Why don't best practices spread within firms? What exactly is sticky knowledge? Having recognized that knowledge assets are rapidly becoming their most precious source of competitive advantage, a large number of organizations are now attempting to transfer best practices. Yet best practices still remain stubbornly immobile. Sticky Knowledge reveals that the transfer of practices is a complex phenomenon, and demonstrates the range of barriers to transferring best practices within the firm. Written in a brief and accessible format, Gabriel Szulanski defines the popular concept of stickiness and its operationalization, providing a roadmap for understanding and further researching this topical issue. Taking a fresh look at accepted wisdom, and presenting research findings that conflict with some established views, the book will be essential reading for academics and students addressing issues related to knowledge and the firm. Practising managers and MBA students will also find it of immense value.

Predictors of Stickiness

Predictors of stickiness

Stickiness can be predicted by analysing properties of the transfer. Traditional approaches to the re-creation of knowledge within organizations have paid little attention to impediments. For example, communication theory views the process as one where the source transmits a signal to the recipient – a process in which information transfer is almost instantaneous and costless (Shannon and Weaver, 1949).

Subsequent analysis of knowledge transfer has recognized some of the impediments to knowledge transfer that result from the cognitive and emotional characteristics of human beings, and the social systems they create. These include the limited information processing capacity of ‘social channels’ (Arrow, 1974), the emotions and experiences of sense-making individuals (Rogers, 1994), the peculiarities of the relationship and of the social context ...

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