Processes of Knowledge Transfer in Multinational Enterprises: Intra-firm and Inter-firm Perspectives

By Lingling Wang

Worcester State University, USA

Aysun Ficici

Southern New Hampshire University, USA

Bo Fan

Worcester State University, USA


This book aims to explore one of the most important aspects of knowledge management, knowledge transfer in multinational enterprises (MNEs). It examines this knowledge transfer process from two distinct perspectives: intra-firm and inter-firm. Intra-firm transfer of knowledge refers to the knowledge flow between headquarters and subsidiaries and inter-firm transfer is defined as the knowledge transfer between partners in international joint-ventures (IJV). Specifically, it attempts to investigate the factors that influence the intra-firm knowledge transfer process and the willingness to share knowledge between partners in IJVs, in order to improve the performance of MNEs. Since willingness to share knowledge between partners is more complex than that between parent and subsidiary due to the difference in ownership structure, if MNEs can manage the willingness to share knowledge in IJVs, then dealing with it between parent and subsidiary should be much easier.

To examine intra-firm knowledge transfer, system dynamics (SD) modeling is adopted and simulations demonstrate that both the transmission willingness and capacity, and absorptive willingness and capacity are important for MNEs to enhance its performance, since knowledge transfer is a two-way communication process. In order to reach a win-win situation, both headquarters and subsidiaries should be willing to share knowledge and learn from each other. To improve the effectiveness of knowledge transfer, ways to enhance transmission willingness and absorptive capacity, and cultural factors that influence cross-border communication are explored and discussed.

In inter-firm knowledge transfer, most of the research literature examines the absorptive capacity of recipients of knowledge but does not examine the willingness to share knowledge.  In fact, knowledge will not be effectively and efficiently transferred between partners if only capacity is involved. Therefore, the willingness to share knowledge is equally important in the knowledge transfer process. After a survey of literature, several factors that may influence willingness to share knowledge between partners in IJVs are identified. Then questionnaire was sent out, and based on the responses of the survey, three case studies are employed to verify those factors that determine the willingness to share knowledge in IJVs in China.

This study attempts to get a better understanding of the intra-firm and inter-firm knowledge transfer in academia and provide some useful insights to practitioners in order to effectively and efficiently manage knowledge in MNEs and enhance firms’ performance, since knowledge is the most important strategic asset that firms possess and is closely related to their sustainable competitive advantage.




Chapter I

Accumulation of knowledge in MNEs through intra-firm transfer


Literature review


Definition of knowledge

Knowledge in organizations

Properties of knowledge




Knowledge transfer


Results and discussion



Chapter II

Knowledge transfer within MNEs: Ways to improve transmission willingness and absorptive capacity


Literature review

Obstacles in the knowledge transfer process

Knowledge areas for improvement

Ways to improve the effectiveness of knowledge transfer

Cultural factors influencing knowledge transfer


Power distance




Chapter III

Knowledge transfer in international joint-ventures: Comparative analysis from foreign and Chinese partners


Literarature review

International joint-ventures

Internationalization and transaction cost economics

Resource-based view

Knowledge and learning theories

Social exchange and social control  

Knowledge transfer in alliances





Competitive overlap


Cultural factors 



Theoretical sampling of cases of IJVs

Data collection

Case studies

Introduction to company background

Case 1: LCFC Electronics Technology Co., Ltd 

Case 2: Xi’an Qinhua Natural Gas Co., Ltd

Case 3: GAC Toyota Motor Co., Ltd 



Managerial implications and conclusion


Chapter IV

Overall conclusion

Findings and results

Guidelines for businesses to follow for successful transmission of knowledge



About Author(s)

Dr. Lingling Wang is an Assistant Professor in Business Administration and Economics Department at Worcester State University, Massachusetts, United States. She received her doctorate in international business with a concentration in Strategy from Southern New Hampshire University. Her research interests include Knowledge Management, Strategy in International Strategic Alliances and Merger and Acquisitions, Emerging markets, Economic Integration, System Dynamics modeling, and International Trade and Competitiveness.

Dr. Aysun FIÇICI is a Professor of International Business and Strategy at Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire, United States.  Her research interests are Strategy, Emerging Markets and Transition Economies, Cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategic Alliance, Joint Ventures, Business Education and Political Economy.

Dr. Bo Fan is a Visiting Professor in Business Administration and Economics Department at Worcester State University, Massachusetts, United States. He graduated from Southern New Hampshire University, Ph.D. program in International Business with a concentration in International Finance. His main research interests are Cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions, Multinational Corporate Finance, Government Ownership and Risk management.



Date of Publication

December 15, 2019

File Size: 3270 KB
Length: xiv + 115 pages

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Other KSP Books