Overcoming Stickiness: How the Timing of Knowledge Transfer Methods Affects Transfer Difficulty
Abstract Knowledge transfer can be facilitated through the judicious timing of transfer methods. Yet, extant research has neglected the impact of the timing of transfer methods. Departing from this observation, we theorize the existence of two knowledge transfer modes—“front-loading” and “back-loading”—based on whether the affordance for tacit knowledge exchange provided by the transfer methods used is higher during the initiation or during the implementation phase of a transfer. We suggest that the impact of front-loading and back-loading on transfer difficulty is contingent on the causal ambiguity of the knowledge being transferred and on the arduousness of the relationship between the source and the recipient of knowledge. We operationalize front-loading and back-loading and test our propositions using primary data on 2,711 instances of method use in 116 transfers of 37 organizational practices in 8 companies. We hypothesize and find empirical support for the claim that front-loading affordance for tacit knowledge exchange reduces transfer difficulty when the causal ambiguity of the knowledge to be transferred is high, whereas it increases difficulty when the relationship between the source and recipient of knowledge is arduous.
Bio Dr. Dimo Ringov is Assistant Professor of Strategy at ESADE Business School. He holds PhD and MSc degrees in Management from INSEAD (France and Singapore) as well as an MBA degree from Purdue University (USA). Since joining ESADE, he has offered Corporate and Global Strategy courses in the EMBA, MBA, and MSc programs of ESADE Business School. His research focuses on how firms deal with the 1 to N problem, i.e., how firms scale (transfer, replicate) valuable innovations, practices or business models to grow value. Leveraging a knowledge and process perspective, his work has examined how properties of the scaling/transfer process, such as replication accuracy, the type and timing of knowledge transfer methods, or the type and timing of adaptations during implementation, affect performance outcomes. Dr. Ringov has published in leading academic and practitioner journals such as Organization Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Perspectives, MIT Sloan Management Review, and Corporate Governance. Moreover, his research has been honoured with the Booz Allen Hamilton award as well as Best Conference Paper and Best Paper Proceedings nominations from the Strategic Management Society and the Academy of Management. He serves as an ad-hoc reviewer for Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies, the Strategic Management Society, and the Academy of Management. He is a member of the Strategic Management Society, the Academy of Management, and INFORMS.