MNCs and knowledge management : A typology and key features

Emerald Group Publishing
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Knowledge Management, 2006, 10 (1), pp. 44 - 54
Issue Date:
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Abstract Purpose - In the literature there is inherent lack of process-oriented, evolutionary perspectives of organizational knowledge as it pertains to international business. To fill this gap, the aim of this paper is to draw on existing theories of the multinational corporation (MNC) and integrate it with knowledge management research to analyze key knowledge management features and dynamics of different types of MNCs. The paper aims at proposing a link between types of MNCs and knowledge management strategies applied by MNCs. Design/methodology/approach - The paper uses a series of examples from MNCs worldwide to propose a knowledge management based typology of MNCs and to illustrate how they exhibit different strategic dynamics related to knowledge management. Findings - An important stream of literature on MNCs distinguishes between two traditional models for established MNCs, originally described as ethnocentric and polycentric models. A common theme in these studies propose that dramatic changes in the competitive environment has reduced the effectiveness of traditional MNC approaches, highlighting the need to move toward network-based structures. Building on the evolutionary perspective of MNCs, the paper suggests a third type of MNC characterized by a virtual infrastructure based on an e-business model. The paper argues that this type may be more appropriate for organizing managerial activities across organizational and national boundaries in the new web-based knowledge economy. Practical implications - The paper suggests that whereas traditional MNCs invite for management interventions based on centralized economies of information, it makes more sense to manage networked MNCs as integrated learning organizations and e-business based MNCs as boundary-less virtual communities of practice.
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