[German title: Wissenstransfer nach Übersee]
Knowledge transfer: Use templates to pass on best practices, at least initially
INSEAD Knowledge Newsletter, 5/2007
Abstract: As corporations look to expand overseas – through franchising, outsourcing or setting up plants and offices elsewhere – they transfer best practices to maintain their competitive edge. But what’s the best way of doing that and how should they adapt these operational practices to local conditions?
According to studies carried out by INSEAD Professor of Strategy Gabriel Szulanski, in conjunction with Sidney Winter from the University of Pennsylvania and Robert Jensen of Brigham Young University, companies need to identify and validate actual examples that have been shown to produce results. These ‘templates’ or benchmarks of best practices should, the authors argue, then be copied with minimal if any modifications or adaptations, at least in the initial phase of the knowledge transfer.
Companies “don’t know why what they do really works,” Szulanski says, “and they realize that when try to transfer their practices.”
“They would normally start by copying only those things that they think are important, to discover later on that they leave out important things and also that they copied things that are not only totally unnecessary but also sometimes even comical.” The reason for this, he says, is that there may be a certain amount of ambiguity about factors that are actually driving the success of a particular practice. “One way to really be able to get the performance in the copy is by copying exactly the original and then going back to the original and comparing it to what you’ve done.”
Read the article online.