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Keywords:

  • knowledge transfer;
  • replication;
  • adaptation;
  • evolution

Abstract

This paper explores the role of replication and adaptation in knowledge transfer relationships. I develop a model of knowledge transfer in which firms replicate because knowledge is ambiguous and adapt because knowledge depends on context. In the model, firms replicate more when knowledge is discrete and adapt more when they understand the interactions between different areas of knowledge. Replication and adaptation lead to successful knowledge transfer, which leads to improved performance of the receiving unit. The predictions are tested using a survey of cross-border knowledge transfer relationships among firms in the telecommunications industry. The results are largely consistent with the model and point to potential areas for future research, such as the drivers of replication, the depreciation rate of knowledge, and the role of understanding in organizational knowledge. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.