This qualitative study explores the influences of German – Japanese cultural differences on knowledge transfer. In order to do so a theoretical model of the knowledge agents is being developed, extending the classic sender-receiver communication prototype by including the aspects of home and host culture, the level of internationalization and the interconnectedness of different knowledge agents. In a second step the model is tested by conducting a single case study at a German company in Japan. It is then verified along several measurable cultural dimensions that are expected to impact knowledge transfer. They are (1) power distance, (2) uncertainty avoidance, (3) individualism vs. collectivism, (4) masculinity vs. femininity, and (5) long- vs. short-term orientation; (6) speed of communication, (7) high vs. low context, (8) monochronic vs. polychronic time, and (9) past vs. present orientation, (10) perception of space, (11) internationalization, (12) cultural openness, (13) perceived cultural distance, and (14) language ability.
The results of the study show that there seems to be a link between masculinity, individualism and the assertion of power. Neither uncertainty avoidance nor past vs. present orientation can be pinpointed to be relevant. The perception of space and distance can have positive and negative effects. Internationalization raises cross-cultural awareness. Language skills are instrumental in minimizing misunderstanding and strengthening interpersonal relations. Through internationalization people are more likely to extend their existing cultural repertoire with new elements from a foreign culture. Different means of communications which are overlapping and taking place alongside each other have different speeds.
Alexander Bargstädt is currently a Master's student of the Graduate Program of Global Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. He received his Bachelor's Degree in 2005 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA. After his graduation in September 2007, he will return to Germany for his PhD.