Journal of Knowledge Management

Emerald Article: Knowledge sharing in Chinese service organizations: a multi case cultural perspective Rodney McAdam, Sandra Moffett, Jian Peng

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To cite this document: Rodney McAdam, Sandra Moffett, Jian Peng, (2012),"Knowledge sharing in Chinese service organizations: a multi case cultural perspective", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 16 Iss: 1 pp. 129 - 147 Permanent link to this document: Downloaded on: 12-11-2012 References: This document contains references to 52 other documents To copy this document:

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Knowledge sharing in Chinese service organizations: a multi case cultural perspective
Rodney McAdam, Sandra Moffett and Jian Peng

Abstract Purpose – The majority of knowledge management theory and practice literature is based on, and relates to, western and Japanese business environments and related assumptions. A number of generic knowledge management cross sectional studies based on Chinese organizations have taken place; however there is a lack of in-depth critical studies which are culturally grounded and which focus on a particular aspect or domain of knowledge management in Chinese organizations, as opposed to applying western or Japanese knowledge management models and concepts. Hence the paper seeks to make a contribution by carrying out a critical study in knowledge sharing within Chinese organizations that explores the role of culture in relation to the knowledge-sharing process, where the people-based aspects of knowledge sharing are likely to be influenced by the prevailing culture. The aim of the paper is to explore the role of knowledge sharing at multiple organizational levels within Chinese service-based organizations. Design/methodology/approach – Five consulting firms are analyzed within the multi case study, to explore knowledge sharing at multiple levels, where existing literature and preliminary research has shown that consulting organizations in the service sector are more likely to have advanced their understanding of knowledge sharing as a source of innovation and competitiveness. The research methods included interviews (n ¼ 40), focus groups (n ¼ 10) and observations made during four visits, each of several weeks, to the companies. The five organizations were Chinese owned and at a similar growth stage and hence the effects of external cultures or organizational specific cultures were secondary to that of the prevailing Chinese culture. Findings – The findings show that cultural interpretations of knowledge sharing practices can help in explaining Chinese conceptions and applications of knowledge sharing at multiple organizational levels. Moreover these cultural influences suggest that non-Chinese conceptions of knowledge sharing can in some circumstances result in misleading approaches being used in attempting to promote knowledge sharing in a Chinese context and that the strong group culture is a key vehicle for knowledge sharing as opposed to individual idea generation. Research limitations/implications – The findings show the need for further research in comparing Chinese and western organizations in relation to collaboration knowledge sharing where the case organizations have had different levels of exposure to western culture. Much more in-depth case-based research is needed to explore these contextual issues and to develop theoretical propositions. Practical implications – The extrapolation of western and Japanese-based knowledge sharing concepts and practices to Chinese contexts without an examination of Chinese culture and its impact on organizational culture may produce sub-optimal results. A more culturally grounded approach, where knowledge sharing practices are indigenously grounded, is suggested. Originality/value – There is a paucity of multi-level knowledge sharing studies which seek to both address cultural considerations and systematically inquire into the development of knowledge sharing in Chinese organizations from a cultural perspective. The findings from this study can help inform western-Chinese business collaboration through improved understanding of the cultural effects on knowledge sharing. Keywords Chinese organizations, Knowledge sharing, Culture, Multi-level, Case analysis, China, Case studies Paper type Research paper

Rodney McAdam is Head of Department at Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK. Sandra Moffett is a Lecturer at the School of Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK. Jian Peng is a Research Fellow at Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK.

There is a need to deepen the inquiry into the emergent and rapid development of knowledge management (KM) in China and Chinese contexts. The extant literature on

DOI 10.1108/13673271211198981

VOL. 16 NO. 1 2012, pp. 129-147, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1367-3270




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beyond that of cross sectional ¨ ller and analysis at senior management level (Magnier-Watanabe and Senoo. Moreover the western and Japanese approaches to KM have been compared. western and Japanese business practitioners and organizations have witnessed a proliferation of management tools to aid competitiveness. rather than comparing Chinese knowledge management practices against the received wisdom of western and Japanese ideals. without focusing on the service sector or cultural impacts on KM. (2008). Newell. western and Japanese business environments from the 1990s through to the present (Davenport and Prusak. especially when they depend on people and social contributions such as knowledge sharing. 1998. Consistent with this approach Hofstede defines culture as a ‘‘collective programming of the mind. 16 NO. either developed theoretically. Little critical evaluation has taken place or deconstruction into domains such as knowledge sharing. practices and capabilities. lean thinking and Six Sigma are increasingly globally applied. 2006. Approaches. 2008). managers and organizations exist within a societal context. Chen and Chen (2006) and Mo Svahn (2004) identify knowledge sharing (KS) as a key construct within the KM discourse. 2003). 2000). 1 2012 j j . the people aspects and routines of which are likely to be influenced by the prevailing cultural norms. there is something in all countries called ‘‘management’’. as suggested in the culture based studies of Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) and Hong et al. 2007. 2004. Chinese involvement has been more recent and is mainly based on western and Japanese KM constructs. 2008). For two decades. 2004). Serious obstacles to research in China exist. where knowledge sharing is likely to be influenced by the prevailing culture. or based on. are able to understand what happens in China because of the cultural. however. 1980). 2006). These characteristics are especially influential in people based practices of KM such as tacit and explicit knowledge exchange as shown by Nonaka and Takeuchi in the SECI Japanese examples and where situations involve the privileging of knowledge and equating rank with the ‘‘need to know’’ (Nonaka and Takeuchi. 1999. Roy. McKenzie. Mo Svahn. Hence the paper seeks to make a contribution by carrying out a critical study on knowledge sharing within Chinese organizations that explores the role of culture in relation to the knowledge sharing process. While borrowing from the western and Japanese developments. 2005) have questioned whether researchers. Szulanski (2000) suggests that employees. 1995. such studies should be grounded with the Chinese environment and underlying cultural assumptions. KM practice issues were explored and studied. Buckley et al. such as knowledge management. 2001. contrasted and integrated in many ways by Nonaka and Takeuchi’s approaches being applied in western contexts (Wiig. developed interest in the tacit and explicit nature of knowledge leading to a more rapid development of the field with a growing emphasis on knowledge creation and transfer in key cases such as Toyota (Ichijo and Kohlbacher. 2006). Horowitz and Marsh. PAGE 130 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. Ichijo and Kohlbacher. but its meaning differs to a larger or smaller extent from one country to another depending on cultural characteristics. historical and economic differences. Management tools applied elsewhere to knowledge sharing may not be applicable or viable when studying many managerial and other issues in the Chinese context (Lihua. Lihua. For example.g. particularly from the West. along with the increasing importance of KM. in a 2002 KM Survey in China (Landray. A number of researchers (e. 2009. Lin and Kwok. Nonaka and Takeuchi. the emergence of China as a global business entity (Lesova. However. which challenge social scientists in adapting standard methods to distinctive or non-western milieus’. 2002) has led to a need for more critical studies on knowledge management in China. The seminal work of Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) largely based on Japanese bakery examples. 2010. which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another’’ (Hofstede. organizational culture has a significant impact on these management approaches. 1995). where their attitudes toward cooperation and knowledge sharing are likely to be influenced by the underlying values of their society (Szulanski. ¨ ller and In seeking to deconstruct the broad KM narrative. As Hofstede (1980) suggests. 2005.knowledge management (KM) is largely..

2008). The aim of the paper is to explore approaches to knowledge sharing (KS) at multiple organizational levels within Chinese service based organizations. how these models should be applied.Knowledge sharing (KS) has become more widely recognized as a key KM construct. However. especially in service sectors such as consulting (Dalkir. Beyond that of broad cross sectional surveys based on western conceptions of KM the World Bank Knowledge Economy Report (Zen.. 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 131 j j . to the Chinese business environment requires in-depth study. 2005). 2005). if at all.. The sharing of explicit knowledge is viewed as being relatively easier than that of tacit knowledge due to the more tangible or product based nature of the knowledge.36 between 1995 and 2008). for a variety of reasons. at multiple levels. Peng et al. Reasons for this reluctance may include the maintaining power differentials (O’Neil and Adya. Often more time consuming approaches involving relationships such as apprenticeships and job shadowing are used in attempts to transfer such knowledge. 2004). 2005. as there is now a consensus that management practices differ across cultures (Chow et al. Nonaka and Takeuchi. Hence organizational approaches to knowledge sharing should not assume that an ultimate set of best practice organizational knowledge sharing routines exist (Newell. Hofstede. 2007) shows that China has a low but improving KM index compared to the US and the UK (from 3. where existing literature and preliminary research has shown that consulting organizations in the service sector are more likely to have advanced their understanding of KS as a source of innovation and competitiveness as shown by the comparative studies of Lu et al. VOL. The importance of effective knowledge sharing and resultant innovation from cross pollination of ideas leading to increased competitiveness in Chinese markets has led to Chinese practitioners and organizations seeking to contextualize or to increase their understanding of KS in a Chinese setting (Lihua.. with a paucity of critical studies (Lihua. However Dahlman and Aubert (2001) suggest that China’s aspirations in the developing knowledge economy requires in-depth understanding of all aspects of KM in Chinese organizations. 2008). An essential part of this fulfilling this aim is to explore the effects of culture on knowledge sharing in this context Five consulting firms are analyzed within the multi case study. Knowledge sharing in Chinese organizations The process of intra organizational knowledge sharing in Chinese organizations is still not widely explored (Magnier-Watanabe and Senoo. Western and Japanese management scholars have established models and assessment approaches to examine KS effects in business practices. As shown by Hofstede and Hofstede (2005). (2010) and Zhang (2008) of KS in consulting environments. 1995).48 to 4. the sources of the knowledge may be difficult to engage fully in knowledge sharing. some cultures are more open to sharing knowledge than others. 2005). 1999). 2000. 2003. 2008). Tacit knowledge by nature is difficult to articulate or to be prepared into a specific state for sharing purposes (McKenzie. 2007). Lihua. 1999). 16 NO. Defining knowledge sharing Jiacheng et al. (2010) and McKenzie (2003) suggest that knowledge sharing can be conceptualized as an activity through which knowledge in various forms can be transferred or exchanged between different actors in organizations. 2005). 2010. One of the key issues is to understand to what extent the cultural factors have impacted on KS and resultant innovation activities within organizations in China (Magnier-Watanabe and Senoo. Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) study shows that knowledge can have various forms such as explicit or tacit. The multiple organizational levels as in the current study (Mo propensity towards knowledge sharing is dependant on the value attached to the knowledge consistent with the knowledge based view of the firm (Hong et al. Hofstede and Hofstede. confidentiality and competition (Zhang. and culture (Newell. 1980. Often this knowledge resides in ¨ ller and Svahn.. 2010) where. 2010). Another feature of knowledge sharing is that of stickiness (Jiacheng et al.

among which management is the most frequently quoted. Chow et al. Martinsons and Davison (2007). 1 2012 j j . Evidence showed that: B Most papers dealt with managerial. 2006). and Chow et al. Increasingly companies in China are seen as adjusting their vision to be able to build a knowledge based organizational culture. and to what extent culture has an impact on knowledge sharing in Chinese organizations (Lin and Kwok. to develop a ‘‘learning organization’’ approach. (2000) empirically examined the interactive effects of national culture and contextual factors on employees’ tendency to share knowledge with co-workers showing that the cultural and contextual factors are not fully addressed in Western and Japanese based generalizations of KM. valuable knowledge is often shared within a group or team setting rather than through individuals. The findings show that knowledge based innovation resulting from effective knowledge sharing is considered to be a key element of KM. empirical research is rare. Chinese companies are starting to apply knowledge sharing practices from tacit and explicit interpretations of knowledge. Knowledge sharing research suggests strong cultural impacts on KM practices. seldom concerning KM utilization. Jiacheng et al. process. As a result. There is a need to understand the cultural influences on knowledge sharing practices and to examine if the current theories and developments are appropriate. Lu et al. and often needs to be adjusted. B B PAGE 132 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. Landray. 1994). Customer knowledge and relationship management could provide new focal points for knowledge sharing in the future. (2009). especially in helping to develop innovation from cross pollination of different knowledge sources in organizations (Davenport and Prusak. The strong group culture may help foster knowledge sharing and knowledge based communities of practice for knowledge sharing and dissemination as suggested by Newell (1999). much of the existing research is rather descriptive and restricted to single case studies. These findings indicate that understanding and applications of knowledge sharing is increasing however the approaches are somewhat rudimentary in comparison to western and Japanese organizations that have been practicing KM for many years. where consulting firms are seen as existing due to the premise of knowledge sharing. interpersonal and organizational’’ perspectives. Data is analyzed and presented from four aspects: research topic. has taken place between 2002 and 2007 (e. and to enhance the capability of knowledge sharing in the organization in Chinese situated studies such as Taminiau et al. However. (2010). Multiple subjects are referenced. and theoretical aspects of knowledge sharing. and unit of analysis. (2010) examine ‘‘managerial knowledge sharing’’ at ‘‘individual. B B B All of the surveys were based on a senior management single respondent approach with a lack of multi level or contextual organizational elements. reference discipline. Chen (1995) observes that management theory developed in the west has to be used carefully.g. 1998). 2007). The majority of the respondents believe that their own organizations are just beginning to implement knowledge sharing at the very early stages of KM practice. Lin and Kwok (2006) and Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) argue that Chinese people tend to be highly collectivistic with a strong group ethic in comparison to western and Japanese societies. Li and Han (2007) present findings on KM research activities in mainland China based on a review of 381 research papers published in 17 leading academic journals in China. Most papers use non-empirical research. research methods. 16 NO.A number of broad cross sectional practitioner based surveys on KM by consulting firms. 2006. organizational. There is a lack of clear identification of knowledge sharing routines and practices with linkages to operational plans. Overall. (2000). the surveys and studies reveal that: B B Chinese KM practice is at its infancy and far from mature. if it is to have explanatory power in the Chinese context (Shenkar and Von Glinow. which give analysis on different levels of knowledge sharing.

taken for granted beliefs Basic understanding and assumptions Sources: Adapted from Hofstede and Hofstede (2005). alive or dead. 16 NO. heroes. B B B Hofstede (1980) suggest these constructs can be compared to the concentric rings or skins of an ‘‘onion’’ from shallow. non-specific feelings that are often unconscious and rarely discussable. 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 133 j j . Chinese culture. Rituals are collective activities that are technically superfluous but are socially essential within a culture. and grounded in. Values form the sense of broad. superficial symbols to deeper rituals. they are therefore carried out for their own sake. gestures. (2008) and Chow et al. Hong et al. that cannot be observed as such but are manifested in behavior. and rituals can be subsumed under the term ‘‘practices’’. Shein (1996.Low individualism Artefacts KM based visual organisational structures and processes KM based: Values Rituals Heroes KM strategies. or individual and group levels. The model has a number of constructs: B Symbols are words. goals Symbols Reflecting values At all levels Espoused values KM based unconscious. Symbols. (2010) in their culturally situated studies. who possess characteristics highly prized in the culture and how this serves as modes for behavior. because they are visible to an observer although their cultural meaning lies in the way they are perceived by insiders. Constructing a knowledge sharing culture framework Hofstede (1980) and Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) model for organizational culture has been widely used in a range of organizational cultures. pictures. The value of this model to this paper is that it provides a framework to observe the effects of culture in organizational practices and routines such as knowledge transfer. These findings suggest the need to inquire into the development and adoption of knowledge sharing practices as the key products of cultural norms as suggested by Jiacheng et al. There is a lack of studies on inter-organization level. Heroes are persons. (2000) suggest the need to address cultural issues in knowledge sharing studies within China with a focus on KM processes and practices which are affected by. 1999) and Yamashita (2001) VOL. (2010) and Hong et al.High group centred . This construction is taken as the basis of the knowledge sharing framework shown in Figure 1. real or imaginary. The concentric rings of the diagram show that KM in a given culture setting emerges from deeply help sub Figure 1 KM culture model: links to KM practices National or country Culture: .B Publications are mainly focusing on organizational level. or objects that carry a particular meaning within a culture.

3. culture is embedded most deeply in the people of each nation. Schein’s (1999) holistic perspective of organizational culture resonates with the knowledge sharing and organizational culture and Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) model gives a practical approach for this paper to observe culture effects on knowledge sharing at organizational levels. Low acceptance of uncertainty at any level. been discovered or developed by a given group view that as it learns to cope with problems of external adaptation and internal sharing and integration. value. The circles integrate Schein’s culture level model (artifact. heroes and symbols. risk averse. leaders have ultimate power and are relatively unquestioned. 1 2012 j j . assertive. These dimensions can affect social behavior in employees as they seek to implement knowledge sharing routines and practices (often grounded and developed in western and Japanese contexts). Reliance on traditional power structures. and surviving in. rituals. Therefore. 16 NO.. This approach will guard against making assumptions inconsistent with Chinese culture as suggested by Zhu (2009) in his study of knowledge transfer into China. expectation that leaders will separate themselves from the group. Predominance of a caste or tribal system that limits upward mobility. Therefore individual. each society is underpinned and defined by a distinctive culture and culture provides guidance to behaviors of groups and individuals in a society. Overall this combined approach is consistent with Schein’s (1996. competitive. consistent with Hofstede’s (1980) and Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) four constructs can be identified with each of these four levels of organizational culture. lack of caring and inclusivity.g. e. national culture should be added as a fourth level of Schein’s model of organizational culture. 1999) view that culture is a pattern of basic assumptions that have evolved. High uncertainty avoidance. 1999) four levels as shown in Figure 1 and that KM practices. but with an emphasis on KM relevant factors in this regard. Hofstede’s (1980) and Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) studies on these dimensions in the Chinese context identify four cultural dimensions: 1. group and organizational KM practices and routines. according to Mobley et al. espoused values and unconscious taken for granted beliefs). The arrows are developed mainly from Hofstede’s model on organizational culture factors. suggests that a fourth level should be considered. change averse. espoused values and unconscious taken for granted) and Yamashita’s (2001) fourth level of nation culture level. process and practice which is still influenced by the core beliefs (Hofstede and Hofstede. policies and regulations. although individuals have unique character traits they also are a product of their surroundings and heritage. Yamashita’s (2001) model has been echoed by others. In addition to the constructs of Figure 1 Hofstede (1980) and Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) has developed the concept of cultural dimensions that have been studied and verified in a range of countries including the Middle Eastern context. the external environment or national culture and that of integrating internal processes to secure such adaptation and survival. Peng et al. High masculinity.conscious taken for granted beliefs in a cognate manner. their culture. In seeking to expand Hofstede’s work and framework. For example. Based on the principles of Hofstede. According to Yamashita (2001). inequalities in power and wealth. strict rules. The model infers that Hofstede’s four constructs can occur at any of Yamashita (2001) and Schein’s (1996. 2008). As the rings spread out they embrace KM structure. in apparent and sometimes unnoticeable ways which affect organizations situated in such a culture. PAGE 134 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. 2005). Yamashita (2001) notes organizational culture fulfils the part of adapting to. such as knowledge sharing will be influenced by the prevailing culture (Zhu. Yamashita (2001) in analysing Schein’s (1996) three level culture level model (artifacts. namely. High power-distance. and therefore. (2005). laws. 2009. Schein and Yamashita Figure 1 has been developed as a framework to guide inquiry into how organizational culture may affect knowledge sharing practices. 2. Four of these dimensions show unique traits for China in comparison to other countries.

and individual levels of analysis? RQ2. rituals. laws. at organizational. group. By comparing existing approaches to knowledge sharing in relation to Chinese culture along these dimensions according to their cultural dimension scores (Hofstede. 1997) Higher power-distance Characteristic Predominance of ruling class Lack of upward mobility Power restricted to ruling class Leaders are not subject to critique Leaders remain separate from employees Low acceptance of uncertainty at any level Strict rules. What are the knowledge sharing practices that are influenced by culture within the Chinese case organizations. Research methodology Perren and Ram (2004) suggest the need for inductive theory building methodologies such as case research in contingency studies to build explanations and engage in a sense making process. 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 135 j j . creativity and innovation Lack of debate and knowledge from lower levels Lack of inclusivity of diverse knowledge Lack of sensitivity to individuals needs Lack of creativity and individual input Lack of recognition of individual contributions Limited empowerment Little learning and experimentation at lower levels Higher masculinity Lower individualism Top down driven Commitment to see it through Consistency of approach Emphasis on knowledge sharing through relationships VOL. especially with respect to value. 16 NO. It is suggested that both Figure 1 and Table I give a basis for structuring the study of Chinese cultural norms on inter organizational knowledge sharing at different organizational levels. policies and regulations Change averse Risk averse Reliance on traditional power structures Assertive Competitive Exclusive Collectivist society Loyalty to the ruling group overriding individual preferences Resonance with multi level knowledge sharing Clearly defined ownership of knowledge sources Directed top down approach giving structured approaches Commitment from senior management Uniformity of approach and lack of inconsistency Clearly defined goals and objectives Clearly defined procedures Use of established methods and routines Uniform approaches Clear goals Strong business focus Incongruence with multi level knowledge sharing Lack of empowered involvement One size fits all approach Inappropriate reward and recognition Higher uncertainty avoidance Lack of learning and experimentation Lack of knowledge based critique. 1980). This view is supported by Yin (2009) who suggests the ‘‘what’’ and ‘‘how’’ Table I Cultural of influence on knowledge sharing Cultural dimension ratings for China in comparison to western countries – Hofstede (1980. Two inter-related research questions arise from the literature are and the concepts of Figure 1 and Table I: RQ1.4. group. Low individualism. Collectivist society. and for the four layers shown in Figure 1. and symbols as reflected in KM practices. loyalty to the ruling group or family overriding individual preferences. some tentative conclusions may be drawn in relation to the effect of these dimensions on knowledge sharing as shown in Table I. and individual levels of analysis? How does culture influence knowledge sharing. heroes. in the case organizations at organizational.

Wei. Repeat interviews were used to add more depth to the findings. SMEs are more likely to be effective at knowledge sharing due to their size and relatively informal structure. An adapted version of Radnor and Boaden’s (2004) method for analyzing qualitative multiple case research data was used in the study. The research was carried out in three phases as shown in Table II. and subsequently interpreted using the literature. topics and categories were constructed from the interview transcripts using NVIVO software for each of the interviews within the Cases. and add new findings in a cyclical manner. Cannon. 2000. Firstly. using NVIVO qualitative data analysis software. observations Table III Case organizations Case Pilot 1 2 3 4 Employees 121 120 167 80 80 Service sector Training and consulting services Media services Project management consulting services Materials consulting services Hi-tech marketing consulting services Interviews 8 8 8 8 8 Focus groups 2 2 2 2 2 PAGE 136 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. resolve anomalies.e. Focus group data was used to check Table II Paper key activities: timeframe Research phase Phase 1 Key activities in China Interviews with experts in knowledge sharing – including leaders of two Chinese knowledge management centers and the managing directors of six Chinese business consulting firms Pilot study in China Main study in China Review with interviewees for the findings in China Approach and methods Elite interviews ( of the research questions are suited to this type of interpretative research philosophy to enable in-depth and iterative and cumulative theory building inquiry. interviews. 16 NO. The chosen research methodology was that of multiple Case studies which is suited to the interpretive research approach (Yin. focus groups. 1 2012 j j . The two KM centers had developed a frequently quoted China KM trend forecast and were considered to be the expert in understanding the latest development of KM meta trends in China and provided KM consulting services to clients from governmental organizations to commercial companies. The findings were then coded within tables and areas of commonality or disagreement noted. representing growth and maturity. The cases selected are shown in Table III. 1990). with recognized experts). selecting consulting organizations from a single region was more likely to minimize the effect of inter-regional differences which can be significant within China (Horowitz and Marsh. Phases 1 of the research also showed that the suitable consulting organizations were mainly in the SME size category. Ambos and Schlegelmilch (2009). namely stage four. Given the emergent nature of KM in Chinese organizations selection of cases from other sectors may not have yielded a sufficient body of KS routines and practices for the study. Furthermore. focus groups Phase 2 Phase 3 Case study. The case selection criteria involved consulting based organizations which were more likely to have been in the vanguard of KM and knowledge sharing and to have systematically linked knowledge sharing and practices to give competitive advantage as suggested by Taminiau et al. 2009). (2009). 2002. To minimize lifecycle effects and to focus on developing organizations it was decided that the case organizations should all be at a common lifecycle stage as determined by Churchill and Lewis’s (1983) model. and Zhang (2008). The cases were all chosen as being Chinese owned to minimize the influence of outside culture and to ensure that the cultural influences were that of the prevailing Chinese culture. observations Confirmatory interviews and focus groups.

and individual levels. and organization). possibly reflecting the high power distance aspect of Chinese culture in that involvement was not nurtured or valued to the same degree at lower levels (Jiacheng et al. Discussion The discussion section is based on the three levels of analysis i. add more depth to the findings. This linkage was helped by the project or process nature of these two cases in contrast with the more hierarchical structure of cases 3 and 4. The managing director of case 1 stated: Leaders in this organization [. 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 137 j j . including time and systems. e. interviews. This tabular presentation of the data reflects the approach of Yin (2009) where Table IV is based on the analysis and synthesis of the data sources for each case (i. 16 NO. 2010). The leader was also able to articulate the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge and recognized the implications for KS and the need for a more formal KS system within the organization. but did not label much of this activity using KM terminology to avoid conflict with Chinese culture and terminology. They also claimed to encourage the use of feedback on the effectiveness of KS and the use of KS performance measures at lower levels. group. The results in Table IV and 5 are consistent with Perren and Ram’s (2004) inductive approach where the findings and constructs are compared in an iterative manner. group/team.e. . Knowledge sharing at corporate/organizational level The linkage between knowledge sharing. had mixed responses within the case findings. He took the lead of knowledge sharing. However the leader of case 2 recognized the informal and social nature of KS in teams but expressed concern about undermining the status of existing processes at group level. finance manager – selected at random). focus group.g. and add new findings (each focus group consisted of the 2 members of the management team (titles varied from case to case – . although being a key theme in the literature. The KM terminology mainly came from the leader who had previously been trained in KM within western organizations and hence acted as a hero figure or key influencer instead of large scale participation (Hofstede and Hofstede.] take part in outside activities to convert knowledge and have positive comments and thinking towards new ideas. Table V). 2005. The findings in Table IV mainly address RQ1. Hence the findings of Table IV were interpreted in relation to the framework and constructs of Figure 1 and Table I to produce Table V which is mainly focused on addressing RQ2. innovation. and high VOL. 2009). resolve anomalies. reflecting the high power distance (top down approach). low individualism (little freedom to share). . There is a need for evidence tables. two team leaders (or group leaders.selected at random) and two employees (selected at random from any discipline). HR manager. documentation and observation) at each of the three levels of analysis (individual. corporate. such as Table IV. operations manager.existing ideas. However there was little evidence of these claims at group or individual levels. and improved organizational performance.. The leaders and senior management of Cases 1 and 2 had positive perceptions of the role of knowledge sharing in aiding innovation and profitability. The researcher facilitated the focus groups in discussing knowledge transfer across organizational levels in a semi structured format as suggested by Yin (2009). Results The results have been presented in tabular form due to the qualitative nature of the study (Tables IV and V). The leadership from case 2 although supportive of KM and KS were less informed and had not embodied the link between KS and innovation and performance. He was considered by his subordinates to be a well-experienced and educated leader in relation to KS. to be further analyzed or abstracted in relation to the guiding framework or theory of the study (Yin. In case 1 the senior team allocated resources down to group/team level to encourage knowledge sharing.e.

innovation and performance linked Some understanding of the link in new service project teams but lack of between KS. proxy fro involvement ks. Lack of understanding of the Limited recognition of the need for terminology of KS and KM KS-reliance on established procedures Individuals roles in KS not Knowledge is power and status communicated from the top down mentality. innovation and performance Rhetoric of individual KS contributions communicated from top level ks seen as part of a team process No KS incentives Little grasp of KM terminology Group/team level Corporate/organizational level Support for innovation from KS (resources allocated to project teams/group level) Feedback on the effectiveness of KS to group managers (no measures) Recognition of KS through involvement Leader trained in west-accepted KM and KS terminology. stated the need for a more formal KS system.Table IV Multi level knowledge sharing case findings Case 1 Individual level Some understanding of the link between KS. understanding of tacit and explicit knowledge. and innovation Lack of explicit KS approaches. difficulties in defining No KS performance measures or different types of knowledge incentives Lack of acceptance of the value of ks seen as part of a team or group different employee backgrounds for KS process No evident KS performance measures Little opportunity to apply knowledge Implicit KS occur within the team outside the established systems processes through status based No evidence of heroes relationships Rituals such as the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year had limited KS opportunities Hero-computer manager with western KS experience-tended to be systems orientated Post project reviews limited to formal systems reviews Outdoor training used to break down silos but not supported afterwards Perceived some aspects of KS to be subversive Support for innovation without recognition of the link to formal KS (internal or external) Feedback and the effectiveness of KS were not considered Lack of recognition of cultural effects on KS Informal approaches seen as poor formal approaches No obvious heroes with the leader and the senior management having only general awareness of KM terms Difficulty separating tacit and explicit knowledge (Continued) PAGE 138 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. 1 2012 j j . KS technology needs improved Reliance on heroes for KS rather than participation Support for innovation without recognition of the link to formal KS Feedback and the effectiveness of KS were not considered Recognition of KS through informal meetings at group level although wary of undermining existing processes The leader and the senior management team had an awareness of KM terms but had difficulty separating tacit and explicit knowledge Reliance on heroes for KS rather than participation 2 3 ks. 16 NO. and innovation explicit KS approaches Lack of understanding of the importance of innovation in relation to Difficulties in defining KS and different types of knowledge within the teams performance Lack of KS performance measures Individuals roles in KS not ks occur within the team processes communicated from the top down through status based relationships ks seen as part of a team process rather than formally planned No KS incentives Use of business improvement tools Little grasp of KM terminology such as brainstorming without the KS label Rituals such as the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year had informal group elements for KS Hero-technical manager with western KS experience Post project reviews limited to formal systems reviews Little understanding of the link between ks limited by hierarchical structure and limited KM appreciation at the top level KS. innovation and performance systematically linked in new service project teams Difficulties in defining different types of knowledge within the teams Some rudimentary KS performance measures ks built into the team processes through status based relationships Rituals such as banquets to award teams KS elements implicit.

Cases 3 and 4 were more hierarchical in structure. and to facilitate people with different backgrounds working together in knowledge based processes. especially at the corporate level. unwarranted use of resources and training) Support for innovation without recognition of the link to formal KS Informal KS approaches seen as needing formalization and rigor No obvious heroes with the leader and the senior management having limited uncertainty avoidance (little opportunity to share outside the formalized processes (Tables IV and V). 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 139 j j . The high power distance was reflected in the leadership of both cases 3 and 4 in that some elements of KS were considered to be subversive to the power structure within the organizations (reflecting low individualism). However these findings also show that at Corporate level both the value of the knowledge and the culture context affect the degree of KS i. the high power distance construct limits KS in a downwards direction from corporate levels in the case organizations. 16 NO. Supporting technology was needed to facilitate the knowledge process in the cases. In relation to the literature Hong et al. However the managers were able to give examples of how tacit knowledge had been used in innovation process teams (mainly individual’s VOL. 2009). a higher group or collectivist ethos was detected in all of the organizations. The lack of importance placed on KS. Knowledge sharing at group or team levels Throughout the study. (2008) shows that propensity towards knowledge sharing is dependant on the value attached to the knowledge. and consistent with the findings of Hofstede and Hofstede (2005). 2009. as McKenzie (2003) noted in relation to developing tacit knowledge in business consulting firms. Thus. and understanding of different types of knowledge. Ambos and Schlegelmilch. this level was a key focus in knowledge sharing. rather than being positively associated with innovation and improved performance (Tables IV and V). This approach also caused difficulties for free forming communities of practice to share knowledge at lower levels.e.. was transmitted down through the lower levels due to the high power distance culture (Taminiau et al.g. The high power distance factor also limits the recognition that knowledge resides and multiplies in multiple organizational levels ¨ ller and through multiple interactions as shown by Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) and Mo Svahn (2004). regardless of structure. Cases 1 and 2 which had the most advanced approaches to KS recognized difficulties in trying to convert knowledge into innovation.Table IV Case 4 Individual level Little understanding of KS other than social interaction with employees Reward and recognition only at team or group level Lack of understanding of the terminology of KS and KM Need for individuals roles in KS not communicated from the top down No KS performance measures Little opportunity to experiment or apply knowledge outside the established rules and systems No evidence of heroes Group/team level No KS pressure or recognition from the top level ks and knowledge as an asset seen as not fitting with the accounting procedures Lack of knowledge of explicit KS approaches to KS Knowledge seen as privileged and relation to power and status within groups and teams ks seen as necessary within multifunction design teams No formal KS performance measures Implicit KS occur within the team processes through status based relationships Rituals such as the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year had limited KS opportunities Reward and recognition limited to sales teams in terms of turnover and profit Corporate/organizational level The leader and senior management team considered some aspects of KS to be detrimental to effective organization and management Traditional hierarchical structure and management style focused mainly on financial performance measures KS and profit not seen as commensurate in some circumstances (e.

A hero is sometimes the founder of the organization or an everyday worker who had a tremendous impact on the organization. thrift. according to the results. Outdoor training was seen as a good way to share knowledge and break walls between groups and departments in case 2.Table V Knowledge sharing analysis based on Figure 1 and Table 1 and 4 Value Literature Hofstede’s (1998. the way of doing things as an organization or a group. 3C and a system supposed to be able to reward good employees yet not everyone is aware of that in case 1. particularly on innovation was found due partly because of the short term profit focus. 3. Yamashita (2001) explained how leader was the key for an organizational culture Innovation and sharing heroes were likely to be the leader of the company or group leader of a project. Case 2. attitudes. Case 3 was able to identify that KS celebrations were usually run based on the successful completion of certain projects in lessons learned formats. However. A hero is an exemplary person who reflects the image. Short term orientation stands for the fostering of virtues related to the past and present. identified that people from long-term oriented cultures tend to give high importance to values such as persistence towards slow results. 4 did not show a clearly defined system to encourage KS activities. However case 1 sent one employee to the UK to learn art and design from a long term plan. Davenport and Prusak (1998). Informal meetings and outdoor activities were also considered. Scholl (2003): culture variables: Scholl (2003) described ‘‘what types of behavior does culture control?’’ with variables such as innovation versus stability. Case 1 gave results of strong Chinese style thinking in KS with ‘‘harmonious’’ management as a culture which could be seen in Wiig (2004) Hofstede’s (1998. 1998) gave the importance of culture on KS with different layers. These findings support the above literature review Hofstede’s (1998. Hofstede. and external stakeholders. The honorees are meant to exemplify and inspire all employees of the company during the rest of the year All cases had the Chinese New Year as the most important occasion as KS events. Davenport and Prusak’s (1998) KS model (2003. findings support the view that KS sharing need to be voluntary. Case 3 and 4 also show short-term focus overcomes longer term planning (Scholl 2003). as in case 3 and case 4 and the risk avoidance of practices even if the leader himself advocated innovation. instead of forced Confucian dynamism (long-term orientation vs short term orientation) (Hofstede. outcome versus process orientation. was in fact shaping the organizational culture. Case 4 showed a strong outcome overcomes process culture. and Case 4 all suggested stability overtakes innovation at certain levels for different reasons. Davenport and Prusak (1998). 1999) theory that culture was aimed at problem solving or survival. employees. New employees eager to obtain knowledge are more willing to share with others in order to gain. Wiig (2004) suggested KS must be in harmony with culture and with the joint values of the enterprise. in particular respect for tradition. Case 2. based his fifth dimension on Confucius. strategic versus operational focus: The degree to which the members of the management team focus on the long term bigger picture versus attention to detail. 2003) model. Findings also suggested that even if there was no formally established organizational culture statement or system regarding KM. and quarterly meetings can acknowledge distinguished employees for outstanding service in relation to KS tenets. Awards banquets. 16 NO. Yamashita (2001) Case 1 has formally stated terms on KS such as 3S. Rituals are routines or ceremonies that the company uses to recognize high-performing employees. Case 2 had a formally established annual ‘‘Best Employee’’ ceremony based on knowledge sharing criteria. Case 1 had regular group brainstorming sessions to develop new knowledge from all employees in group settings. preservation of ‘‘face’’ and fulfilling social obligations The negligence on KS as a system at strategic level. 2003) model. which was also considered as one part of the ‘‘harmonious culture’’ Findings Hero Literature Findings Ritual Literature Findings Symbol Literature Findings Confucian dynamism Literature Findings PAGE 140 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. Schein (1996): values were more easily studied than basic assumptions KM culture model has been proven to be valid and able to generate meaningful and robust results from KS studies. The reason why certain KS related activities were taken supported Schein’s (1996. company gatherings. or values of the organization and serves as a role model to other employees. 2003) model. 1 2012 j j . savings and having a sense of shame. 1994): Long term orientation cultures value virtues oriented toward future rewards. in particular perseverance and thrift. and case 3 Hofstede’s (1998) model. although ‘‘customer needs’’ and ‘‘development of the organizational’’. Values were the basic beliefs that define employees’ successes in an organization. Case 3.

since they were ‘‘following rigorous accounting rules’’ (case 4 finance manager) and thus reflected the higher uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension (Tables I and IV). the Chinese case organizations. There was some evidence of heroes (Table V) at the group level. The group or team levels in cases 3 and 4 were critical of the senior management’s lack of leadership in stressing the importance of KM and KS. However the individual’s who supplied the tacit knowledge received no formal recognition as there was a group or collectivist culture and lower individualism (Hofstede and Hofstede. 1999). However. and improve human interaction and socialization. which I believe can facilitate a better environment to stimulate innovation. This lack of leadership was reflected in inadequate incorporation of KS within teams and processes. Hofstede and Hofstede. sharing. there was little evidence of formal support mechanisms for this approach. Group or project groups were more likely to have tacit knowledge converted into explicit activities and routines (Newell. and poor KM processes. poor communication between people and projects in different sections that were working on similar projects. For example. These problems led to frustration in the sales and marketing managers within cases 3 and 4 who suffered from incomplete or poorly thought through new service offerings (e. 1998. Past research has suggested that producing explicit knowledge from tacit sources involves the use of documents. and ‘‘informal meetings and conversations are useful’’ (case 2 general manager). these frustrations which reflected the higher power distance which overarched the ¨ ller and Svahn. with the views from interviewees that ‘‘appropriate documents and journals are there for everyone to read’’ (case 1 project manager). 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 141 j j . This tacit exchange was summarized by an HR manager from case 2: This is day to day practices. 2004. Table V). to innovation efforts. which enhance the flow of tacit knowledge through establishing a shared culture. From his cross-culture view. delays in analyzing feedback from customers. as well as human resource management. Lihua. reflecting the low individualism culture (Hofstede and Hofstede. an individual’s electronics expertise within an events planning team – case 2). This view is supported from the findings in rhetoric. especially cases 1 and 2) were more focused on knowledge sharing at group level consistent with Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) Chinese culture analysis. This finding was consistent with previous research (Davenport and Prusak. The case 1 marketing manager suggested that people from all departments were involved in innovative thinking and contributing tacit knowledge. Davenport and Prusak (1998) found that in relation to western organizations there was a focus on institutional solutions to the problems of knowledge creation. in case 3 developments in materials handling and packaging had not been sent through to the marketing manager in a timely manner). and still trying to figure out more in depth approaches to KS that addressed ingrained Chinese cultural issues. and application in the early years of KM. 2005) in that tacit knowledge is not easy to transfer and often occurs informally.g. group or collectivist culture dimension (Mo 2005). 2005. VOL. consistent with the OECD (2002) results. as were all of the cases. as well as explicit knowledge. in case 4 the marketing manager had not received the latest technological information to inform clients. Due to functional barriers the HR manager from case 1 believed the ability to convert tacit knowledge into innovation varied from department to department. lack of KS records of project based lessons learned. However. One Interviewee who was a technical manager in case 2 had become a recognized and influential voice due to having had several years of experience of KS from working in the UK. In cases 3 and 4 the lack of emphasis on understanding of some of the KM and KS principles led to lack of tacit knowledge recognition and use. he believed that this company was very young. 16 NO. however there was little evidence that this approach was actively encouraged and incentivised at an individual level. 2005).expertise in scientific training used within a new service development team – case 1. Holland and other European countries. the design department was more likely to have this conversion while the finance department might be less likely to need conversion of tacit knowledge to innovation. even though a number of interviewees at this level recognized the importance of KS. repositories and processes. We do not have a system to do this. inappropriate technology to support processes.

16 NO. more in a reflective manner with each other in extended group situations than in other formal occasions where the exchanges related more to explicit knowledge (Ambos and Schlegelmilch. Chinese are more about personal links. with award criteria based on knowledge sharing and use.] I would be interested to know what kind of person would take a role like CKO. the annual banquet was the key ceremonial event involving customers where formal and informal knowledge sharing occurred. In all of the cases the relatively rigid and formalized processes were enabled by relationships between team members that were built on trust and status and which were long established. The findings are consistent with those of Hutchinson and Quintas (2008) who identified the many layers and elements of culture.A key issue for KS at this level was relationships. in case 1.. Outdoor training was seen as a good way to break down walls between groups and departments in case 1 and to facilitate ongoing knowledge sharing. These findings reflect the higher uncertainty avoidance and low individualism culture dimensions (Table I) where open criticism from employees leading to change was not readily accepted (Chow et al. Case 2 had a requirement to ask employees to upload project reports on finished cases. Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995). The research results support Schein’s (1996. 1 2012 j j . The case 2 HR manager argued that: Project experience sharing sessions were not very helpful because usually the seminar speakers were not the leaders. Western companies are more about systems and rules. There were a number of celebrations or ‘‘rituals’’ (Figure 1. and is consistent with Hodfstede and Hofstede (2005) finding that Chinese culture has a much stronger group ethos with supporting rituals in comparison to western organizations. On these occasions there were informal opportunities to share knowledge. Hofstede and Hofstede. However. Table IV). 1999) research suggesting that culture was what a group learns over a period of time as the group solves its problems of survival. 2009). case 3 and case 4 all showed the importance of the ‘‘Chinese new year’’ and ‘‘spring festival’’ gathering which the most important session for ceremonial purpose in the organizations. Table V. However in the cases the lack of maturity in KM and KS led to a lack of differentiation in these types of knowledge and hence PAGE 142 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. Table I) development and application in the research process. 2000). in terms of rituals. he further stated that the relationships for KS were not orchestrated and there were no defined KS roles: There are no special people to manage knowledge sharing relationships in this company [. Overall the Chinese New Year was the most important ritual to celebrate. value and tacit shared assumptions and manifestations of culture which were proved to be useful in the KM culture framework (Figure 1. we have more so called Chinese Characteristics. . A case 3 HR manager stated that these relationships enabled: ‘‘learning by sharing’’. But we are still a very modern company. For example. SECI classification is widely used throughout the literature). The study found that there were many examples of implicit KS through these relationships at group level (consistent with low individualism – Hofstede and Hofstede. which according to some of the interviewees was not very useful for KS as they were limited to being ‘‘cold facts’’ or ‘‘could not give a full picture of the project’’. which mean the presentations could not give the most useful knowledge to others. . The literature in relation to KS at group level shows the need to understand tacit and explicit knowledge and the processes whereby they interact (e. In this way. Case 2. Group level process which included KS was more developed in cases 1 and 2. 2005) that related to KM. case 1 had a formally established annual ceremony. especially tacit knowledge. A case 2 interviewee (client manager) stated: You have to be aware of who you are managing as your Chinese subordinates are more likely to share their thoughts with you and follow your steps if you were considered as one of them.g. Commenting on these rituals an interviewee from case 2 (finance manager) argued: How we do things here might be different from abroad. 2005. Further.

1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 143 j j . consistent with Hofstede and Hofstede’s (2005) finding in regard to the role of relationships in sharing knowledge. This limiting of individual contributions to KS was ultimately reflected in frustrations at group level with insufficient innovation from project teams. These findings are consistent with the studies of Lu et al. when imbued with a KS ethos.e. i. In relation to RQ1 the KS routines and practices are identified as shown in Table IV and in relation to RQ2 the links to Figure 1 and Table I are shown. it was not strategically integrated within the case organizations. (2000) and Hofstede and Hofstede (2005). in terms of high degrees of collectivism and power distance had an effect on how an individual’s contributions to knowledge were perceived. reflecting the lower individualism. higher masculinity and higher power distance cultural dimensions (Table I). Therefore Hong et al. In relation to the literature on individual contributions to KS there is an underlying premise. and a lack of structure and systems for knowledge sharing.e. Table I. (2010) suggest that individual knowledge can contribute to other individuals or groups and interact to generate new knowledge in a social constructionist manner. As shown by Hofstede and Hofstede (2005). (2010) suggest that sources of the knowledge may be difficult to engage fully in knowledge sharing (i. consistent with Chow et al. Conclusions Based on the KM-culture framework of Figure 1. especially in tacit form. The effect at individual level is indirect in that the Hofstede dimensions cannot be applied at individual level. 1999). as shown by Davenport and Prusak (1998). Group level stickiness in KS was exacerbated by both the effect of high power distance culture and the need to maintain power differentials as found by O’Neil and Adya (2007). 1995. and individual. Lin and Kwok (2006). 16 NO. however there some evidence from the cases that globalization and individual leaders with experience of KM in other cultures were having some effect. Possibly these relationships. the cultural dimensions (Table I). that an individual’ experience will be unique and hence their knowledge repository will differ to some degree in relation to others. may become a rich conduit for producing knowledge based innovation in addition to existing formalized processes in the case organizations. The findings reflects Zhu’s (2009) and Newall’s (1999) conclusion that an ultimate set of best practice organizational knowledge sharing routines cannot exist independent of situated culture (Newell. stickinesss). Knowledge sharing at individual level Cases 1 and 2 showed evidence of individual employees at lower levels having an understanding of KM and KS to some degree. 1998). however the cultural effects at group/team levels. (2010). Jiacheng et al. and the case findings (Tables IV and V) it is concluded in relation to RQ1 and RQ2. some cultures are more open to sharing knowledge than others. McKenzie (2003) suggests that transferring such knowledge requires more experiential devising effectual methods to share such knowledge both within and across groups and teams. However the strong group culture and low individualism in China (Hofstede and Hofstede. namely corporate. Zhu (2009) and Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) who suggest that the high collectivistic and strong group ethic can limit the individual contribution. However there was lack of individual empowerment to contribute to KS or to effect change to add to KS other than through the group or team level. group. that knowledge sharing in the case organizations is influenced by the prevailing Chinese culture at three main levels. However the cultural emphasis on relationships offered some channel for individual influence but even this effect was moderated by status within such relationships. VOL. Table V) was found to limit this effect and produce a more homogenous way of producing knowledge in a group rather than at individual level (Davenport and Prusak. such as apprenticeships and job shadowing which were not fully utilized within the cases in attempts to transfer this knowledge.

a lack of consideration of a wider range of knowledge types. This finding presents a key challenge to implementing KM in Chinese organizations where there is a lack of exposure to other cultures. consistent with Horowitz and Marsh (2002). 2007). and to recognize that knowledge and its construction can occur at multiple organizational levels. 1999). However in cases 3 and 4. 2005). consistent with Zhu’s (2009) Chinese cross border studies. (2008) and the possible debilitating effect of status or power differentials (O’Neil and Adya. These studies could focus on the group/team level of analysis to obtain the most benefit from the studies. However cognisance must be taken of the positive moderating effect of the importance of relationships within these groupings as suggested by Peng et al. where the leaders had less understanding of KS the higher power distance was found to result in a lack of downward impetus to establish KS approaches. The lack of upward impetus from creative individuals can result in the team/group levels stagnating and not having sufficient porosity for new ideas. lower individualism and higher masculine cultural norms tending to auger against experimentation and risk taking by employees. 16 NO. where KS was less recognized. 2009). From the case 1 and 2 findings it is concluded that relationships were key in overcoming the lack of KS in infrastructure and processes. As shown by Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995). and noting that Hofstede’s (1980) work in not applied at individual level. Due recognition should be given to the PAGE 144 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT VOL. higher power distance. There is an opportunity to develop a set of situated KM models. For example failure to recognize the emphasis on group culture and high power distance may limit KS methods. tools and techniques that have worked effectively elsewhere (Zhu. It is concluded that there was a lack of empowerment and involvement in KS due to the strong group culture. In case 1 the leader’s western experience of KS gave him a hero status (Hofstede and Hofstede. From the group/team level findings it is concluded that prevailing collective culture made this level central to attempts to increase KS.It is concluded that at corporate level the higher power distance dimension resulted in a formalized top down approach in cases 1 and 2 where there was a more established approach to KM. It is also concluded that rituals such as the Chinese New Year and Harvest Festival events had opportunities for informal KS. In relation to the individual level. 1 2012 j j . These relationships offered an opportunity for KS at an informal level but were moderated by status within the relationships (Hofstede and Hofstede. the group or collectivist culture tended to be wary of free forming communities of practice and to stifle individual efforts (lower individualism – Table IV) to promote KS and where there was little downward pressure for change on the group level. Recommendations Further research Further research could develop and refine the theoretical approach to KS in relation to Chinese cultural developments. It is concluded that at group/team levels there is an opportunity for the collectivist or group cultural ethic to act as platforms for KS using free forming techniques such as communities of practice and learning networks (Newell. However in cases 3 and 4. tools and techniques in the Chinese context. can result in rhetoric of KM which will displace effective KS. However in case 1 some individuals tried to channel their individual efforts through the established relationships within the groups/teams within the case organizations. Individual efforts to instill change tended to be looked on with suspicion at group levels. there was an indirect effect due to the effect of culture at group/team levels. that organizations from other countries seeking to collaborate with Chinese organizations must consider the likely effects on Chinese cultural norms to avoid unnecessary tensions and misalignments. Implications for practice From a practical perspective it is suggested. Such studies could probe the impact of globalization on these issues by using a wider range of case organizations. 2005) in helping to disseminate KS practice.

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Shenkar.mcadam@ ulster. China. (2004). VT. Aldershot and Burlington. Vol. Management VOL. 40 No. His research focuses on knowledge management and innovation implementation within large organizations and SMEs and he has published a large number of papers in international peer reviewed journals in this area. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. About the authors Rodney McAdam is Professor in Innovation Management at the Ulster Business School. pp. 1. Yin. London.K. Vol. Design and Methods. DC. Case Study Research. ‘‘China and the knowledge economy: challenges and opportunities’’. Vol. Her expertise on knowledge management contributes to her being one of the UK’s leading authors in this field. 13 No. Wei. (1994). Wiig. 56-71. ‘‘Research on knowledge transfer and knowledge integration mode of knowledge consulting service’’. Journal of Knowledge Management.. Magee Campus. China and international business environment. Ashgate. 1. (2001). She has received a number of research awards and citations for her work. O. and de Lange. London. 82 No. NY. No. (2000). 19-34. University of Ulster. People-Focused Knowledge Management: How Effective is your Organisation. Z. Human Systems Management. ‘‘Transferring management knowledge into China: a conceptual model and case study’’. 9-27. pp. W. and Von Glinow. 16 NO. Rodney is a regular conference speaker at international conferences on SME issues and supervises a number of PhD students in this area. ‘‘The process of knowledge transfer: a diachronic analysis of stickiness’’. international business management.A. ‘‘Uncovering paradox in organizational theory and methods: using the case of China to illustrate cultural contingency’’. available at: CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure). Changchun. Dr Peng’s research focuses on technology and knowledge management. She is a core member of the Business and Management Research Institute. pp.cnki. Doctor in Management thesis for Jilin University. To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. Regional Development in China: States. Smit.J. Sage. (2007). Y. Globalization and Inequality. S. New York. (2009). Jian Peng obtained her PhD in Knowledge Management at the University of Ulster. World Bank. Butterworth-Heinemann. She obtained her MBA from Cardiff University and her MA in Contemporary Chinese Society from Sichuan University. UK and Canada in marketing and business management consulting. 42-56. A. (2008). (2009).com Or visit our web site for further details: www. She has many years of work experience in China.emeraldinsight. October 20. pp. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. (2000). in particular. http://search. 28 Nos 1/2. ‘‘Innovation in management consulting firms through informal knowledge sharing’’. Routledge. Yamashita. Rodney McAdam is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: r. Taminiau. 4223. External funding has enabled Dr Moffett to undertake extensive quantitative/qualitative research to benchmark KM implementation within UK companies. M. Szulanski. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Sandra Moffett is a Lecturer of Computer Science with the University of Ulster’s School of Computing and Intelligent Systems. Zhang. Y. (2009). Washington. Before joining the university he worked in the aerospace industry. 1 2012 JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT PAGE 147 j j . Zen. Healthy Culture and Unhealthy Culture. R. Vol. He has published extensively in the area of knowledge management and innovation management. UK and a member of the China Association for Management of Technology in the UK. D. 1. G. Zhu.

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