The JGM BitBlog: Been There, Done That, Let’s Chat – International Experience as a Microfoundation of Knowledge Sharing

Marketa Rickley, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, United States

International experience stimulates knowledge creation and knowledge sharing. However, despite ample evidence that international experience benefits individuals – for instance, by enhancing individuals’ problem-solving skills, creativity, interpersonal skills, and communication abilities – we know far less about how international experiences influence groups’ or teams’ propensities for knowledge sharing. Understanding how international experience in groups facilitates knowledge sharing is of great importance not only because international management is frequently performed in teams, but also because multinational companies’ (MNCs’) success across foreign markets hinges on organizational capabilities to receive, recombine, and redeploy knowledge.

The conceptual framework introduced here suggests that individual-level heterogeneity in international experience can serve as a microfoundation of organizational-level capabilities for knowledge sharing. Merely having internationally experienced individuals on board, however, is not enough. Instead, knowledge sharing is facilitated by productive compositions and compilations of cognitive, relational, and structural social capital from international experience.

In this study, I propose that knowledge sharing is a multilevel process where individual cognitive social capital is enhanced by relational ties rooted in shared experience to spur dyadic interaction among individuals. Furthermore, the usefulness of individual international experiences is amplified by a group structure characterized by (i) higher stocks of international experience in the group as well as by (ii) internationally experienced leadership, as these factors support the emergence of productive group processes for knowledge sharing.

This article begins an important conversation on the role of group or team dynamics for knowledge sharing. By theoretically linking individual differences in international experience to knowledge sharing capabilities through individual, dyadic, and group-level mechanisms, I spotlight international experience as a key element of the knowledge sharing process – one that is critical to organizational success of MNCs as they strive for success across foreign markets characterized by cultural, institutional, and competitive differences. The presented framework also offers a more general multilevel logic for how individually-held knowledge-based assets (such as international experience) can combine to underlie organizational capabilities (such as knowledge sharing) and serve as a source of competitive advantage in MNCs.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Rickley, M. (2021), "How composition and compilation of international experience in groups influences knowledge sharing: a theoretical model", Journal of Global Mobility<>, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 464-479.

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Professor Jan Selmer, Ph.D.
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Department of Management, Aarhus University

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