International Journal of Management
Vol. 23 No. 1
Knowledge Management Processes in International Business Alliances: A Review of Empirical Research, 1990-2003 Rangamohan V. Eunni Youngstown State University Ram R. Kasuganti Youngstown State University Anthony J. Kos Youngstown State University In this study, we first carried out a survey of empirical research studies on knowledge management processes in international business alliances published during the years 1990-2003, and organized them using two dimensions: the process focus of a study knowledge creation/transfer, and the research objective— theory testing/theory building. We had then examined the research approaches employed to conduct these studies, and categorized the latter using the dimensions: the type of data - cross-sectional / longitudinal, and the method of analysis - qualitative/quantitative. The insights gained from this two-pronged analysis are used to make some recommendations on appropriate research approaches to further our understanding of knowledge management processes in international business alliances. With the emergence of the knowledge based view (Nonaka, 1991; Nonaka &Takeuchi, 1995) that extrapolated the insights provided by the resource based view of the firm (Penrose, 1959; Barney, 1991), and the rapid increase in the 1990s of the use of international strategic partnerships such as joint ventures and strategic alliances by multinational enterprises to conduct business worldwide (Mowery, Oxley & Silverman, 1996), knowledge management issues in cross-border alliances have engaged the attention of academic scholarship in the last decade of the 20th century. Theoretical postulations concerning the creation, transfer and application of knowledge in business firms generally have been subjected to substantial empirical research in the context of international alliances designed both to test hypotheses to validate the existing theories as well as to generate new hypotheses that could potentially form the building blocks of a new theory. It would therefore be interesting and instructive from an academic standpoint to look back in retrospect, and assess the state of the art in our understanding of knowledge related processes in international business alliances to the extent they are verified and vindicated by empirical research. With this end in view, in this study we carried out a survey of extant empirical studies on knowledge management in international business alliances published during the period 1990-2003. The specific research questions that we sought to address are as follows: 1. What were the broad issues and themes that academics have focused on while conducting empirical research on learning processes in international alliances? To
International Journal of Management
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what extent, have these studies succeeded in testing existing theory of knowledge management in general, and what, if any, are their contributions to enriching and building new theoretical perspectives in this field? 2. What methodological approaches were adopted to carry out empirical research on knowledge management in international alliances? What were the methods of data collection and analysis? Have the researchers relied upon cross-sectional or longitudinal data? Were the techniques of analysis quantitative or qualitative? What are the relative merits and shortcomings of the alternative approaches in the context of studies to investigate the learning processes in international alliances? Drawing upon the insights from a study of the foregoing two sets of process-specific and methodological issues, we hoped to suggest methodological approaches most likely to be productive for carrying out research on the knowledge management processes in international alliances. Our use of the term international alliance covers varied forms of inter-firm collaboration, and includes international joint ventures,...