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Knowledge transfer in the fields of Organizational development and organizational learning, is the practical problem of getting a packet of knowledge from one part of the organization to another (or all other) parts of the organization. It is considered to be more than just a communications problem. If it were merely that, then a memorandum, an e-mail or a meeting would accomplish the knowledge transfer. Knowledge transfer is more complex because (1) knowledge is resides in organizational members, tools, tasks, and their subnetworks (Argote & Ingram 2000) and (2) much knowledge in organizations is tacit or hard to articulate (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995).

Argote & Ingram (1999) define knowledge transfer as "the process through which one unit (e.g., group, department, or division) is affected by the experience of another" (p 151). They further point out the transfer of organizational knowledge (i.e., routine or best practices) can be observed through changes in the knowledge or performance of recipient units. The transfer of organizational knowledge, such as best practices, can be quite difficult to acheive (Szulanski 1996).

Challenges Edit

What complicates knowledge transfer? There are many factors, including:

  • The inability to recognize & articulate "compiled" or highly intuitive competencies - tacit knowledge idea (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995)
  • geography or distance (Gailbraith 1990)
  • lack of a shared/superordinate social identity (Kane, Argote, & Levine 2005)
  • language
  • areas of expertise
  • internal conflicts (for example, professional territoriality)
  • generational differences
  • union-management relations
  • incentives
  • the use of visual representations to transfer knowledge (Knowledge visualization)
  • problems with sharing beliefs, assumptions, heuristics and cultural norms.
  • previous exposure or experience with something.
  • misconceptions
  • faulty information
  • organizational culture non-conducive to knowledge sharing (the "Knowledge is power" culture)

Everett Rogers pioneered diffusion of innovations theory, presenting a research-based model for how and why individuals and social networks adopt new ideas, practices and products. In anthropology, the concept of diffusion also explores the spread of ideas among cultures.

Process Edit

  • identifying the key knowledge holders within the organization
  • motivating them to share
  • designing a sharing mechanism to facilitate the transfer
  • executing the transfer plan
  • measuring to ensure the transfer
  • applying the knowledge transferred


  • mentoring
  • guided experience
  • simulation
  • guided experimentation
  • work shadowing
  • paired work
  • communities of practice

Incorrect usageEdit

Knowledge transfer is often used as a synonym for training.

See also Edit

External links Edit

References Edit

  • Argote, L., P. Ingram (2000). "Knowledge transfer A Basis for Competitive Advantage in Firms." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 82(1): 150-169.
  • Galbraith, C. S. (1990). "Transferring core manufacturing technologies in high-technology firms." California Management Review 32: 56-70.
  • Kane, A. A., L. Argote, J. Levine (2005). "Knowledge transfer between groups via personnel rotation: Effects of social identity and knowledge quality." Organizational Behavior And Human Decision Processes 96(1): 56-71.
  • Nonaka, I. and H. Takeuchi (1995). The knowledge-creating company. New York, Oxford University Press.
  • Szulanski, G. (1996). "Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm." Strategic Management Journal 17: 27-43.Template:Knowledge transfer
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