Why Does Culture Have Such a Prominent Position in Im Research and Practice?

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Why does culture have such a prominent position in IM research and practice? Culture as a driver of knowledge transfer

Vanak, KIT
University of Auckland

As the world economy leans toward globalisation, the understanding of different culture becomes inevitable in today International management (IM) research and practice. Culture is part of management concepts when it turns more complex and multidimensional (Martinez & Toyne, 2000). Due to complexity of culture, there are many researches on this topic. Scholars such as Davenport and Prusak studied how culture differences affect knowledge transfer in cross-cultural organisations (Bhagat, Kedia, Harveston, & Triandis, 2002). In contrast other authors suggest that both the differences and similarities of culture should be examined (Ofori-Dankwa & Ricks, 2000). In light of all recent researches relate to culture, this essay initially looks at the different definitions of culture. Then, it reviews the link between culture and international management research, and the practical important of culture in international firm practices.

Defining culture
First of all, culture is complex by nature and there are many definitions of culture in academia. Culture can be understood as a group in a society or it can be things that make the group stand out from another group (Dickson, Castano, Magomaeva, & Den Hartog, 2012). In early 1955, Herskovits (as cited in Dickson et al., 2012) defined culture as a set of rule or agreement that sharp the society pattern and individual behaviours. Although there are abundant in studies and researches on culture differences, management and others researches use the culture dimension as a base of measurement and identification (Dickson et al., 2012). After a decade of studies around the world in the 1960, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck came up with six culture dimensions (see table 1) that later on influence many scholars such as Hofstede’s culture framework. Hofstede’s five culture dimensions (as defined in Table 2) is the most influential framework for today research. On the other hand, Steward argued that culture changes rapidly when people are forces to adopt new environment and new way of doing things (Steward, 1990). This leads to the idea of Edward et al that Multinational Corporations have the power to influence their host country subsidiaries in both positive and negative way by transferring their management practice knowledge ( Edward et al., 2004; as cited in George, Kuye, & Onokala, 2012). Thus this implied that MNCs can be viewed “as networks of transactions that are engaged in knowledge flows” (Gupta and Govindarajan, 1991; as cited in Bhagat et al., 2002). Obviously culture has prominent position on IM research as many scholars studied the effect of knowledge transfer across cultures.

Culture in knowledge transfer research
In Bhagat et al, organisation knowledge transfer is being identified as global competitive advantage and the study of culture plays a predominant part of effective cross-border transfer of knowledge research. The research developed an integrative framework that explains the pattern of knowledge flow for each different culture. As show by figure 1 model, there are three types of knowledge which are human, social and structured knowledge that presumed to have moderate influence by cultural patterns. In order to understand and simplify the influence of cultural pattern, collectivism and individualism were combined with horizontal and vertical dimensions. The model in figure 2 contains explanation of Hosfstede’s culture dimension in great detail. The research concludes that there is a high degree of challenge for knowledge transfer between horizontal collectivism versus vertical individualism and horizontal individualism versus vertical collectivism. This is due to the different preferences of knowledge type by the two cultures. The implication of this research helps MNC...
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