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A Review on the Technology Transfer Models,

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European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

A Review on the Technology Transfer

Models, Knowledge-Based and Organizational Learning
Models on Technology Transfer

Sazali Abdul Wahab

Graduate School of Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Selangor, Malaysia

Raduan Che Rose

Faculty of Economics & Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Selangor, Malaysia

Jegak Uli
Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Selangor, Malaysia

Haslinda Abdullah
Faculty of Economics & Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Selangor, Malaysia

The main objective of this paper is to contribute to the existing Technology Transfer (TT)
literature by reviewing the evolution and development of the previous TT models which
include the traditional TT model, models developed after 1990s, other related theoretical
foundations underlying TT models, and the current TT models which have strong influence
of knowledge-based view (KBV) and organizational learning (OL) perspectives. Since the
current management researchers have a strong focus on TT within strategic alliance and
other collaborative ventures, this review highlights the significant influence of KBV and
OL perspectives on inter-firm TT models. This review attempts to help stimulate the
direction of both future theoretical and empirical studies on inter-firm technology transfer
specifically 1) on how KBV and OL perspectives could play significant role in explaining
the complex relationships between the supplier and recipient in inter-firm technology
transfer 2) the tradeoffs that involve between properties of technology, protecting
proprietary technologies, competitiveness of the supplier, willingness to transfer
technology, and learning attitudes of the recipient in strategic alliances and JVs, and 3) on
how KVB and OL perspectives could be integrated in a holistic model to explain the
relationships between knowledge transferred, the recipient, the supplier, relationship
characteristics and degree of technology transfer.

Keywords: Technology Transfer Models, Knowledge-Based View, Organizational

Learning, Inter-Firm, Collaborative Joint Ventures.
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

1. Introduction
Based on a review of literature, technology transfer (TT) is not a new thing. Researchers have traced
back TT process to the pre-history of the human species: where TT largely involved tacit knowledge
which is evolutionary prior to explicit knowledge (Donald, 1991; Mathews and Roussel, 1997). As
there were no written languages until 3000 BC, TT had mainly occurred through language; which were
supplemented by equations and diagrams which constitute as the major means of explicit transfer of
technological knowledge (Gorman, 2002). The spoken language and gestures have explicitly
transferred technological knowledge in friendly encounters. However, much of pre-historic TT
between people occurred when people with superior agricultural technology assimilated or eliminated
those who could not reproduce as rapidly (Diamond, 1997).
Segman (1989) who conducted a historical review of TT, traced the TT process from the
Neolithic times, the role of Arabs played in transferring technologies from East to West and the
transfer of English textile expertise to the American textile industry in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In
the 18th Century, despite the English law preventing knowledge migration, France eventually managed
to obtain ‘specialized steel making know-how’ by importing English workers and through industrial
espionage. The success of the American textile industry in THE 18th and 19th Century was due to the
transfer of knowledge and expertise by the English textile industry (Cameron, 1960; Irwin and Moore,
1991). Previous studies have shown that certain industries collapsed, for example the English clock and
watch industry, due to the industry resistance to the opportunities of TT (Irwin and Moore, 1991). The
main objective of this paper is to review the evolution and development of TT models in terms of focus
of each model, strengths and limitations of the models, and finally to highlight the significance
influence of knowledge-based view (KBV) and organizational learning (OL) perspectives, which have
strong theoretical foundation, on the current TT models. This review limits its perimeter by focusing
on the inter-firm TT between two unaffiliated organizations.

2. Approaches to Technology Transfer (TT)

Previous studies on TT have employed different approaches to shape and govern the TT efforts. TT as
a domain covers all activities around technological development. Few TT models were developed after
the World War II to govern the implementation of TT activities and their application to marketplace
(Devine et al., 1987; Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). Among the traditional TT models developed were
the appropriability model, dissemination model, knowledge utilization model, and communication
model. In the 1970s studies have adopted “the economic international trade approach” in developing a
linear model of TT (Bessant and Francis, 2005). In the 1980s research on TT emphasized on the
effectiveness of the specific technology being transferred which in general is within a broader context
of economic development (Hope, 1983). The 1990s approach emphasizes on the significance of
learning at the organization level as a key element in facilitating technology transfer (Figuereido,
In late 1980s and early 1990s TT models have started to absorb the principles of the
organization development movement (French and Bell, 1995). Strategic management researchers have
further contributed to the development of TT frameworks based on KBV and OL perspectives as these
perspectives have been found to have quite similar dimensions such as outcomes, processes, barriers
and facilitators (Daghfous, 2004). These perspectives have significantly contributed to the expansion of
TT models since literatures from both KBV and OL perspectives appear to subsume most of the
contributions of the TT literatures (Daghfous, 2004).

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

3. Technology Transfer Models

3.1. The Appropriability Model
This model, which was developed in 1945-1950s, suggests that good or quality technologies sell
themselves (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). The model emphasizes on the importance of quality of
research, and competitive market pressure in achieving TT and promoting the use of research findings
(Devine et al., 1987; Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). According to this model,
TT process simply occurs when technology has found users or has been discovered by the market.
Purposive or deliberate TT mechanism is seen as unnecessary. This model assumes that after the
researchers develop the technology and make technologies available through various forms of
communications such as technical reports and professional journals, the users will “automatically show
up at the researcher’s door” (Devine et al., 1987).
Gibson and Slimor (1991), in their three-level TT model, describe the first level (technology
development level) as the most fundamental level; when technology process can be largely passive
through mediated means such as research reports, journal articles and computer tapes. The underlying
presumption of the appropriability approach is “viewing TT as the result of an automatic process that
began with scientific research and then moved to development, financing, manufacturing and
marketing. [One] need not necessarily be concerned with linkages in the technology commercialization
process” (Kozmetsky, 1990). However, previous studies have acknowledged that over the years
evidence has shown that quality technologies do not usually sell well themselves (Devine et al., 1987;
Gibson and Slimor, 1991).

3.2. The Dissemination Model

This model, which was popularized by Rogers (1983) and Rogers and Kincaid (1982), is developed in
the 1960-1970s (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). This approach suggests the importance of technology and
innovation to be diffused or disseminated to the potential users by the experts (Williams and Gibson,
1990). This model assumes that an expert will transfer specialized knowledge to the willing user. The
presumption underlying this model is that once the linkages are established, the new technology will
move from the expert to the non-expert “like water through a pipe once the channel is opened”
(Williams and Gibson, 1990; Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Gibson and Slimor (1991) describe this model
as the second level of their model; the technology acceptance level. Based on their model, this level
includes the expert’s primary responsibility to select technology and ensure the technology is available
to a receptor that can understand and potentially use the technology (Gibson and Slimor, 1991).
However, this model suffers from its one-way communication (unilateral) characteristic with no
involvement from the users (Devine et al., 1987; Gibson and Slimor, 1991).

3.3. The Knowledge Utilization Model

This model, which was developed in late 1980s (Gibson and Slimor, 1991), has a significant influence
on TT literature (Szakonyi, 1990; Zacchea, 1992). The approach taken by this model is its emphasis on
1) the important role of interpersonal communication between the technology developers/researchers
and technology users, and 2) the importance of organizational barriers or facilitators of TT. The
knowledge utilization approach represents an evolutionary step which focuses on how to organize
knowledge to effective use in the technology users setting (Backer, 1991). Gibson and Slimor (1991)
view this model as the third level in their model; technology application level. This level is the most
involved level of TT where it includes the profitable use of the technology in the market place as well
as other application such as intra-firm processes.
While this approach indicates an appreciation of the complexities of the TT, researchers have
argued that the model suffers from a linear bias (Dimancescu and Botkin, 1986). The underlying
presumption of this model is that technology moves “hand-to-hand” to one direction, unilaterally from
the experts to the users, to become a developed idea and eventually a product (Gibson and Slimor,
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

1991). This model reduces the complex transfer process to chronologically ordered stages (Gibson and
Slimor, 1991; Sung and Gibson, 2000). The appropriability, dissemination and knowledge utilization
models still suffer from inherent linear bias where these TT models have limitations in terms of their
limited application in transferring technology across organizational boundaries (Tenkasi and Mohrman,
1995; Gibson and Slimor, 1991).

3.4. The Communication Model

Departing from the previous three models, several researchers have suggested that the communication
model as a replacement of the earlier TT models (Williams and Gibson, 1990; Gibson et al., 1990;
Doheny-Farina, 1992). This model perceives TT as “a communication and information flow process
with communication understood to be concerned with full exchange and sharing of meanings”. This
model suggests technology as “an on-going process which involves a two-way interactive process
(non-linear) by continuously and simultaneously exchanging ideas among the individuals involved”
(Williams and Gibson, 1990). Consistent with this approach, other researchers view communication
model of TT follows the network communication paradigm; where feedback is all pervasive and the
participants in the TT process are transceivers rather than the sources and receivers (Gibson and
Slimor, 1991; Irwin and Moore, 1991).
Other researchers acknowledge that feedbacks help the participants in the transfer process to
reach convergence about the important dimensions of the technology (e.g. Rogers, 1983). To overcome
the obstacles and barriers to the transfer process, different sets of functions, activities, and network
must occur simultaneously (Rogers, 1983; Kozmetsky, 1988a, 1988b). The communication model,
which consists of characteristics such as two-way communication, interactive,
interpersonal/organizational communication, helps to explain the failures of the previous TT strategies,
which are based on one-way unidirectional communication, and dissemination/diffusion models (Irwin
and Moore, 1991). Two-way interactive communication is primarily developed towards overcoming
the communication barriers between the technology developer group and the user group (Doheny-
Farina, 1992; Dobrin, 1989).
This model assumes that there is “a body of information, of objective facts, just lying there
waiting to be communicated” (Dobrin, 1989). The underlying presumption is that knowledge is an
object that exists independently, valid, complete and has universal applicability (Tenkasi and
Mohrman, 1995). The implementer (technology developer) is responsible for transferring knowledge
correctly through the appropriate channels for the user to understand; and failure to adopt knowledge is
simply because the users fail to understand (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). Although the
communication model shows an appreciation of the complexities of TT, this model is unable to provide
explanations on 1) the complexities of TT in the context of knowledge transferred through
collaborative learning, 2) the subjectivity of knowledge, and 3) the need for contextual adaptation,
dialoging at the level of values, assumption, and beliefs that takes on more acute proportions with soft
or disembodied technologies (Tenkasi and Mohrman, 1995). This view is consistent with the earlier
studies on TT which suggests that the focus of the current management researchers is on TT in
strategic alliances/IJVs, and learning at the organizational level in facilitating TT (Zhoa and Reisman,
1992; Figuereido, 2001).

3.5. Technology Transfer (TT) Models After 1990s

A review of the literature reveals that TT researchers have attempted to develop new technology
transfer model distinguishing from the traditional models developed earlier which mainly focus on TT
processes. The later models developed by researchers (Gibson and Slimor, 1991; Rebentisch and
Ferretti, 1995; Sung and Gibson, 2000) attempt to address the limitations that arise from the traditional
TT models in terms of the application in contemporary high-tech industries (Gibson and Slimor, 1991).
Several models developed after 1990s have emphasized on 1) the important element of communication

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

between the technology developer and the receiver or between different organizations, 2) the levels of
TT, 3) the factors which influence TT and KT, and 4) the TT processes in IJV (Gibson and Slimor,
1991; Sung and Gibson, 2000; Rebentich and Ferretti, 1995).

3.6. Gibson and Slimor’s Model

This model describes TT from the perspective of technology researchers and users through three levels
of involvement. The underlying theories of this model are the organization and communication theories
(Gibson and Slimor, 1991). This model proposes that TT consists of three levels of involvement: Level
I (Technology Development), Level II (Technology Acceptance), and Level III (Technology
Application). This model explains the levels of technology transfer involvements and integrates the
activities involved in the traditional models. Technology Development is considered as the most
important level where the transfer process is viewed as passive through transfer means such as research
reports, journal articles, and computer tapes. This level relates to the appropriability model: where the
emphasis is on the importance of quality of research and competitive market pressure in achieving
technology transfer (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Technology Acceptance level indicates more
involvement of TT. During this level the technology developer is responsible in making certain that the
technology is made available to the receptors that can understand and potentially use the technology.
This level of involvement relates to the dissemination model: where the concentration is on
disseminating innovations to individual users (Gibson and Slimor, 1991). Technology Application
level is the most involved level of TT. Technology application includes commercializing the use of
technology in the marketplace and other application such as intra-firm processes. This level equates
with knowledge utilization model: where emphases are on the critical element of interpersonal
communication between technology developers and users, and the organizational barriers and
facilitators of TT (Gibson and Slimor, 1991).

3.7. Sung and Gibson’s Model

This model is developed to have similar objectives as Gibson and Slimor’s (1991) model that is to
address limitations in the traditional TT models. As an expansion and improvement to the three levels
involvement model of TT (Gibson and Slimor, 1991), this model provides plausible explanations as to
the levels and factors affecting knowledge and TT by describing knowledge and TT in four levels of
involvements: Level I (Knowledge and Technology Creation), Level II (Sharing), Level III
(Implementation), and Level IV (Commercialization) (Sung and Gibson, 2000).
At the creation level, the technology developers conduct and develop research into knowledge
and make available of their result/finding through research publication, videotapes, teleconference,
news, and anecdotes. TT at this level is considered as a passive process where it needs only minimum
involvement of all participants (Sung and Gibson, 2000). Secondly, at the sharing level, technology
developers and users begin to share responsibility as the success of technology transfer occurs when
knowledge and technology are transferred across personal, functional, or organizational, and
knowledge and technology are well accepted and understood by users (Sung and Gibson, 2000).
Thirdly, at the implementation level, success is determined by the timely and efficiency of knowledge
and technology transfer, and the user’s resources ability to implement. KT and TT may occur through
manufacturing transfer, processes transfer or services and best practice transfer (Sung and Gibson,
2000). Finally, at the commercialization level, knowledge and technology is commercially utilized.
The commercialization level is built cumulatively on the success of creation, sharing, and
implementation levels with the help of market strength. Success of the implementation level is
measured by return of investment (ROI) and increased market share (Sung and Gibson, 2000).

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

3.8. Rebentisch and Ferretti’s Model

Rebentisch and Ferretti (1995) propose an integrated model of TT process developed from the insights
derived from the study of two IJVs. According to Rebentisch and Ferretti (1995) TT areas require
further investigation and integration particularly on 1) the effect of the interdependencies between the
technology characteristics and its organizational context, and 2) the interface between the core
competencies of the firm and its ability to adopt new technology. The model (Figure 2.3) addresses the
issues on 1) how much effort is required to transfer different types of technologies, and 2) what impact
the organization’s existing competencies might have on that process. This model refers TT as “the
transfer of the embodied knowledge assets between organizations”. The TT process in this model
consists of four categories that include 1) Transfer Scope, 2) Transfer Method, 3) Knowledge
Architecture, and 4) Organizational Adaptive Ability.
The scope of transfer is determined by how much information is embodied in the technology
and what type of technologies a firm seeks to acquire from the source. Based on this model the transfer
scope consists of four types of technologies: General knowledge, Specific knowledge, Hardware, and
Behaviors. This model categorizes the transfer methods in the TT process as 1) Impersonal
communication, 2) Personal communication, 3) Group interaction, and 4) Physical relocation.
Knowledge architecture is defined as “a characterization of the structure and artifacts into which
knowledge has been embodied in the organization, and describes the way organization stores and
processes information” (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995). Knowledge architecture has four critical
elements which influence TT process 1) technology hardware, 2) experience base, 3) procedures, and
4) organization power structures. These elements correspond with the level of technology’s complexity
and compatibility with the existing organization, the costs and extent of change involved in
implementing it, and the possibility of encountering any opposition (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995).
Organizational adaptive ability is “the adoption of the organization’s ability to utilize its resources to
make adaptations either to itself or to a new technology” (Rebentisch and Ferretti, 1995).
Organizational adaptive ability consists of staffing and production flexibility. This model, which is
developed based on two IJVs, nevertheless, mainly offers the theoretical insights of TT process of
hardware or embodied technology (explicit knowledge) where no hypothesis testing and empirical
examination has been conducted. Since this model is developed from the transferring partner’s
perspective thus it suffers from inherent linear bias in which the relationship and contextual dimensions
of JVs have not been considered.

3.9. Other Related Theoretical Foundations of Technology Transfer

Besides examining TT models from the previous literatures, an understanding of the related theoretical
perspectives is necessary to relate with the practical and empirical aspects. From a review of literature,
the other relevant theories which are found to be related to TT are the international trade (IT) theory,
foreign direct investment (FDI) theory, KBV perspective and OL perspective.
The international trade theories, which consist of the classical trade theory (Ricardo, 1817), the
factor proportion theory (Hecksher and Ohlin, 1933), and the product life cycle theory (Vernon, 1971;
Wells, 1968, 1969), are related to TT studies as they provide plausible explanations on how trades
between countries contribute to the flow of productions or goods and services which have brought
along the technology embedded in them. The foreign direct investment theories are related to TT
studies as these theories provide explanations on how FDIs by MNCs become the main channel for
intra-firm technology transfer; where technology is transferred to MNCs’ subsidiary or affiliates in the
host countries. FDI theories consist of the market imperfection theory (Hymer, 1960, 1970;
Kindleberger, 1969; Caves, 1971), international production theory (Dunning, 1980),
internationalization theory (Buckley, 1982, 1985; Buckley and Casson, 1976), and transaction cost
theory (Williamson, 1975; Ouchi, 1980; Williamson and Ouchi, 1981).

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

However, for the purpose of this review, which focuses on the cross border and inter-firm TT of
tacit and explicit knowledge (software and hardware technology), the relevant theories underlying the
current TT model are KBV and OL perspectives. This study contends that as TT does not only require
transmission of knowledge but also knowledge absorption and use (Devanport and Prusak, 1998, 2000)
these perspectives, which are interrelated, would enable this study to capture and explain the distinct
characteristics and behavioral factors of the actors and facilitators/barriers involved such as the
attributes of knowledge transferred, attitudes of both technology supplier and recipient, as well as their
relational and contextual factors (Szulanski, 1996). The streams of literature on TT, KBV and OL
perspectives are quite similar along various dimensions for example the outcomes, processes, barriers
and facilitators (Daghfous, 2004).

4. Knowledge-Based View Related Models

4.1. Kogut and Zander’s Model
Kogut and Zander (1992) are among the first researchers who established the foundation for the
knowledge-based theory of the firm when emphasizing the strategic importance of knowledge as a
source of competitive advantage. Their work is focused on the idea that “what firms do better than
markets is the creation and transfer of knowledge within the organization”. Knowledge, which consists
of information and know-how, is not only held by individuals but is also expressed in regularities by
which members cooperate in a social community. Firms as social communities act as “a repository of
capabilities” determined by the social knowledge embedded in enduring individual relationships
structured by organizing principles (Kogut and Zander, 1992). The organizing principles refer to as
“the organizing knowledge that establishes the context of discourse and coordination among
individuals with disparate expertise and that replicates the organization over time in correspondence to
the changing expectations and identity of its members” (Kogut and Zander, 1996).
This view was further articulated and empirically tested in Kogut and Zander (1993). They
assert that 1) firms are efficient means by which knowledge is created and transferred, 2) a common
understanding is developed by individuals and groups in a firm through repeated interaction to transfer
knowledge from ideas into production and markets, 3) what a firm does is not depending on the
market’s failure rather the efficiency in the process of transformation relative to other firms, and 4) the
firm’s boundary is determined by the difference in knowledge and the embedded capabilities between
the creator and the users (possessed with complementary skills) and not market failure. Kogut and
Zander (1996) further extend their discussion on the concept of identity by asserting that individuals
are “unsocial sociality” where they have both a desire to become a member of community and at the
same time also have a desire to retain their own individuality (Kogut and Zander, 1996). As firms
provide a normative territory to which members identify, costs of coordination, communication, and
learning within firms are much lower which allow more knowledge to be shared and created within

4.2. Nonaka’s Model

A stream of literatures has found consistent support for Kogut and Zander’s (1992) model of
organization knowledge creation and transfer (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka et
al., 1996) for example 1) knowledge should be the basic unit of analysis for explaining a firm’s
behavior, and 2) organization knowledge is socially constructed. This group of researchers proposes a
model of knowledge creation, which complements Kogut and Zander’s (1992) model, by proposing a
model for understanding the knowledge creation process in organizations in which organizational
knowledge is created through a continuous dialogue between tacit and explicit knowledge.
This model proposes four modes of knowledge conversion 1) from tacit knowledge to tacit
knowledge (socialization); a process of personalized form of tacit knowledge growth in which an

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

individual passes on knowledge to another individual, 2) from tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge
(externalization); a process when individuals take existing knowledge, add their tacit knowledge and
create something new that can be shared throughout the organization, 3) from explicit knowledge to
explicit knowledge (combination); a process where knowledge is gained by combining and
synthesizing existing explicit knowledge from different sources, and 4) from explicit to tacit
knowledge (internalization); a process where new explicit knowledge is internalized within members
of the organization to create new tacit knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995).
Even though each of these modes may independently create knowledge, the organizational
knowledge creation processes only occur when all the four modes are organizationally managed and
dynamically interacted. This process which is highly iterative constitutes ‘knowledge spiral’ which
happens mainly through informal networks of relations in the organization starting from the individual
level, then moves up to the group (collective) level and eventually to the organizational level. It creates
a ‘spiraling effect’ of knowledge accumulation and growth which promotes organization innovation
and learning (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995).

4.3. Grant’s Model

Departing from Kogut and Zander (1992, 1993), Nonaka (1994) Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), and
Nonaka et al. (1996), Grant (1996a, 1996b, 1997) propose a different model of knowledge creation.
Grant (1996a) has further articulated the theoretical arguments of knowledge-based view, which
considers knowledge creation as “an individual activity rather than an organizational activity”. Several
assumptions underlying the model are described as follows:
1) Knowledge is the important productive resource in terms of its contribution to value added and
its strategic significance.
2) Knowledge consists of information, technology, know-how, and skills. Thus, different types of
knowledge vary in their transferability. The critical distinction is between ‘explicit knowledge’;
which is capable of articulation and transferable at low cost, and ‘tacit knowledge’; which is
manifested only in its application and is not amenable to transfer. The ease with which
knowledge can be transferred also depends upon the capacity of the recipient to aggregate units
of knowledge.
3) Individuals are the primary agents of knowledge creation and the principal repositories of
knowledge especially tacit knowledge. If individual’s learning capacity is bounded, knowledge
creation requires specialization, where increased depth of knowledge normally requires
sacrificing breadth of knowledge. At the same time, production typically requires the
application of many types of knowledge.
4) Most knowledge is subject to economies of scale and scope. This is especially the case with
explicit knowledge that, once created, can be deployed in additional applications at low
marginal cost (Grant and Baden-Fuller, 1995; Grant, 1997).
While knowledge resides within individuals and firms consist of multiple individuals with
specialized knowledge, the firms’ role is to integrate this knowledge to enable it to produce products
and services. Firms exist because of their efficient ability in creating conditions where many
individuals can integrate their specialist knowledge (Grant, 1996a). Specialized knowledge can be
integrated within firms through four mechanisms 1) through rules and directives; where rules are
standards which regulate the interactions between individuals and directives are what the specialists
establish to guide the non-specialists, 2) through sequencing; a mechanism to organize production
activities in a time-patterned sequence such that each specialist’s input occurs independently through
being assigned a separate time slot, 3) through routines; where the signals and responses developed by
teams over time allow the complex interactions between individuals in a relatively automatic fashion,
and 4) through group problem solving and decision making; a mechanism used to perform unusual,
complex, and important tasks that requires extensive personal interactions and communications.

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

Common knowledge is important as a means through which multiple individuals can communicate to
integrate knowledge (Grant, 1996b).

4.4. Spender’s Model

As opposed to traditional models of knowledge creation within organizations (Kogut and Zander,
1992; Nonaka, 1994; Grant, 1996a, 1996b), Spender (1996) proposes a dynamic rather than a static
knowledge-based theory of the firm. Knowledge is viewed as “a process or a competent goal-oriented
activity rather than as an observable and transferable resource” (Spender, 1996). As knowledge is
dynamic in nature and contained within actor network, a firm is a dynamic, evolving, quasi-
autonomous, organic system of knowledge production and application (Spender, 1996). A firm is a
system of knowing activity and not a system of applied abstract knowledge (Spender, 1996). Other
proponents of this view are Blacker (1995) and Orlikowski (2002). Blacker (1995) argues that
traditional approach to knowledge is “compartmentalized and static” and further suggests that rather
than discussing knowledge, it is more beneficial to discuss the process of knowing. Orlikowski (2002)
suggests that the perspective which focuses on the knowledgeability of action (perspective on
knowing) that is on knowing may be value in a perspective rather than knowledge.

4.5. Szulanski’s Model

Szulanski (1995) adopts a different approach to KT by adopting a communication metaphor in
analyzing intra-firm transfer of best practice in a manner analogous to the transmission of a message
from a source to a recipient within a given media or context (Timbrell et al. , 2001). While knowledge
transfer is a distinct experience rather than diffusion, best practice transfer should be regarded as “a
process rather than a transaction or event” (Szulanski, 1995). Szulanski (1996) proposes an intra-firm
transfer of best practice model which views intra-firm transfer of best practice as “an unfolding
process” in which organizational routines are replicated through four stages of processes: 1) initiation,
2) implementation, 3) ramp-up, and 4) integration.
Initiation is described as comprising all events that lead to the decision to transfer. A transfer
commences when both a need and the knowledge to meet that need coexist within the organization,
possibly undiscovered. When the need is discovered, it triggers a search for potential solution; a search
that leads to the discovery of superior knowledge (Szulanski, 1996). Implementation begins with the
decision to transfer in which resources flow between the knowledge recipient and the source, the
transfer-specific social ties between the source and the knowledge recipient are established, and the
transferred practice is normally adapted with the objectives to suit the anticipated needs of the recipient
to preempt problems experienced in a previous transfer of the same practice, and to facilitate the
introduction of new knowledge less difficult to the recipient (Szulanski, 1996). Ramp-up commences
when the recipient begins to use the transferred knowledge. At this level the recipient’s primary
concern is to identify and resolve unexpected problems that restrict its ability to match or exceed the
transfer performance expectation (Szulanski, 1996). Integration starts when satisfactory result is
achieved by the recipient from the transferred knowledge and the transferred knowledge is converted
into the firm’s routine (Szulanski, 1996).
Szulanski (1996) has explored the origin of internal stickiness and identified four sets of factors
which are likely to have significant influence on the difficulty of knowledge transfer: i) characteristics
of the knowledge transferred, ii) the source, iii) the recipient, and iv) the context in which the transfer
takes place. Central to Szulanski’s (1996) model of intra-firm knowledge transfer, which builds on the
previous TT literature (Leonard-Barton, 1990; Teece, 1977; Rogers, 1983), is the importance of
examining all the four sets of factors simultaneously in an eclectic model. Few researchers have
developed their intra and inter-firm knowledge transfer framework based on this model (for example
Szulanski, 2000, 2003; Gupta and Govindarajan, 2000; Minbaeva, 2007; Simonin, 1999a, 1999b,

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

5. Organization Learning Related Models

5.1. Argyris and Schon’s Model
Argyris and Schon (1978) develop a three-fold typology of organizational learning: 1) single-loop, 2)
double-loop, and 3) triple-loop (deutero) learning. Single-loop learning is described as “the error-
detection-and-correction process; where errors are detected and corrected to allow an organization to
change its methods and rules to improve what is being done within existing programs or policies”. As a
result, the organization achieves its current objective more efficiently. In addition to the error-
detection-and-correction, double-loop learning involves “change of the value of an organization’s
theory-in-use”. This form of learning occurs when errors are detected and corrected in ways that
involves the changes in an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objective. Triple-loop or
deutero learning is “learning how to learn”; where the organizational members’ cognitive changes as a
result of reflecting and inquiring into their previous learning experiences. Triple-loop learning is also a
process how to execute single and double-loop learning (Argyris and Schon, 1978).

5.2. Mills and Friesen’s Model

This model describes the ways how organizations learn and focuses on the sources of knowledge. The
model explains that an organization learns through individuals in the organization. These individuals
are hired because of their specific competencies or knowledge which may be gained through on the job
training or formal training. Learning is an individual phenomenon, which benefits the organization
entirely through the individuals (Mills and Friesen, 1992). OL should involve systemizing knowledge
into its practices, processes, and procedures that are the reutilization of knowledge. When individuals
do not use knowledge or resign, the knowledge will still remain with the organization which constitutes
OL. If an organization acquires or merges with other organization, OL occurs when the acquiring
organization absorbs the acquired organization practices and procedures, or adds to its personnel the
knowledge embodied in the acquired organization’s processes and personnel (Mills and Friesen, 1992).

5.3. Nevis, DiBella and Gould’s Model

Nevis et al. (1995) propose a three-stage model of OL: 1) knowledge acquisition, 2) knowledge
sharing, and 3) knowledge utilization. Knowledge acquisition refers to the development or creation of
skills, insights, and relationship. Knowledge sharing relates to the dissemination of knowledge that has
been learned. Knowledge utilization is the integration of learning to make it widely available; where it
can be generalized to new environments. OL may occur in a planned or informal ways. Knowledge and
skill acquisition occur not only through acquisition but also through knowledge sharing and utilization
(Nevis et al., 1995).

5.4. Nonaka’s Knowledge Spiral Model

Nonaka (1994) proposes a model describing how organizational knowledge is created through different
channels of interaction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Nonaka (1994) suggests four
modes how knowledge is created through: 1) socialization process (tacit to tacit knowledge creation),
2) externalization process (tacit to explicit knowledge creation), 3) combination process (explicit to
explicit knowledge creation), and 4) internalization process (explicit to tacit knowledge creation).

5.5. Kim’s Model

Kim (1993) proposes an integrative model describing the link between individual learning and OL in
which an organization learns through its individual members is affected either directly or indirectly by
individual learning. This model describes OL as not only a collective individual learning but also
involves the transfer mechanism between individual and OL; where individual learning becomes
embedded in an organization’s memory and structure. In this sense, individual learning affects learning
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

at organizational level by its influence on the organization’s shared models. This model stresses that
organization learns only through its members and learning does not depend on any specific members.
However, individuals can learn without the organization. OL process is viewed from two perspectives:
1) the collective learning perspective, and 2) the cognitive-outcome perspective. The collective
learning perspective describes how knowledge through individual learning becomes organization
shared knowledge, and the cognitive outcome perspective indicates that knowledge acquired through
individual learning can lead directly to individual action or indirectly to organizational action through
knowledge sharing (Kim, 1993).

5.6. IJV Knowledge Management Model

Building on Parkhe (1993) and Toyne (1989), Tiemessen et al. (1997) propose a model of OL and KT
in IJVs based on input-process-output model. According to this model there are four critical elements
involved in OL and knowledge transfer in IJV: Structure, Conditions, Process, and Outcomes.
Tiemessen et al. (1997) propose three phases of inter-organizational learning in JV.
The first phase is transfer process where two independent firms form a JV, both firms transfer
and contribute resources in terms of their existing stock of competencies. Transfer is described as the
movement/migration of knowledge between the parents firms, directly or indirectly, through activities
such as buying technology, observing and imitating technology used by the other JV’s partner or
modifying/changing the existing technologies based on the partner’s direction. Transfer means “to
accept the partner’s knowledge, to integrate knowledge into one’s own systems or changing one’s own
resources to imitate knowledge” (Tiemessen et al., 1997).
The second phase is transformation process where through joint activities these competencies
are then transformed and enhanced to reflect the combined pool of knowledge and skills as well as new
knowledge and skills created from the alliance. Knowledge transformation is the extension of existing
knowledge and the creation of new knowledge within the JV. Thus, transformation is defined as the
integration, application and leveraging of contributed knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge
as a result of IJV activities. The successful exploitation of an advantage internationally may require an
adaptation of the technology, system, or management practices, or all of them to the local environment
(Casson, 1993). Collaborating with local partners is crucial in ensuring appropriate and correct
adaptation, and opportunities to improve own capabilities. Through adaptation process, resource
integration and partnering knowledge are created (Tiemessen et al., 1997).
The third phase is harvesting process where partners harvest knowledge and skills from IJV and
bring back to the parent firms. Harvesting is described as “a process of retrieving knowledge that has
already been created and tested from the IJV resources in which it resides, and internalizing it into the
parent firm so it can be retrieved back and used in other applications”. Knowledge harvesting process
is different from transfer and transformation process because the process is more difficult and not
straightforward (Tiemessen et al., 1997). Knowledge harvesting by the parent firms is contingent upon
the top management’s active role in JV and proper communication with the JV managers (Lyles,

6. Conclusion
This review significantly contributes to the existing TT literature by reviewing the evolution and
development of the previous TT models which include the traditional TT model, models developed
after 1990s, other related theoretical foundations underlying TT models, and the current TT models
which have strong influence of KBV and OL perspectives. This review could help shape the direction
of both future theoretical and empirical studies on inter-firm technology transfer specifically 1) on how
KBV and OL perspectives could play significant role in explaining the complex relationships between
the supplier and recipient in inter-firm technology transfer 2) the tradeoffs that involve between
properties of technology, protecting proprietary technologies, competitiveness of the supplier,
European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 4 (2009)

willingness to transfer technology, and learning attitudes of the recipient in strategic alliances and JVs,
and 3) on how KVB and OL perspectives could be integrated in a holistic model to explain the
relationships between knowledge transferred, the recipient, the supplier, relationship characteristics and
degree of technology transfer.

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