Knowledge Acquisition in International Strategic Alliances: The Role of Knowledge Ambiguity

Mia Hsiao-wen Ho, Pervez N. Ghauri, Mario Kafouros

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Although prior research has emphasized the importance of international strategic alliances, we have incomplete understanding of how and why some firms succeed in acquiring knowledge from foreign partners, but others fail. We advance understanding of this important issue by examining (1) two key antecedents of knowledge ambiguity (the perceived difficulty of understanding the causal effects of partner’s knowledge and the use of such knowledge) and (2) by identifying how firms can partly overcome the negative effects of knowledge ambiguity on knowledge acquisition in international alliances. Drawing on organizational learning theory, our analysis not only shows (and explains how) knowledge ambiguity affects international knowledge acquisition through the interaction with absorptive capacity, but also identifies what alliance partners can do to reduce knowledge ambiguity and overcome some of its negative consequences, such as choosing foreign partners with a similar institutional context and building strong relationships with such partners.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement International Review
Early online date30 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • knowledge ambiguity
  • absorptive capacity
  • knowledge acquisition
  • institutional distance
  • international strategic alliances
  • relational capital


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