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To gain a competitive advantage, project organizations are interested in sharing knowledge gained through their experiences across the organization. Despite the advantages, this can be particularly challenging for multi-national engineering organizations. These organizations not only encounter typical knowledge sharing constraints due to lack of resources, individual motivations, and a project-based focus; but also the additional challenges of geographical, cultural and disciplinary boundaries. However, gaining knowledge from the diverse environments in which multinational engineering organizations work is a large advantage for working globally. To better understand the networks that exist for sharing knowledge within these organizations, this research employed a case study of a sustainability network within a large multinational engineering organization. The organization selected individuals from 62 offices that were dispersed across 25 countries. These individuals responded to ego-centric social network surveys that contained questions about their background and the people with whom they share knowledge. The results found that geographic distance created large barriers in the knowledge-sharing network. There was a high prevalence for regional knowledge sharing, which resulted in regional and country level silos with weak ties to offices in other geographies. The research also found a significant focus on knowledge centered on the home office and sustainability business center. The network illustrates a transfer bias toward centralized communication with limited connections and knowledge exchange between “emerging” and “developed” countries. The results highlight the need for focused strategic efforts by the firm to encourage knowledge sharing ties between offices and countries separated by geography. In addition, to reap the advantages of working globally, firms must focus on creating low levels of centrality to encourage knowledge flow from offices in emerging countries.

Javernick-Will, A. and Chinowsky, P. (2011). "Intra-Firm, Interdisciplinary Networks in Multi-National Engineering Organizations." Management and Innovation for a Sustainable Built Environment Conference. Amsterdam, Netherlands.