The role of religious experience in the knowledge transfer process

Academic Paper, 2005

12 Pages, Grade: 1.0



The importance given to knowledge in relation to business success has never been so great as it is today and there is a substantive amount of important and informed studies reflecting this. Nonetheless, informed approaches by prominent authors generally focus on knowledge transfer mechanisms and the efficiency of these mechanisms to support and deliver competitive advantage (Nonaka, 1994; Grant, 1996; Argote and Ingram, 2000; Alavi and Leidner, 2001). An overarching objective of understanding efficient knowledge transfer is therefore a central caveat for businesses wishing to achieve success and maintain competitive advantage since it is clear that any significant degradation of efficiency will directly affect this objective. Many studies do recognised the creation of knowledge as a significant factor in determining how effectively a business develops, and knowledge creation, theorised by (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995), is used as a baseline for numerous historic and current studies. To date however, there have been few studies which denote the affect of socio-cultural or religious phenomena within a transfer scenario as significant, and how this interaction may affect the outcome of the knowledge shared or exchanged in a business context. This paper therefore examines how, in a business context, knowledge transfer is influenced by perspectives given to the knowledge. This rational is deliberate since the transfer of knowledge is rarely a simple unproblematic event, (Argote et al., 2000). In this regards, we look at a significant amount of literature and research which has been constructed in a bid to understand both the problematic nature surrounding the mechanics of the transfer sequence and definition of the term ‘knowledge’ to support the establishment of meaningful baselines. The paper then summarises these theoretical baselines into segmented contexts with deliberate intention.

Purpose: Theoretical perspective

Keywords: Knowledge, Knowledge transfer, success, competitive advantage


The ability to transfer knowledge from one organisation to another has been concluded from many notable studies (Galbraith, 1990; Darr, Argote, and Epple, 1995; Epple, Argote, and Murphy, 1996; Baum and Ingram, 1998; Dougherty, 1999; Argote, Ingram, Levine and Moreland, 2000), most of which agree on the benefits of knowledge transfer; however, the reported effectiveness of knowledge transferred fluctuates considerably between organisations and definitions (Szulanski, 1996; Argote, 1999). What is constantly maintained in the literature is the theme of difficulty of the transfer mechanism (Argote, 1999; Szulanski, 2000). Szulanski states there are several reasons for the transfer mechanism to fail, notably that “the transfer may fail for reasons ranging from the quality of the relationship between donor and recipient groups to the characteristics of the knowledge to be transferred” (Szulanski, 2000). From current literature, one can see why the study of knowledge transfer is focused on the process of transferring information from one individual to another and the effectiveness and efficiency, or nonefficiency of the transfer mechanism. This gap between transferors and transferee’s of knowledge is explained by the divergent ways in which the two groups understand the knowledge, principally ignoring the possibility that their basic and central belief system is different and therefore their interpretation of the knowledge structure will be different at the onset. It is clear why knowledge transfer theory is based in psychology and should therefore substantiate the difficulties surrounding knowledge transfer study (Argote, Ingram, Levine and Moreland, 2000). Argyris (1996) further defines the difficulties related to the usage of conventional empirical research in the development of actionable knowledge. Understanding of knowledge criteria that is, central to what is understood to be knowledge, from the perspective of the sender of the knowledge and the receiver of the knowledge - has not been defined by any precise description and subsequent literature relies on broad base statements such as ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘knowledge exchange’Ǥ Clarification is therefore required in defining what knowledge is, from both an organisation and socio-cultural group context. This view can be assimilated or segmented into contextual divisions of congruent reality.



Knowledge transfer, in an organisational context, is defined by Argote and Ingram (2000) as a process by which one unit of an organization, such as a group or department, is affected by the experience of another. Borrowing from Gilchrist’s (1995) description of community development, knowledge transfer can be said to involve “human horticulture rather than social engineering”Ǥ Whilst these descriptions are sufficient in an organizational context, they are limited in the explanation of what the Knowledge consists of before the transfer takes place and what significance the constituent parts, including experience, may have on the transfer or exchange process. The development of philosophical thought from Kant (17241804) to G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) serves as a backdrop to these definitions. In his theory of knowledge, Kant divided reality into two types: phenomena and noumena. We experience phenomena only by the senses in the things we see, hear, taste, touch, etc. The noumena, or the reality behind appearances, the thing-in-itself, can never be known by the senses, and hence cannot be known at all. Noumena may refer to God or the existence of the soul. The significance of duality in establishing the entirety of the universality is remiss in Kantian metaphysics. Thus, misunderstanding the problem of heteronomy leads to the difficulty in some western philosophy in segregating mind and matter from a priori and a posterior reasoning. VonMises (1976) attempts to clarify the problem by stating that “Rationalism arises from the impossibility of Godmind-matter interrelationships. Reason is then subjected to the problem of heteronomy and rests on human origins alone. God and the world-systems, thus revelation and reason become dichotomous competing premises of understanding reality”Ǥ Whilst this is arguably the basis for conceptual misunderstanding between separate or even indigenous cultures, it fails to b specific in the definition of epistemological reasoning in the context of knowledge transfer and exchange (see von-Mises, 1976). Reany (1988), debates these a priori concepts, on which metaphors of new knowledge are originally built. In his theory of human learning, meaning is more fundamental than knowledge, for knowledge is conformed to, and limited by, our ability to project meaning onto the world, and all meaning is ultimately reducible to experience. Therefore, all knowledge must be built on experience. Levin and Cross (2004) develop this and consider the mediating role of trust in knowledge transfer. Their research reveals two important findings: competence- and benevolence-based trust among individuals in an organisation influences the link between the tie strength of two individuals and receipt of useful knowledge; the researchers find weak ties between dissimilar individuals who do not routinely interact to create any benefit because of the precursive interaction prior to knowledge transfer. This is contrary to the earlier research of Argote and Ingram (2000) which stated the significance of defined ties with the transfer actors may introduce a conflict of interest and therefore result in poor transfer status. The emphasis in this context is the complexity of the interaction in the occupational, organisational and social contexts for Knowledge transfers, and there are many subsequent studies to collaborate this work (Abrams, D., Wetherell, M., Cochrane, S., Hogg, M. A., and Turner, J.C., (1990). Whilst this represents a shift away from event, or sequenced accounts of transfer as described by Argote et al (2000), and it does go beyond simple, process accounts of interpretation of the transfer mechanism, these definitions, though accurate in the definition of the transfer mechanism and the social interaction of the participating actors, fail in the redirection of the analysis towards the relationally constructed nature of Knowledge, specifically through the lens of phenomenological interpretation, and is focused on interpretive styles of analysis of the transfer mechanism



Various literatures have examined and explained a variety of aspects regarding how to managing and understand knowledge based on the conceptual differences and interactions between tacit and explicit knowledge; for example, the dissimilarity between tacit and explicit knowledge (Polanyi, 1967; Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Jasimuddin, 2004), the knowledge creation process (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995), and social aspects of knowledge (Brown and Duguid, 1991; Spender, 1996). Thus, any attempt to centralise or store a codification of experience will be of little or no practical use to any large organisation (Huber 1991; Walsh and Ungson, 1991; Scarbrough, 1995; Stein and Zwass, 1995). Tacit knowledge and implicit knowing in a transfer context (Szulanski, 1996; Connell et al., 2003; Smith and McKeen, 2003) should not be re-stated as a ‘‘resource’’, but always as a process of experience and development. Clearly, to acknowledge the codification of the tacit knowledge is correct in an empirical sense, but related literature does not address in any great detail the understanding of faith or trust based on religious experience adjoining the interpretation of the tacit knowledge. Orlikowski (2002) regards these phenomena as an embodiment of continual knowledge and an on-going social development, constituted and reconstituted in everyday experience. This is further developed by research conducted by Almeida and Kogut (1999) and Argot (1999), and summarises very well the position of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) discussion of personnel rotation as a mechanism of effective knowledge transfer within an organisation. However, the gap in the literature reflecting any indication of experience as fundamental or significant to the understanding of the knowledge and the contextual significance attached to it is still apparent. Knowledge transfer in an organizational context is well defined by Argote and Ingram (2000), as a process by which one unit of an organization, such as a group or department, is affected by the experience of another, but the fundamental argument is in a business or organizational context rather than a socio-cultural context. Argote and Ingram (2000) define the usefulness of this transfer, asserting that “Organisations adept at knowledge transfer have been found to be more productive and more apt to survive than counterparts less adept at knowledge transfer”Ǥ However, they stress the importance of the commodity view in that there are financial gains to the efficient transfer. Argote, Becham and Epple (1990), Darr, Argote and Epple (1995), and Baum and Ingram (1998), explain that analyzing small groups of employees provides understanding at a micro level of the social processes through which organisations can create and combine knowledge. However, these studies look at the mechanics of the transfer at its transfer point; this is further clarified by Argote (2004), explaining it from an organisational context within an organization that does not address the fundamental sociocultural attributes associated with knowledge exchange in social groups. Svieby (1998) examines the ability of a company's employees to solve complex problems using knowledge and knowledge transfer, and introduces the concept of exchange to resolve the problems. He focuses on companies such as management consultancies but makes little or no remark as to the underlying socio-cultural experiences, which ultimately affect each scenario. Dixon (2000) explains how this knowledge is transferred using specific management design principles and attempts to simplify complex knowledge scenarios, including several references to cultural issues. However, this refers to business culture and not socio-cultural practices or experience. She does discuss ‘common knowledge’, which could be understood to be a social interaction, but attaches no cultural or experience significance to the subject. Orlikowski (2002) regards this phenomenon as an embodiment of continual knowledge and an on-going social development, constituted and reconstituted in everyday experience, but fails to state the significance of the interaction between the two and does not underline the significance of cultural understanding. In this regards, Scarbrough (2009) attributed knowledge, the usefulness of knowledge and the usefulness of organisational learning, social practices and management structures to the evolution and exchange of knowledge between organisations. Similarly, contends that competitive success is seen as dependent on the firm’s ability to mobilise all of these different kinds of knowledge, rather than a singular focus in terms of decision or knowledge type. However, Scarbrough only explores this concept in the context of an organisation, not the broader implications of knowledge transfer relationships between the global business community and the understanding of this transfer and exchange to social or ethnic minority groups.



Singh (2005) extends management research and socio-cultural factors to consider collaborative networks as determinants of knowledge diffusion patterns. Singh (2005) hypothesizes that individuals within an organisation (from either the same region or same family) possess closer collaborative links, thereby influencing a greater probability of knowledge flows. Social interactions within groups and at various levels within knowledge communities can significantly influence the increase or decrease in their respective social capital; whilst this is relevant from a socio-cultural concept, it does not specifically address the psychological and religious experiences of the groups, only their social interaction. Coleman (1988) states that the dynamic growth of knowledge communities heavily depends upon the social structures of trust, sense of community, commitment, shared vision, and continuous spirit of knowledge creation. This is important for several reasons; however, the main point is that individuals involved in the transfer and reception of Knowledge are generally part of a group or groups. This point is also discussed by Baron and Kenny (1986), and Brewer (1979); however, both sets of observations ignore the experience of the knowledge as significant and infer that knowledge is useful and recognised as such before any transfer takes place. This is a fundamental gap in the observations. Tajfel and Turner (1979) develop this observational position and posit that individuals gain social identity from the groups from which they belong. Kramer (1999), and Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt and Camerer (1998) discuss in detail the important attributes attached to group identity and facilitation opportunities for efficient transfer mechanisms to be accomplished, but stress the importance of the transfer mechanism and again fail to identify the function of experience as a constituent part of the knowledge creation before transfer or exchange takes place.


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The role of religious experience in the knowledge transfer process
Oxford University  (Campion Hall)
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Knowledge, Knowledge transfer, success, competitive advantage
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Michael Fascia (Author), 2005, The role of religious experience in the knowledge transfer process, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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