European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)
A Review on the Technology Transfer Models, Knowledge-Based and Organizational Learning Models on Technology Transfer
Sazali Abdul Wahab Graduate School of Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400 Selangor, Malaysia E-mail: email@example.com Raduan Che Rose Faculty of Economics & Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400 Selangor, Malaysia E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Jegak Uli Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400 Selangor, Malaysia E-mail: email@example.com Haslinda Abdullah Faculty of Economics & Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400 Selangor, Malaysia E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Abstract The main objective of this paper is to contribute to the existing Technology Transfer (TT) literature by reviewing the evolution and development of the previous TT models which include the traditional TT model, models developed after 1990s, other related theoretical foundations underlying TT models, and the current TT models which have strong influence of knowledge-based view (KBV) and organizational learning (OL) perspectives. Since the current management researchers have a strong focus on TT within strategic alliance and other collaborative ventures, this review highlights the significant influence of KBV and OL perspectives on inter-firm TT models. This review attempts to help stimulate the direction of both future theoretical and empirical studies on inter-firm technology transfer specifically 1) on how KBV and OL perspectives could play significant role in explaining the complex relationships between the supplier and recipient in inter-firm technology transfer 2) the tradeoffs that involve between properties of technology, protecting proprietary technologies, competitiveness of the supplier, willingness to transfer technology, and learning attitudes of the recipient in strategic alliances and JVs, and 3) on how KVB and OL perspectives could be integrated in a holistic model to explain the relationships between knowledge transferred, the recipient, the supplier, relationship characteristics and degree of technology transfer.
Keywords: Technology Transfer Models, Knowledge-Based View, Organizational Learning, Inter-Firm, Collaborative Joint Ventures. 550
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)
Based on a review of literature, technology transfer (TT) is not a new thing. Researchers have traced back TT process to the pre-history of the human species: where TT largely involved tacit knowledge which is evolutionary prior to explicit knowledge (Donald, 1991; Mathews and Roussel, 1997). As there were no written languages until 3000 BC, TT had mainly occurred through language; which were supplemented by equations and diagrams which constitute as the major means of explicit transfer of technological knowledge (Gorman, 2002). The spoken language and gestures have explicitly transferred technological knowledge in friendly encounters. However, much of pre-historic TT between people occurred when people with superior agricultural technology assimilated or eliminated those who could not reproduce as rapidly (Diamond, 1997). Segman (1989) who conducted a historical review of TT, traced the TT process from the Neolithic times, the role of Arabs played in transferring technologies from East to West and the transfer of English textile expertise to the American textile industry in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In the 18th Century, despite the English law preventing knowledge migration, France eventually managed to obtain ‘specialized steel making know-how’ by importing English workers and through industrial espionage. The success of the American textile industry in THE 18th and 19th Century was due to the transfer of knowledge and expertise by the English textile industry (Cameron, 1960; Irwin and Moore, 1991). Previous studies have shown that certain industries collapsed, for example the English clock and watch industry, due to the industry resistance to the opportunities of TT (Irwin and Moore, 1991). The main objective of this paper is to review the evolution and development of TT models in terms of focus of each model, strengths and limitations of the models, and finally to highlight the significance influence of knowledge-based view (KBV) and organizational learning (OL) perspectives, which have strong theoretical foundation, on the current TT models. This review limits its perimeter by focusing on the inter-firm TT between two unaffiliated organizations.
2. Approaches to Technology Transfer (TT)
Previous studies on TT have employed different approaches to shape and govern the TT efforts. TT as a domain covers all activities around technological development. Few TT models were developed after the World War II to govern the implementation of TT activities and their application to marketplace (Devine et al., 1987; Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). Among the traditional TT models developed were the appropriability model, dissemination model, knowledge utilization model, and communication model. In the 1970s studies have adopted “the economic international trade approach” in developing a linear model of TT (Bessant and Francis, 2005). In the 1980s research on TT emphasized on the effectiveness of the specific technology being transferred which in general is within a broader context of economic development (Hope, 1983). The 1990s approach emphasizes on the significance of learning at the organization level as a key element in facilitating technology transfer (Figuereido, 2001). In late 1980s and early 1990s TT models have started to absorb the principles of the organization development movement (French and Bell, 1995). Strategic management researchers have further contributed to the development of TT frameworks based on KBV and OL perspectives as these perspectives have been found to have quite similar dimensions such as outcomes, processes, barriers and facilitators (Daghfous, 2004). These perspectives have significantly contributed to the expansion of TT models since literatures from both KBV and OL perspectives appear to subsume most of the contributions of the TT literatures (Daghfous, 2004).
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)
3. Technology Transfer Models
3.1. The Appropriability Model This model, which was developed in 1945-1950s, suggests that good or quality technologies sell themselves (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). The model emphasizes on the importance of quality of research, and competitive market pressure in achieving TT and promoting the use of research findings (Devine et al., 1987; Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). According to this model, TT process simply occurs when technology has found users or has been discovered by the market. Purposive or deliberate TT mechanism is seen as unnecessary. This model assumes that after the researchers develop the technology and make technologies available through various forms of communications such as technical reports and professional journals, the users will “automatically show up at the researcher’s door” (Devine et al., 1987). Gibson and Slimor (1991), in their three-level TT model, describe the first level (technology development level) as the most fundamental level; when technology process can be largely passive through mediated means such as research reports, journal articles and computer tapes. The underlying presumption of the appropriability approach is “viewing TT as the result of an automatic process that began with scientific research and then moved to development, financing, manufacturing and marketing. [One] need not necessarily be concerned with linkages in the technology commercialization process” (Kozmetsky, 1990). However, previous studies have acknowledged that over the years evidence has shown that quality technologies do not usually sell well themselves (Devine et al., 1987; Gibson and Slimor, 1991). 3.2. The Dissemination Model This model, which was popularized by Rogers (1983) and Rogers and Kincaid (1982), is developed in the 1960-1970s (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). This approach suggests the importance of technology and innovation to be diffused or disseminated to the potential users by the experts (Williams and Gibson, 1990). This model assumes that an expert will transfer specialized knowledge to the willing user. The presumption underlying this model is that once the linkages are established, the new technology will move from the expert to the non-expert “like water through a pipe once the channel is opened” (Williams and Gibson, 1990; Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Gibson and Slimor (1991) describe this model as the second level of their model; the technology acceptance level. Based on their model, this level includes the expert’s primary responsibility to select technology and ensure the technology is available to a receptor that can understand and potentially use the technology (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). However, this model suffers from its one-way communication (unilateral) characteristic with no involvement from the users (Devine et al., 1987; Gibson and Slimor, 1991). 3.3. The Knowledge Utilization Model This model, which was developed in late 1980s (Gibson and Slimor, 1991), has a significant influence on TT literature (Szakonyi, 1990; Zacchea, 1992). The approach taken by this model is its emphasis on 1) the important role of interpersonal communication between the technology developers/researchers and technology users, and 2) the importance of organizational barriers or facilitators of TT. The knowledge utilization approach represents an evolutionary step which focuses on how to organize knowledge to effective use in the technology users setting (Backer, 1991). Gibson and Slimor (1991) view this model as the third level in their model; technology application level. This level is the most involved level of TT where it includes the profitable use of the technology in the market place as well as other application such as intra-firm processes. While this approach indicates an appreciation of the complexities of the TT, researchers have argued that the model suffers from a linear bias (Dimancescu and Botkin, 1986). The underlying presumption of this model is that technology moves “hand-to-hand” to one direction, unilaterally from the experts to the users, to become a developed idea and eventually a product (Gibson and Slimor, 552
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) 1991). This model reduces the complex transfer process to chronologically ordered stages (Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Sung and Gibson, 2000). The appropriability, dissemination and knowledge utilization models still suffer from inherent linear bias where these TT models have limitations in terms of their limited application in transferring technology across organizational boundaries (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995; Gibson and Slimor, 1991). 3.4. The Communication Model Departing from the previous three models, several researchers have suggested that the communication model as a replacement of the earlier TT models (Williams and Gibson, 1990; Gibson et al., 1990; Doheny-Farina, 1992). This model perceives TT as “a communication and information flow process with communication understood to be concerned with full exchange and sharing of meanings”. This model suggests technology as “an on-going process which involves a two-way interactive process (non-linear) by continuously and simultaneously exchanging ideas among the individuals involved” (Williams and Gibson, 1990). Consistent with this approach, other researchers view communication model of TT follows the network communication paradigm; where feedback is all pervasive and the participants in the TT process are transceivers rather than the sources and receivers (Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Irwin and Moore, 1991). Other researchers acknowledge that feedbacks help the participants in the transfer process to reach convergence about the important dimensions of the technology (e.g. Rogers, 1983). To overcome the obstacles and barriers to the transfer process, different sets of functions, activities, and network must occur simultaneously (Rogers, 1983; Kozmetsky, 1988a, 1988b). The communication model, which consists of characteristics such as two-way communication, interactive, interpersonal/organizational communication, helps to explain the failures of the previous TT strategies, which are based on one-way unidirectional communication, and dissemination/diffusion models (Irwin and Moore, 1991). Two-way interactive communication is primarily developed towards overcoming the communication barriers between the technology developer group and the user group (DohenyFarina, 1992; Dobrin, 1989). This model assumes that there is “a body of information, of objective facts, just lying there waiting to be communicated” (Dobrin, 1989). The underlying presumption is that knowledge is an object that exists independently, valid, complete and has universal applicability (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). The implementer (technology developer) is responsible for transferring knowledge correctly through the appropriate channels for the user to understand; and failure to adopt knowledge is simply because the users fail to understand (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). Although the communication model shows an appreciation of the complexities of TT, this model is unable to provide explanations on 1) the complexities of TT in the context of knowledge transferred through collaborative learning, 2) the subjectivity of knowledge, and 3) the need for contextual adaptation, dialoging at the level of values, assumption, and beliefs that takes on more acute proportions with soft or disembodied technologies (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). This view is consistent with the earlier studies on TT which suggests that the focus of the current management researchers is on TT in strategic alliances/IJVs, and learning at the organizational level in facilitating TT (Zhoa and Reisman, 1992; Figuereido, 2001). 3.5. Technology Transfer (TT) Models After 1990s A review of the literature reveals that TT researchers have attempted to develop new technology transfer model distinguishing from the traditional models developed earlier which mainly focus on TT processes. The later models developed by researchers (Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995; Sung and Gibson, 2000) attempt to address the limitations that arise from the traditional TT models in terms of the application in contemporary high-tech industries (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Several models developed after 1990s have emphasized on 1) the important element of communication 553
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) between the technology developer and the receiver or between different organizations, 2) the levels of TT, 3) the factors which influence TT and KT, and 4) the TT processes in IJV (Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Sung and Gibson, 2000; Rebentich and Ferretti, 1995). 3.6. Gibson and Slimor’s Model This model describes TT from the perspective of technology researchers and users through three levels of involvement. The underlying theories of this model are the organization and communication theories (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). This model proposes that TT consists of three levels of involvement: Level I (Technology Development), Level II (Technology Acceptance), and Level III (Technology Application). This model explains the levels of technology transfer involvements and integrates the activities involved in the traditional models. Technology Development is considered as the most important level where the transfer process is viewed as passive through transfer means such as research reports, journal articles, and computer tapes. This level relates to the appropriability model: where the emphasis is on the importance of quality of research and competitive market pressure in achieving technology transfer (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Technology Acceptance level indicates more involvement of TT. During this level the technology developer is responsible in making certain that the technology is made available to the receptors that can understand and potentially use the technology. This level of involvement relates to the dissemination model: where the concentration is on disseminating innovations to individual users (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Technology Application level is the most involved level of TT. Technology application includes commercializing the use of technology in the marketplace and other application such as intra-firm processes. This level equates with knowledge utilization model: where emphases are on the critical element of interpersonal communication between technology developers and users, and the organizational barriers and facilitators of TT (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). 3.7. Sung and Gibson’s Model This model is developed to have similar objectives as Gibson and Slimor’s (1991) model that is to address limitations in the traditional TT models. As an expansion and improvement to the three levels involvement model of TT (Gibson and Slimor, 1991), this model provides plausible explanations as to the levels and factors affecting knowledge and TT by describing knowledge and TT in four levels of involvements: Level I (Knowledge and Technology Creation), Level II (Sharing), Level III (Implementation), and Level IV (Commercialization) (Sung and Gibson, 2000). At the creation level, the technology developers conduct and develop research into knowledge and make available of their result/finding through research publication, videotapes, teleconference, news, and anecdotes. TT at this level is considered as a passive process where it needs only minimum involvement of all participants (Sung and Gibson, 2000). Secondly, at the sharing level, technology developers and users begin to share responsibility as the success of technology transfer occurs when knowledge and technology are transferred across personal, functional, or organizational, and knowledge and technology are well accepted and understood by users (Sung and Gibson, 2000). Thirdly, at the implementation level, success is determined by the timely and efficiency of knowledge and technology transfer, and the user’s resources ability to implement. KT and TT may occur through manufacturing transfer, processes transfer or services and best practice transfer (Sung and Gibson, 2000). Finally, at the commercialization level, knowledge and technology is commercially utilized. The commercialization level is built cumulatively on the success of creation, sharing, and implementation levels with the help of market strength. Success of the implementation level is measured by return of investment (ROI) and increased market share (Sung and Gibson, 2000).
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) 3.8. Rebentisch and Ferretti’s Model Rebentisch and Ferretti (1995) propose an integrated model of TT process developed from the insights derived from the study of two IJVs. According to Rebentisch and Ferretti (1995) TT areas require further investigation and integration particularly on 1) the effect of the interdependencies between the technology characteristics and its organizational context, and 2) the interface between the core competencies of the firm and its ability to adopt new technology. The model (Figure 2.3) addresses the issues on 1) how much effort is required to transfer different types of technologies, and 2) what impact the organization’s existing competencies might have on that process. This model refers TT as “the transfer of the embodied knowledge assets between organizations”. The TT process in this model consists of four categories that include 1) Transfer Scope, 2) Transfer Method, 3) Knowledge Architecture, and 4) Organizational Adaptive Ability. The scope of transfer is determined by how much information is embodied in the technology and what type of technologies a firm seeks to acquire from the source. Based on this model the transfer scope consists of four types of technologies: General knowledge, Specific knowledge, Hardware, and Behaviors. This model categorizes the transfer methods in the TT process as 1) Impersonal communication, 2) Personal communication, 3) Group interaction, and 4) Physical relocation. Knowledge architecture is defined as “a characterization of the structure and artifacts into which knowledge has been embodied in the organization, and describes the way organization stores and processes information” (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995). Knowledge architecture has four critical elements which influence TT process 1) technology hardware, 2) experience base, 3) procedures, and 4) organization power structures. These elements correspond with the level of technology’s complexity and compatibility with the existing organization, the costs and extent of change involved in implementing it, and the possibility of encountering any opposition (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995). Organizational adaptive ability is “the adoption of the organization’s ability to utilize its resources to make adaptations either to itself or to a new technology” (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995). Organizational adaptive ability consists of staffing and production flexibility. This model, which is developed based on two IJVs, nevertheless, mainly offers the theoretical insights of TT process of hardware or embodied technology (explicit knowledge) where no hypothesis testing and empirical examination has been conducted. Since this model is developed from the transferring partner’s perspective thus it suffers from inherent linear bias in which the relationship and contextual dimensions of JVs have not been considered. 3.9. Other Related Theoretical Foundations of Technology Transfer Besides examining TT models from the previous literatures, an understanding of the related theoretical perspectives is necessary to relate with the practical and empirical aspects. From a review of literature, the other relevant theories which are found to be related to TT are the international trade (IT) theory, foreign direct investment (FDI) theory, KBV perspective and OL perspective. The international trade theories, which consist of the classical trade theory (Ricardo, 1817), the factor proportion theory (Hecksher and Ohlin, 1933), and the product life cycle theory (Vernon, 1971; Wells, 1968, 1969), are related to TT studies as they provide plausible explanations on how trades between countries contribute to the flow of productions or goods and services which have brought along the technology embedded in them. The foreign direct investment theories are related to TT studies as these theories provide explanations on how FDIs by MNCs become the main channel for intra-firm technology transfer; where technology is transferred to MNCs’ subsidiary or affiliates in the host countries. FDI theories consist of the market imperfection theory (Hymer, 1960, 1970; Kindleberger, 1969; Caves, 1971), international production theory (Dunning, 1980), internationalization theory (Buckley, 1982, 1985; Buckley and Casson, 1976), and transaction cost theory (Williamson, 1975; Ouchi, 1980; Williamson and Ouchi, 1981).
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) However, for the purpose of this review, which focuses on the cross border and inter-firm TT of tacit and explicit knowledge (software and hardware technology), the relevant theories underlying the current TT model are KBV and OL perspectives. This study contends that as TT does not only require transmission of knowledge but also knowledge absorption and use (Devanport and Prusak, 1998, 2000) these perspectives, which are interrelated, would enable this study to capture and explain the distinct characteristics and behavioral factors of the actors and facilitators/barriers involved such as the attributes of knowledge transferred, attitudes of both technology supplier and recipient, as well as their relational and contextual factors (Szulanski, 1996). The streams of literature on TT, KBV and OL perspectives are quite similar along various dimensions for example the outcomes, processes, barriers and facilitators (Daghfous, 2004).
4. Knowledge-Based View Related Models
4.1. Kogut and Zander’s Model Kogut and Zander (1992) are among the first researchers who established the foundation for the knowledge-based theory of the firm when emphasizing the strategic importance of knowledge as a source of competitive advantage. Their work is focused on the idea that “what firms do better than markets is the creation and transfer of knowledge within the organization”. Knowledge, which consists of information and know-how, is not only held by individuals but is also expressed in regularities by which members cooperate in a social community. Firms as social communities act as “a repository of capabilities” determined by the social knowledge embedded in enduring individual relationships structured by organizing principles (Kogut and Zander, 1992). The organizing principles refer to as “the organizing knowledge that establishes the context of discourse and coordination among individuals with disparate expertise and that replicates the organization over time in correspondence to the changing expectations and identity of its members” (Kogut and Zander, 1996). This view was further articulated and empirically tested in Kogut and Zander (1993). They assert that 1) firms are efficient means by which knowledge is created and transferred, 2) a common understanding is developed by individuals and groups in a firm through repeated interaction to transfer knowledge from ideas into production and markets, 3) what a firm does is not depending on the market’s failure rather the efficiency in the process of transformation relative to other firms, and 4) the firm’s boundary is determined by the difference in knowledge and the embedded capabilities between the creator and the users (possessed with complementary skills) and not market failure. Kogut and Zander (1996) further extend their discussion on the concept of identity by asserting that individuals are “unsocial sociality” where they have both a desire to become a member of community and at the same time also have a desire to retain their own individuality (Kogut and Zander, 1996). As firms provide a normative territory to which members identify, costs of coordination, communication, and learning within firms are much lower which allow more knowledge to be shared and created within firms. 4.2. Nonaka’s Model A stream of literatures has found consistent support for Kogut and Zander’s (1992) model of organization knowledge creation and transfer (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka et al., 1996) for example 1) knowledge should be the basic unit of analysis for explaining a firm’s behavior, and 2) organization knowledge is socially constructed. This group of researchers proposes a model of knowledge creation, which complements Kogut and Zander’s (1992) model, by proposing a model for understanding the knowledge creation process in organizations in which organizational knowledge is created through a continuous dialogue between tacit and explicit knowledge. This model proposes four modes of knowledge conversion 1) from tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge (socialization); a process of personalized form of tacit knowledge growth in which an 556
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) individual passes on knowledge to another individual, 2) from tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge (externalization); a process when individuals take existing knowledge, add their tacit knowledge and create something new that can be shared throughout the organization, 3) from explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge (combination); a process where knowledge is gained by combining and synthesizing existing explicit knowledge from different sources, and 4) from explicit to tacit knowledge (internalization); a process where new explicit knowledge is internalized within members of the organization to create new tacit knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Even though each of these modes may independently create knowledge, the organizational knowledge creation processes only occur when all the four modes are organizationally managed and dynamically interacted. This process which is highly iterative constitutes ‘knowledge spiral’ which happens mainly through informal networks of relations in the organization starting from the individual level, then moves up to the group (collective) level and eventually to the organizational level. It creates a ‘spiraling effect’ of knowledge accumulation and growth which promotes organization innovation and learning (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). 4.3. Grant’s Model Departing from Kogut and Zander (1992, 1993), Nonaka (1994) Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), and Nonaka et al. (1996), Grant (1996a, 1996b, 1997) propose a different model of knowledge creation. Grant (1996a) has further articulated the theoretical arguments of knowledge-based view, which considers knowledge creation as “an individual activity rather than an organizational activity”. Several assumptions underlying the model are described as follows: 1) Knowledge is the important productive resource in terms of its contribution to value added and its strategic significance. 2) Knowledge consists of information, technology, know-how, and skills. Thus, different types of knowledge vary in their transferability. The critical distinction is between ‘explicit knowledge’; which is capable of articulation and transferable at low cost, and ‘tacit knowledge’; which is manifested only in its application and is not amenable to transfer. The ease with which knowledge can be transferred also depends upon the capacity of the recipient to aggregate units of knowledge. 3) Individuals are the primary agents of knowledge creation and the principal repositories of knowledge especially tacit knowledge. If individual’s learning capacity is bounded, knowledge creation requires specialization, where increased depth of knowledge normally requires sacrificing breadth of knowledge. At the same time, production typically requires the application of many types of knowledge. 4) Most knowledge is subject to economies of scale and scope. This is especially the case with explicit knowledge that, once created, can be deployed in additional applications at low marginal cost (Grant and Baden-Fuller, 1995; Grant, 1997). While knowledge resides within individuals and firms consist of multiple individuals with specialized knowledge, the firms’ role is to integrate this knowledge to enable it to produce products and services. Firms exist because of their efficient ability in creating conditions where many individuals can integrate their specialist knowledge (Grant, 1996a). Specialized knowledge can be integrated within firms through four mechanisms 1) through rules and directives; where rules are standards which regulate the interactions between individuals and directives are what the specialists establish to guide the non-specialists, 2) through sequencing; a mechanism to organize production activities in a time-patterned sequence such that each specialist’s input occurs independently through being assigned a separate time slot, 3) through routines; where the signals and responses developed by teams over time allow the complex interactions between individuals in a relatively automatic fashion, and 4) through group problem solving and decision making; a mechanism used to perform unusual, complex, and important tasks that requires extensive personal interactions and communications. 557
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) Common knowledge is important as a means through which multiple individuals can communicate to integrate knowledge (Grant, 1996b). 4.4. Spender’s Model As opposed to traditional models of knowledge creation within organizations (Kogut and Zander, 1992; Nonaka, 1994; Grant, 1996a, 1996b), Spender (1996) proposes a dynamic rather than a static knowledge-based theory of the firm. Knowledge is viewed as “a process or a competent goal-oriented activity rather than as an observable and transferable resource” (Spender, 1996). As knowledge is dynamic in nature and contained within actor network, a firm is a dynamic, evolving, quasiautonomous, organic system of knowledge production and application (Spender, 1996). A firm is a system of knowing activity and not a system of applied abstract knowledge (Spender, 1996). Other proponents of this view are Blacker (1995) and Orlikowski (2002). Blacker (1995) argues that traditional approach to knowledge is “compartmentalized and static” and further suggests that rather than discussing knowledge, it is more beneficial to discuss the process of knowing. Orlikowski (2002) suggests that the perspective which focuses on the knowledgeability of action (perspective on knowing) that is on knowing may be value in a perspective rather than knowledge. 4.5. Szulanski’s Model Szulanski (1995) adopts a different approach to KT by adopting a communication metaphor in analyzing intra-firm transfer of best practice in a manner analogous to the transmission of a message from a source to a recipient within a given media or context (Timbrell et al. , 2001). While knowledge transfer is a distinct experience rather than diffusion, best practice transfer should be regarded as “a process rather than a transaction or event” (Szulanski, 1995). Szulanski (1996) proposes an intra-firm transfer of best practice model which views intra-firm transfer of best practice as “an unfolding process” in which organizational routines are replicated through four stages of processes: 1) initiation, 2) implementation, 3) ramp-up, and 4) integration. Initiation is described as comprising all events that lead to the decision to transfer. A transfer commences when both a need and the knowledge to meet that need coexist within the organization, possibly undiscovered. When the need is discovered, it triggers a search for potential solution; a search that leads to the discovery of superior knowledge (Szulanski, 1996). Implementation begins with the decision to transfer in which resources flow between the knowledge recipient and the source, the transfer-specific social ties between the source and the knowledge recipient are established, and the transferred practice is normally adapted with the objectives to suit the anticipated needs of the recipient to preempt problems experienced in a previous transfer of the same practice, and to facilitate the introduction of new knowledge less difficult to the recipient (Szulanski, 1996). Ramp-up commences when the recipient begins to use the transferred knowledge. At this level the recipient’s primary concern is to identify and resolve unexpected problems that restrict its ability to match or exceed the transfer performance expectation (Szulanski, 1996). Integration starts when satisfactory result is achieved by the recipient from the transferred knowledge and the transferred knowledge is converted into the firm’s routine (Szulanski, 1996). Szulanski (1996) has explored the origin of internal stickiness and identified four sets of factors which are likely to have significant influence on the difficulty of knowledge transfer: i) characteristics of the knowledge transferred, ii) the source, iii) the recipient, and iv) the context in which the transfer takes place. Central to Szulanski’s (1996) model of intra-firm knowledge transfer, which builds on the previous TT literature (Leonard-Barton, 1990; Teece, 1977; Rogers, 1983), is the importance of examining all the four sets of factors simultaneously in an eclectic model. Few researchers have developed their intra and inter-firm knowledge transfer framework based on this model (for example Szulanski, 2000, 2003; Gupta and Govindarajan, 2000; Minbaeva, 2007; Simonin, 1999a, 1999b, 2004). 558
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5. Organization Learning Related Models
5.1. Argyris and Schon’s Model Argyris and Schon (1978) develop a three-fold typology of organizational learning: 1) single-loop, 2) double-loop, and 3) triple-loop (deutero) learning. Single-loop learning is described as “the errordetection-and-correction process; where errors are detected and corrected to allow an organization to change its methods and rules to improve what is being done within existing programs or policies”. As a result, the organization achieves its current objective more efficiently. In addition to the errordetection-and-correction, double-loop learning involves “change of the value of an organization’s theory-in-use”. This form of learning occurs when errors are detected and corrected in ways that involves the changes in an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objective. Triple-loop or deutero learning is “learning how to learn”; where the organizational members’ cognitive changes as a result of reflecting and inquiring into their previous learning experiences. Triple-loop learning is also a process how to execute single and double-loop learning (Argyris and Schon, 1978). 5.2. Mills and Friesen’s Model This model describes the ways how organizations learn and focuses on the sources of knowledge. The model explains that an organization learns through individuals in the organization. These individuals are hired because of their specific competencies or knowledge which may be gained through on the job training or formal training. Learning is an individual phenomenon, which benefits the organization entirely through the individuals (Mills and Friesen, 1992). OL should involve systemizing knowledge into its practices, processes, and procedures that are the reutilization of knowledge. When individuals do not use knowledge or resign, the knowledge will still remain with the organization which constitutes OL. If an organization acquires or merges with other organization, OL occurs when the acquiring organization absorbs the acquired organization practices and procedures, or adds to its personnel the knowledge embodied in the acquired organization’s processes and personnel (Mills and Friesen, 1992). 5.3. Nevis, DiBella and Gould’s Model Nevis et al. (1995) propose a three-stage model of OL: 1) knowledge acquisition, 2) knowledge sharing, and 3) knowledge utilization. Knowledge acquisition refers to the development or creation of skills, insights, and relationship. Knowledge sharing relates to the dissemination of knowledge that has been learned. Knowledge utilization is the integration of learning to make it widely available; where it can be generalized to new environments. OL may occur in a planned or informal ways. Knowledge and skill acquisition occur not only through acquisition but also through knowledge sharing and utilization (Nevis et al., 1995). 5.4. Nonaka’s Knowledge Spiral Model Nonaka (1994) proposes a model describing how organizational knowledge is created through different channels of interaction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Nonaka (1994) suggests four modes how knowledge is created through: 1) socialization process (tacit to tacit knowledge creation), 2) externalization process (tacit to explicit knowledge creation), 3) combination process (explicit to explicit knowledge creation), and 4) internalization process (explicit to tacit knowledge creation). 5.5. Kim’s Model Kim (1993) proposes an integrative model describing the link between individual learning and OL in which an organization learns through its individual members is affected either directly or indirectly by individual learning. This model describes OL as not only a collective individual learning but also involves the transfer mechanism between individual and OL; where individual learning becomes embedded in an organization’s memory and structure. In this sense, individual learning affects learning 559
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) at organizational level by its influence on the organization’s shared models. This model stresses that organization learns only through its members and learning does not depend on any specific members. However, individuals can learn without the organization. OL process is viewed from two perspectives: 1) the collective learning perspective, and 2) the cognitive-outcome perspective. The collective learning perspective describes how knowledge through individual learning becomes organization shared knowledge, and the cognitive outcome perspective indicates that knowledge acquired through individual learning can lead directly to individual action or indirectly to organizational action through knowledge sharing (Kim, 1993). 5.6. IJV Knowledge Management Model Building on Parkhe (1993) and Toyne (1989), Tiemessen et al. (1997) propose a model of OL and KT in IJVs based on input-process-output model. According to this model there are four critical elements involved in OL and knowledge transfer in IJV: Structure, Conditions, Process, and Outcomes. Tiemessen et al. (1997) propose three phases of inter-organizational learning in JV. The first phase is transfer process where two independent firms form a JV, both firms transfer and contribute resources in terms of their existing stock of competencies. Transfer is described as the movement/migration of knowledge between the parents firms, directly or indirectly, through activities such as buying technology, observing and imitating technology used by the other JV’s partner or modifying/changing the existing technologies based on the partner’s direction. Transfer means “to accept the partner’s knowledge, to integrate knowledge into one’s own systems or changing one’s own resources to imitate knowledge” (Tiemessen et al., 1997). The second phase is transformation process where through joint activities these competencies are then transformed and enhanced to reflect the combined pool of knowledge and skills as well as new knowledge and skills created from the alliance. Knowledge transformation is the extension of existing knowledge and the creation of new knowledge within the JV. Thus, transformation is defined as the integration, application and leveraging of contributed knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge as a result of IJV activities. The successful exploitation of an advantage internationally may require an adaptation of the technology, system, or management practices, or all of them to the local environment (Casson, 1993). Collaborating with local partners is crucial in ensuring appropriate and correct adaptation, and opportunities to improve own capabilities. Through adaptation process, resource integration and partnering knowledge are created (Tiemessen et al., 1997). The third phase is harvesting process where partners harvest knowledge and skills from IJV and bring back to the parent firms. Harvesting is described as “a process of retrieving knowledge that has already been created and tested from the IJV resources in which it resides, and internalizing it into the parent firm so it can be retrieved back and used in other applications”. Knowledge harvesting process is different from transfer and transformation process because the process is more difficult and not straightforward (Tiemessen et al., 1997). Knowledge harvesting by the parent firms is contingent upon the top management’s active role in JV and proper communication with the JV managers (Lyles, 1988).
This review significantly contributes to the existing TT literature by reviewing the evolution and development of the previous TT models which include the traditional TT model, models developed after 1990s, other related theoretical foundations underlying TT models, and the current TT models which have strong influence of KBV and OL perspectives. This review could help shape the direction of both future theoretical and empirical studies on inter-firm technology transfer specifically 1) on how KBV and OL perspectives could play significant role in explaining the complex relationships between the supplier and recipient in inter-firm technology transfer 2) the tradeoffs that involve between properties of technology, protecting proprietary technologies, competitiveness of the supplier, 560
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009) willingness to transfer technology, and learning attitudes of the recipient in strategic alliances and JVs, and 3) on how KVB and OL perspectives could be integrated in a holistic model to explain the relationships between knowledge transferred, the recipient, the supplier, relationship characteristics and degree of technology transfer.
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