Subsidiary Managers’ Knowledge Search: Implications for MNC Knowledge Flow Studies

Esther Tippmann, Dublin Institute of Technology
Pamela Sharkey Scott
Vincent Mangematin, Grenoble Ecole de Management


A lot of research has investigated the organisational level determinants and patterns of knowledge flows and transfers within the MNC, often describing the transfer of practices as a deliberate knowledge flow. However, little empirical attention has been paid to an examination of the actions of individuals, most critically middle managers who are at the nexus of organisational knowledge exchanges. Adopting the problemistic search perspective to uncover what knowledge middle managers in subsidiaries actually mobilize, allows developing a more fine-grained perspective of knowledge flow patterns within the MNC. Developing the notion of emergent knowledge flow, we conclude that knowledge exchanges often occur outside top management’s direct visibility and that these have the important potential to introduce divergence for knowledge generation and renewal.