Thinning Knowledge: An Interpretive Field Study of Knowledge-Sharing Practices of Firms in Three Multinational Contexts

Helmut Kasper, Mark Lehrer, Jürgen Mühlbacher, Barbara Müller

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Downloads (Pure)


Knowledge is often tacit and "sticky", i.e. highly context-specific and therefore costly to transfer to a different setting. This paper examines the methods used by firms to facilitate cross-site knowledge sharing by "thinning" knowledge, that is, by stripping knowledge of its contextual richness. An interview-based study of cross-site knowledge sharing in three industries (consulting, industrial materials, and high-tech products) indicated that highly developed knowledge-sharing systems do not necessarily involve extensive codification and recombination of personalized knowledge. Many multinational firms evidently conceive their knowledge-sharing systems with more modest objectives in mind than any large-scale "learning spirals" featuring iterative conversion of personalized knowledge into codified knowledge and vice-versa. A typology of knowledge-thinning systems was derived by interpreting the field study results from the perspective of knowledge-thinning methods used in earlier eras of history. The typology encompasses topographical, statistical and diagrammatic knowledge-thinning systems. (authors' abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367 - 381
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506009 Organisation theory

Cite this