Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Knowledge Outsourcing: A Proposed Model

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Knowledge Outsourcing: A Proposed Model

Article excerpt

Knowledge management (KM) has played a critical role ever since the 1990s. In today's global marketplace, firms not only outsource tangible resources, but they abo acquire tacit knowledge. Based on this, the study herein attempts to construct a knowledge outsourcing (KO) model from the base of decision analysis and making in order to help firms consider whether, what, and how to outsource knowledge. After reviewing KM-related articles, this study concludes a four-mode KO Model by considering four managerial questions and eight criterions. The Model consists of four modes, named knowledge allocation, enlargement, trade, and initiation. Accordingly, this study classifies KO as 17 activities and details them. Finally, this study provides suggestions and directions toward KO practices and research for the future.



Manufacturers not only outsource tangible resources and assets, but they also acquire tacit knowledge and technologies (Schoech et al. 200 1 ; Desouza & Evaristo, 2003). From the practical perspective, firms need to acquire and adapt diversified knowledge since every marketplace is heterogeneous. Thus, knowledge outsourcing (KO) plays practical role in the 21st century (Pérez-Nordtvedt, Kedia, Datta, & Rasheed, 2008).

Relatively few articles pay attention to KO. Almeida (1996) provides an insight into the issue by employing patent citation analysis on the U.S. semiconductor industry, and Birchall et al. (2001) explore how the automobile industry conducts sourcing and assimilation of knowledge. The evidence indicates that whether multinationals acquire or contribute knowledge depends on the innovativeness of the host religions/countries and the feature of knowledge. It is a pity that very few studies follow these efforts. Several years after the above-mentioned authors' efforts, however, the significance of knowledge economy and knowledge management (KM) has changed our perspectives on knowledge. It is time now for academia to refocus KO and to update related agendas, including whether, what, and how to determine the KO decisions.

One can first take a look at the KM literature. The KM issue has played a critical role in the academy of management and economics from the 1 990s and onwards. Experts from academia and practical sectors engage in developing and forming KM ideology in order to reshape the configuration of competitive advantage and to improve organizational capability that traditionally focuses on physical resources. Many studies in the literature focus on KM principles (e.g., Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Leonard-Barton, 1995) and KM practices (e.g., Zack, 1999, Davenport & Klahr, 1998; Scott, 1998). These efforts lead many organizations to establish KM-related organizations or positions (such as CKO, or Chief Knowledge Officer) and to clarify KM as an official organizational function. Hence, a new perspective might be reasonable in the KM practices, i.e., perspective of knowledge outsourcing.


Previous sections have shown that KO is clearly perceived in KM and production management. However, relatively few academic efforts have been concentrated on it may due to the following reasons. First, many of the KM-related literature are originated in the U.S. and Japan whose firms possess complete and even abundant R&D capability and thus afford to conduct knowledge activities independently. This makes them pay relatively little attention to issues of knowledge outsourcing. However, knowledge spurcing is highly concerned with manufacturers particularly those in less-developed countries (LDCs). Take the hi-tech industries in Asia for example. Most Asian hi-tech industries consist of medium/small-size firms that have not enough independent knowledge resource of their own. Thus, they need to outsource knowledge from foreign nations, cultivate their knowledge under others' guidance, or conduct cross-national knowledge activities such as cooperative R&D, joint knowledge alliance, and even utilizing foreign patents mutually (Radosvic, 1991; Tassy, 1990). …

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