Overview of presentation Opening salvo The world we are in Knowledge as a network package Translation as an analogue of knowledge transfer Modelling transfer as translation ‘Even though we work hard...’
Opening salvo In order to understand how to make KM more productive in international business, the world needs all the help it can get.
The world we are in … ‘Every day in the domain of worldwide business, millions of cross-cultural interactions take place, linking buyers with suppliers and suppliers with customers and an array of stakeholders. Relationships are forged and networks are consolidated....’
The world we are... These buyers, suppliers and stakeholders ‘are engaged in immense acts of knowledge co-creation, involving the cross-cultural blending and integration of information, perceptions and—in a high proportion of cases—mistaken impressions’ (Holden and Glisby, 2010).
Knowledge as a ‘process- relational’* network package A process-relational network package of explicit and tacit elements intended for (very) different operational environments or contexts Knowledge is assembled in networks for use in other networks So the art of KM... *(Nonaka et al., 2008)
The art of KM... Lies in converting a knowledge package, designed in one environment (or culture), into a package that does not merely suit, but resonates with the network characteristics of the target environment(s). This means more than mere transfer …
Transfer and translation as metaphor ‘ “Translating” one’s knowledge from one’s own cultural context …’ (Hurn, 1996) In a knowledge transfer process ‘knowledge is translated into a form usable by others’ (Dixon, 2000) ‘… translating new knowledge into new ways of behaving’ (Garvin, 1998) Knowledge in organisation exists to be ‘translated into manageable topics’ (Bukh et al., 2005)
But what about translation as an analogue of the KM transfer process? Translation intelligibly transposes meanings from one cultural environment into another environment The goal is (almost) always a good translation (it has to be!) So can we learn something useful from what constrains a good translation?
Levels of translation adequacy 1. Virtually all the information is conveyed 4. The general idea is conveyed 2. Most of the information is conveyed 3. Sufficient information is conveyed for action or decision Based on Pinchuk, 1977 By analogy, what level of ‘translation adequacy’ are KM professionals satisfied with?
Lack of equivalence Examples from language Russia: KM terminology in Russian Buzz words like ’change’, ’excellence’, ‘empower’, ‘resilience.’ Forms of address (use of names and titles), words for ’you’ Real-world examples: networks West: straight lines and nodes Japan: human pulsations China: pull of family obligations with a cautious eye on the authorities
Cultural interference Examples from language Japanese English: ‘It is (very) difficult’ English German: ‘ Ich glaube schon’ (I think so) World English: ‘No problem!’ Real-world examples China: failure to translate a technical document for a foreign employer and the unforeseen consequences Russia: waste of 3bn euros on EU-funded management programmes (1991-2003) Any international merger
Ambiguity Examples from language Russian English: ‘Aviator course’ for ‘pilot scheme’ Japanese English: ‘blue’ may be ‘green’ to non- Japanese Any document that claims to be ‘an in-depth analysis’ Real-world examples which change situations The translator or interpreter adds or withholds information to be ‘helpful’ or polite Failures to make sense of others’ contexts (often through ethnocentric presumption)
Towards another model The previous model is theoretically useful, but we need something serviceable for practitioners Premise 1: knowledge flows in international business are disrupted or put under strain at interfaces involving individuals and organisations Premise 2: knowledge flows are improved or repaired by coupling through identifying and neutralising the impacts due to lack of equivalence, cultural interference and ambiguity
This model has great potential if managers if... Managers accept that tacit knowledge: is crossed-culturally created at all manner of interfaces; acts as a subliminal influence on relationships and, by extension, KM as a practice; combines language and cultural factors to add mood and tone to this knowledge.
It’s all about the right antenna... 'Even though we work hard, if we do not have an antenna that can sense a signal, we cannot pick it up.’ - Yasuhito Takasu, General Manager, DENSO Corporation (cited in Holden and Glisby, 2010)
References Bukh, P., Johansen, M. and Mouritsen, J. (2005). Developing the strategy for knowledge management. In: Bukh, P., Christensen, K. and Mouritsen, J. (eds). Knowledge management and intellectual capital. London: Palgrave, pp. 70-84. Dixon, N. (2000). Common knowledge: how companies thrive by sharing what they know. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Publishing. Garvin, D. (1998). Building a learning organization. Harvard Business Review on knowledge management. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Publishing. Holden, N. J. and Glisby, M. (2010). Creating knowledge advantage: the tacit dimensions of international competition and collaboration. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press. Hurn, B. (1996). Intercultural transfer of skills and knowledge. Cross-cultural management: An international journal. Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 18-31. Nonaka, I., Toyama, R. and Hirata, T. (2008). Managing flow: A process theory of the knowledge-based firm. London: Palgrave. Pinchuk, I. (1977). Scientific and technical translation. London: André Deutsch