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Cross-Border Inter-Organizational Knowledge Transfer: Skilled Returnees as Knowledge Brokers moderating Cultural Distance

Track: International Management

Keywords: transnational knowledge transfer, cultural distance, board composition

This study establishes a typology of 4 types of board members in MNEs in a bid to assess the impact of the top management team’s diversity, in terms of the proportion of skilled repatriates, on knowledge transfer and performance. While the expatriate literature distinguishes between locals and expatriates, this study’s main contribution is the addition of the skilled returnees as a managerial group in the unique position of straddling both local and foreign cultures and knowledge. The study’s central argument is that the predominance of repatriates on the board of international firms will enhance knowledge transfer, and subsequently firm performance, in foreign located international firms. Repatriates effectively transfer both parent company knowledge to the subsidiary and local knowledge to the parent company, both of which will enhance performance. The results confirm the negative relationship between cultural distance and firm performance. However, it yields an interesting and unexpected negative relationship between the proportion of US educated board members and firm performance. The moderated positive relationship is also positive and statistically significant. The study points to the existence of a multi-identity for the individual personnel and the firm and brings to light the complexities of context.


Leah Ndanga -
University of Massachusetts Amherst


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