Subsidiary Managers' Search Practices: Unpacking the Emergent Knowledge Flow

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


A lot of research has investigated the organizational level determinants and patterns of knowledge flows within multinational corporations (MNCs), often describing the transfer as a deliberate knowledge flow – initiated by top management who strategically decide on the replication of knowledge. 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 organizational knowledge exchanges. Adopting the problemistic search perspective and collecting in-depth, qualitative data from 40 cases to uncover what knowledge subsidiary managers actually mobilize, allows developing a more fine-grained perspective of knowledge flows 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 strategic renewal.