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Szulanski (1999) see knowledge transfer as a process in which an organization recreates a causally ambiguous and complicate set of routines in new settings as well as keeps it operating.
2.1.1 Relationships of International Assignments and knowledge transfer
Knowledge transfer is viewed as one of the most important goals of international assignment as knowledge transfer can be promoted by international assignments (Boyacigiller 1990; Lyles & Salk, 1996; Inkpen 1998), knowledge transfer can influence the results and arrangements of international mission, Hocking, Brown & Harzing (2004) find that the target of filling the position, developing organizations and training managers which developed by Edström & Galbraith (1977) were replaced by commercial applications, the organization applications and expatriate learning respectively. Thus, MNCs can use the international assignments to make knowledge transfer more effectively and at last promote the organizational learning. Besides , Bonache ＆Browstek (2001) point that international assignments can be viewed as a effective mechanism to transfer knowledge, as the knowledge need to transfer among work units in MNCs usually are tacit, thus, personnel international assignment is a effective way to transfer the tacit knowledge.
Many previous literature show that expatriates play an important role in the knowledge transfer in MNCs. Holtbrügge and Berg (2004) mentions that empirical knowledge and tacit knowledge transfer should mainly through the personnel transfer, which is similar to that of Bonache and Brewster (2001). While, some MNCs has not recognized the important function of expatriates in transferring tacit knowledge, according to Tsang’s (1999) study with 12 MNCs of Singapore. From the perspective of agency theory, Björkman et al (2004) has a broader statement , he think it is a effective control mechanism that parent company assign managers to subsidiary abroad and it is very helpful to integrate the foreign subsidiary into the process of knowledge transfer in MNCs, further push the knowledge transfer .
2.1.2 Expatriate knowledge acquisition
22.214.171.124 The preparation of the learning
As the above section mentioned, expatriates learning and knowledge acquisition is acted as the goal of international assignment, after that is the pre-assignment training which may help expatriates adaptation and communication in new environment and posting (see Mendenhall, Dunbar& Oddou, 1987; Tung, 1982). In the particular case of China, Tung (1986) describes several types of training program that can better prepare a manager for the posting. The programs include language training, factual information about China’s history, economic and political situation, culture assimilators, which is similar to the cross-cultural training in Sergeant and Frenkel’s (1998) study , to sensitize trainees to the different kinds of situation that may arise in China, and so on. The aim is to prepare personnel for cross-cultural encounters.
126.96.36.199 The knowledge the expatriates acquire
Downes & Thomas (2000) suggest that expatriates abroad can acquire the knowledge including global operations, national markets, business customs, culture mode etc. Garud and Nayyar (1994) propose three dimensions of knowledge: complex versus simple, tacit versus explicit, and independent versus systemic. There are some researchers has classified these knowledge with different methods, as shown in the following table.
Table 1 The classification of the knowledge
Time Researcher Dimensions
2001 Subramaniam &Venkatraman Tacit versus explicit
2004 Gerybadze specific versus generic; equivocal versus canonical
2004 Holtbrügge & Berg external versus internal
2004 Simonin Ambiguity
This dissertation classified the knowledge the expatriates acquire based on two dimensions: Tacit versus explicit, specific versus generic. This is reference to the research of Subramaniam & Venkatraman (2001) and Gerybadze (2004). The difference of the knowledge in these two dimensions can identify how much value the knowledge can bring to or create for the organization, and how well the knowledge can be transferred.
Knowledge can be classified tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge in terms of the dimension of tacit versus explicit which is concerns how well articulated or implicit the knowledge is (Bhagat et al, 2002).