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Foreign subsidiaries in multinational corporations (MNCs) possess knowledge that has different sources (e.g., the firm itself or various sources in the environment). How such sources influence knowledge transfer is not well understood. Drawing on the "accommodation effect" from cognitive psychology, the authors argue that accumulation of externally sourced knowledge in a subsidiary may reduce the value of transferring that subsidiary's knowledge to other parts of the MNC. The authors develop a parsimonious model of intrafirm knowledge transfer and test its predictions against a unique data set on subsidiary knowledge development that includes the sources of subsidiary knowledge and the extent of knowledge transfer to other MNC units. The authors show that a high level of externally sourced knowledge in a subsidiary is associated with a high level of knowledge transfer from that subsidiary only if a certain tipping point of internally sourced knowledge has been surpassed. This suggests that subsidiary knowledge stocks that are balanced in terms of their origins tend to be more valuable, congruous, and fungible, and therefore more likely to be transferred to other MNC units

Publication information

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management
Volume39
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1397-1429
ISSN0149-2063
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ID: 38741288