Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


Knowledge is a valuable asset for any organisation, including multinational companies (MNC). Knowledge transfer is an important process which helps organisations gain and sustain competitive advantage. Despite extensive research, achieving effective knowledge transfer remains a major challenge for many organisations. Tacit knowledge is particularly complex and often becomes “sticky” and thus slow and difficult to transfer. Previous research has indicated that stickiness characteristics can be of a cognitive or an organisational nature. Moreover, these characteristics typically do not occur in isolation and have different effects in particular contexts.

The present study expands on current theoretical understandings of stickiness by exploring the challenges of knowledge transfer within a multinational organisation, particularly from globally dispersed subsidiaries to the parent company. While most previous research has used surveys to study specific stickiness characteristics, this research uses open-ended interviews with staff at all levels and in different areas of the organisation, to achieve a broader and deeper view of stickiness characteristics. Communication can be both positively or negatively associated with sticky knowledge and patterns in the data at an early stage of the analysis suggested that it would be useful to examine sticky knowledge at different levels of communication “intimacy”. Hence this study analysed stickiness at three levels of communication, from low to high levels of intimacy: formal, less formal, and informal.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.