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.

Case Studies

Case studies

The four types of stickiness – initiation, implementation, ramp-up and integration – are illustrated with findings from in-depth fieldwork in three different settings: Rank Xerox, Banc One and CENTEL, a subsidiary of SPRINT. Initiation stickiness is illustrated with Rank Xerox's difficulties to initiate transfers between its European subsidiaries. Implementation and ramp-up stickiness are illustrated with Banc One's difficulties experienced when converting acquired banks. Integration stickiness is illustrated by CENTEL's difficulties sustaining in each of its divisions a ‘best’ practice that had already been effectively implemented.1Figure 6.1 shows the correspondence between the research sites and the types of stickiness that they help illustrate.

Figure 6.1


Rank Xerox

Rank Xerox (now Xerox Europe) is a European multinational with operations in all Western European countries, and in Africa ...

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