Knowledge transfer is always tentative

[Deutscher Titel: Wissenstransfer ist immer vorläufig]

Torsten Ringberg, Markus Reihlen
Towards a Socio-Cognitive Approach to Knowledge Transfer
Journal of Management Studies 45 (5), 2008: 912–935

Abstract:  Dominant research streams in the knowledge transfer field, such as the positivist and social constructionist approaches, largely assume that knowledge transfer is accomplished through instructions and/or socially constructed practices. Underlying these views is the belief that texts and practices carry with them the codes necessary for their own decoding and therefore enable an unproblematic knowledge transfer. In contrast, we argue that the decoding of information into meaningful knowledge is always mediated by people’s private and cultural models, which are created from the unique combination of their cognitive dispositions (i.e. acumen, memory, creativity, volitions, emotions) and socio-cultural interaction. The degree to which people apply these models reflectively and/or categorically (i.e. automatically) depends on the need for cognition as well as environmental demands and feedback. Therefore, knowledge transfer is always tentative, because it depends on the application of private and cultural models along the continuum that goes from reflective to categorical processing. We present first a critique of the positivist and social constructionist positions; then we introduce a socio-cognitive model that captures and explicates socio-cognitive processes involved in sense making during knowledge transfer. Finally, we explore future research streams and managerial implications.

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© Blackwell Publishing Ltd and Society for Management Studies

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