1 Department of Marketing and Statistics, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 MAPP - Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University5 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Many companies are facing an increasing need to compete on a global scale. But as companies move into multiple markets, the process of developing new products becomes increasingly complex. Coping successfully with the increased internationalization forces companies to excel at collaboration and knowledge sharing, also across geographical distances. The capability to develop new transnational products depends largely on the multinational company's ability to transfer and deploy knowledge from its multiple country sources. The challenges of the transfer of knowledge between departments in the same company are far from trivial and the problems associated with transfer will increase with geographical and cultural difference (Bresman et al., 1999). Especially tacit knowledge is difficult to transport across national boarders (Kogut & Zander, 1992) and not much research exists on how companies overcome these barriers and harvest knowledge from geographical dispersed areas (Subramaniam & Venkatraman, 2001). The product development literature prescribes that knowledge sharing is desirable throughout the whole product development process (Craig & Hart, 1992; Hansen, 1999). Although this sharing is desirable, previous research found that it is the exception rather than the rule in most companies (Golder, 2000:329). Hence, it is relevant to research how companies can improve their ability to share knowledge in connection with international product development. One way to increase knowledge sharing in the product development process is by using teams. Teams are considered one of the best tools for exchanging especially tacit knowledge, since this kind of knowledge is transferred best through personal interaction and face-to-face meetings (Madhavan & Grover, 1998; Nonaka, 1994). In accordance with this, more and more multinational firms rely on international product development teams (McDonough et al., 2001) as a means to make the most effective use of the company's resources scattered around the world. While a substantial amount of research exists on groups in general, research into new product development teams is more limited and especially empirical research on global new product development teams is sparse (McDonough, et al., 2001). Findings from research on teams cannot automatically be generalized and applied to multinational product development teams, since these differ on a range of parameters from domestic teams. Multinational teams are often separated geographically and are culturally diverse, which affects their knowledge processes. Given the increased importance of multinational product development teams and the limited amount of research within this area, this therefore appears to be a topic worthy of further investigation. Hence the objective of the full paper is to discuss the challenges associated with knowledge sharing in international product development teams. A case study of a Danish international food company has been conducted and interviews with team members located in different geographical cites are currently being analyzed.