facilitate TK transfer. The findings show that ICT tools cannot completely substitute for face-to-face contact. Tacit knowledge that has a high degree of complexity requires sophisticated channel features for its transfer. From this standpoint, virtual face-to-face communication is the richest communication medium in the ICT hierarchy. On the other hand, email and voicemail are less effective channels for TK transfer, while synchronous groupware is an intermediate communication medium. The findings highlight the importance of utilizing an appropriate mix of channels to improve TK transferability.

It is recommended that practitioners consider the diverse aspects of TK and the potential of a range of ICT channels for the TK transfer process in order to increase the efficiency of TK transfer. The analytic categories developed in this study may give managers new insights into and a better understanding of how TK can be supported in a modern organization and how to overcome the barriers to TK transfer.

tacit knowledge, transferability, information and communication technology, multinational corporations
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