cross-cultural settings because, as Venzin (1998)has noted, knowledge is ‘generated in different lan-guage systems, [organizational] cultures, and[work] groups. If the context changes [e.g. culture],knowledge also changes.’Davenport and Prusak (1998) are at pains topoint out that ‘knowledge sharing must be encour-aged and rewarded’, while Harvard BusinessSchool’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter (quoted in
, 2000) emphasizes that knowledge workrequires ‘a new style of management that is moremagnanimous’. Management, she says, ‘has turnedinto coaching and encouraging, rather than order-ing and directing’. And this development forces‘managers and leaders
. . .
to be open to beingtaught things by their employees’. For peopleinterested in extending those issues from parochialsettings to inter-organizational cross-cultural inter-actions on the grand scale—that is, after all, what across-border merger or acquisition is—the scene is being set for new cross-cultural behaviours. Of course, the cross-cultural transfer of knowledge isnothing new. As a practice it goes back centuries.What is new is the study of the cross-cultural trans-fer of knowledge from a knowledge managementperspective. And a feature of this newness is alack of conceptual tools and guiding notions togain deeper understanding.Schoenberg (1999), for example, in a study of cross-border acquisitions in the EU by UK ﬁrms,has concluded that ‘we still know little regardingthe relative ease of implementation of differenttypes of knowledge transfer and resource sharing’.Yet these observations are not entirely true. Thereis one area of the cross-cultural transfer of know-how which has received a considerable amount of attention in the form of academic research publica-tions, project reports and journalistic articles. Thisconcerns the transfer of Western managementknow-how to Russia and other former socialistcountries and republics of the USSR.
A SPOT LESSON IN HOW NOT TOTRANSFER KNOWLEDGECROSS-CULTURALLY
This mammoth crusade of enlightenment, costingWestern governments, funding agencies and foun-dations millions of dollars since the collapse of theBerlin Wall in 1989, has almost been a spot lesson inhow
to transfer knowledge. A number of authors have noted that the misconceptions of edu-cators about local learning styles and expectationsas to the value of the know-how in particular cir-cumstances have been non-productive and there-fore a substantial waste of money (
,1993; Hibbert, 1990; Holden and Cooper, 1994;Holden
, 1998; Jankowicz, 1994; Lee
, 1996).Signiﬁcantly, we now ﬁnd authors who are writingabout these processes from a knowledge manage-ment perspective (e.g. Husted and Michailova,unpublished, 2000; Hollinshead and Michailova,unpublished, 2000). Hollinshead and Michailova(2000), in study of transfer of management know-how to Bulgaria, note that both educators and trai-nees need to undergo a process of learning and
learning ‘if ‘‘a bridge’’ is to be created betweenEast and West’ (added emphasis).This is an important insight—an insight of thekind that is not likely to emerge without directexperience in training processes and a sympathytowards local socio-cultural conditions (see Camiahand Hollinshead, 2003). Creating a knowledgetransfer system (such as a management trainingcourse) using that insight would be intellectuallyvery demanding; but using a knowledge transfersystem
it would not be likely to convincelocal people ‘of the long-term beneﬁts of theWestern market-economy system or of the ab-solute desirability, let alone superiority of the Wes-tern way of life’ (Holden, 2001). For knowledgemanagement researchers who want evidence of how arduous relationships between the source of the knowledge and the recipient negativelyaffect knowledge transfer, let them take thenext plane to Moscow, Kiev or Bucharest. Whatall this suggests is that there is ample knowledgeabout the implementation of knowledge world-wide; the problem appears to be how to tap thisknowledge so that organizations do not—oftenunwittingly—reinvent the wheel in their interna-tional operations.All in all knowledge management authors andpractitioners have problems integrating the impactof ‘culture’ as a theoretical construct and as anempirical reality (Holden, 2001, 2002). No wonderthat Gupta and Govindarajan (2000) argue withspeciﬁc reference to the challenges of knowledgemanagement in international business, that ‘con-ceptual work in this area is still in the early stagesand empirical work is almost literally at the stage of infancy’. The problem is: where can the knowledgemanagement community go for insights that canhelp theory-building, on the one hand, andpractice enhancement, on the other? This paperproposes a completely unexplored, yetpotentiallyhighly fertile source of analogy and conceptualenlightenment: namely, the science and practiceof translation. Translation, it may be said, is byfar the oldest universal practice of conscientiouslyconverting knowledge from one domain (i.e. a
RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management
128 N. J. Holden and H. F. O. Von Kortzﬂeisch