Communication and Knowledge Flows in Transnational R&D Projects

  • Maximilian Joachim von ZedtwitzEmail author


Multinational companies exist in part because of their ability to tap into worldwide centers of expertise and disseminate this knowhow within the global firms. However, sharing knowledge efficiently is difficult even in highly networked organizations. Knowledge flows are hindered by spatial distance, costs of set-up and maintenance of communication structures, and lack of trust between distant sites. This chapter focuses on three key dimensions of virtual organizations: 1) knowledge transfer, 2) communication quality, and 3) coordination, and analyzes them in transnational R&D projects in industrial companies. Based on a cross-case comparison along the three dimensions, this chapter proposes inter-, intra- and multilocal aspects of virtual R&D teams, suggests three propositions, and concludes with managerial implications.


Global Innovation Transnational R&D Virtual R&D Teams Internationalization of R&D 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albers, S.; Eggers (1991): Organisatorische Gestaltungen von Produktinnovations-Prozessen. Führt der Wechsel des Organisationsgrades zu Innovationserfolg? Zeitschrift für betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung, 43(1): 44-64.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, T. J. (1977): Managing the Flow of Technology - Technology Transfer and the Dissemination of Technological Information within the R&D Organization. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ancona, D. G., & Caldwell, D. F. (1997). Making teamwork work: Boundary management in product development teams. Managing strategic innovation and change: A collection of readings. 433-442.Google Scholar
  4. Borgulya, P. 2008. Hoffmann-La Roche: Global Differentiation between Research and Development. In Boutellier, R.; Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (eds): Managing Global Innovation - Uncovering the Secrets of Future Competitiveness. 3rd edition. Springer: Heidelberg. 307-320.Google Scholar
  5. Boutellier, R.; Gassmann, O., Macho, H., Roux, M. 1998. Management of dispersed product development teams: the role of information technologies. R&D Management 28, 1, 13-25.Google Scholar
  6. Breu, K.; Hemingway, C.J. 2004. Making organisations virtual: the hidden cost of distributed teams. Journal of Information Technology 19, 191–202.Lipnack, J., Stamps, J. (1997): Virtual Teams—Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology. Wiley: New York.Google Scholar
  7. Burgelman, R.A. 1984. Managing the Internal Corporate Venturing Process. Sloan Management Review 25, 2, 33-48.Google Scholar
  8. Campagna, M.; Roeder T. 2008. ABB: Management of Technology: Think Global, Act Local. In Boutellier, R.; Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (eds): Managing Global Innovation - Uncovering the Secrets of Future Competitiveness. 3rd edition. Springer: Heidelberg. 559-571.Google Scholar
  9. Chiesa, V.; Manzini, R. (1997): Managing virtual R&D organisations: lessons from the pharmaceutical industry. International Journal of Technology Management, 13(5/6).Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, R. G.; Kleinschmidt, E. J. (1991): New Product Processes at Leading Industrial Firms. Industrial Marketing Management, 20: 137-147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawford, C. M. (1992). The hidden costs of accelerated product development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 9(3), 188-199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Meyer, A.; Mizushima, A. (1989): Global R&D Management. R&D Management, 19(2): 135-146.Google Scholar
  13. De Meyer, A. (1991): Tech Talk: How Managers Are Stimulating Global R&D Communication. Sloan Management Review, 32(3): 49-58.Google Scholar
  14. Dimanescu, D.; Dwenger, K. (1996): World-Class New Product Development. New York: Amacom.Google Scholar
  15. Eirma (1995): Globalisation of R&D. EIRMA Conference Papers XLIV. Paris.Google Scholar
  16. Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (2003a): Trends and Determinants of Managing Virtual R&D Teams. R&D Management 33, 3, 243-262.Google Scholar
  17. Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (2003b): Innovation Processes in Transnational Corporations. In: Shavinina, L. (Editor): The International Handbook on Innovation. Pergamon: Oxford, Part IX, Chpt. 4, 702-714Google Scholar
  18. Griffith, T.L.; Sawyer, J.E.; Neale, M.A. 2003. Virtualness and Knowledge in Teams: Managing the Love Triangle of Organizations, Individuals, and Information Technology. MIS Quarterly 27, 2, 265-287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Henderson, R. M.; Clark, K. B. (1990): Architectural Innovation: The Reconfiguration of Existing Product Technologies and the Failure of Established Firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35: 9-30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoegl, M.; Ernst, H.; Proserpio, L. 2004. How Teamwork Matters More as Team Member Dispersion Increases. Journal of Product Innovation Management 24, 156–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howells, J. (1995): Going Global: the Use of ICT Networks in Research and Development. Research Policy, 24: 169-184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Iansiti, M. 1998. Technology integration: making critical choices in a dynamic world. Harvard Business School Press: Boston.Google Scholar
  23. Imai, K. I., Nonaka, I., & Fakeuchi, H. (1985). Managing the new product development. The Uneasy Alliance. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  24. Katz. R.; Allen, T. 1985. Project performance and the locus of influence in the R&D matrix. Academy of Management Journal 28, 1, 67-81.Google Scholar
  25. Katzenbach, J. R.; Smith, D. K. (1993): The Wisdom of Teams. Boston.Google Scholar
  26. Kristof, A.; Brown, K.; Sims, H.; Smith, K. (1995): The virtual team: A case study and inductive model. In: Beyerlein, M.; Johnson, D.; Beyerlein, S. (Eds): Advances in Interdisciplinary Studies of Work Teams. Vol 2. JAI Press: Greenwich. 229-253.Google Scholar
  27. Leavitt; H.J.; Lipman-Blumen, J. 1995. Hot Groups. Harvard Business Review 73 (4), 109-116.Google Scholar
  28. Lipnack, J.; Stamps, J. 1997. Virtual teams reaching across space, time, and organizations with technology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  29. Madauss, B.J. 1994. Handbuch Projektmanagement. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel.Google Scholar
  30. Maznevski, M. Chudoba, K. (2000): Bridging Space Over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectiveness. Organization Science 11, 5, 473-492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muethel, M.; Siebdrat, F.; Hoegl, M. 2012. When do we really need interpersonal trust in globally dispersed new product development teams? R&D Management 42, 1, 31-46.Google Scholar
  32. Nadler, D.; Tushman, M. 1990. Beyond the Charismatic Leader: Leadership and Organizational Change. California Management Review 32, 2, 77-97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Naman, J., Dahlin, K.; Krohn, M. Editors, 1998). Managing international R&D for global platforms and local adaptations. Working Paper 98-1, The Carnegie Bosch Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.Google Scholar
  34. Nonaka, I.; Takeuchi, H. (1995): The Knowledge-Creating Company. How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. New York, Oxford.Google Scholar
  35. O’Connor, P. (1994): Implementing a Stage-Gate Process: A Multi-Company Perspective. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 11: 183-200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. OECD 2018. Multinational enterprises in the global economy. OECD Policy Note May 2018.Google Scholar
  37. O’Hara-Devereaux, M.; Johansen, R. (1994): Globalwork. Bridging Distance, Culture, and Time. San Francisco.Google Scholar
  38. Perea, C.; von Zedtwitz, M. (2018). Organic vs. Mechanistic Coordination in Distributed New Product Development (NPD) Teams. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management 49, 4-21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reger, G. 1999. How R&D is coordinated in Japanese and European multinationals. R&D Management 29, 1, 71-88.Google Scholar
  40. Roussel, P. A.; Saad, K. N.; Erickson, T. J. (1991): Third Generation R&D: Managing the Link to Corporate Strategy. Boston (MA).Google Scholar
  41. Rubenstein, A. H. (1989): Managing Technology in the Decentralized Firm. New York, Toronto, Singapore: Wiley.Google Scholar
  42. Szakonyi, R. (1994). Measuring R&D Effectiveness. Research Technology Management 37, 2, 27-32.Google Scholar
  43. Tedmon, C. (1997): Integrated Management of a Global Corporate R&D Programme, in: EIRMA (1997): The Evolution of Industrial R&D. Vol. XLVII, Paris, 79-84.Google Scholar
  44. Thamhain, H.; Wilemon, D. 1987. Building high performing engineering project teams. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management 34, 3, 130-137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tushman, M. L. (1979): Work characteristics and subunit communication structure: A contingency analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24: 82-98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. UNCTAD 2011. World Investment Report. Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  47. vom Brocke, J.; Lippe, S. 2015. Managing collaborative research projects: A synthesis of project management literature and directives for future research. International Journal of Project Management 33, 5, 1022-1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wheelwright, S. C.; Clark, K. B. (1992): Revolutionizing Product Development - Quantum Leaps in Speed, Efficiency, and Quality. New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Winkler, A.; Edgar, M. 2008. Unisys: Localization of Software Development. In Boutellier, R.; Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (eds): Managing Global Innovation - Uncovering the Secrets of Future Competitiveness. 3rd edition. Springer: Heidelberg. 487-506.Google Scholar
  50. Wyleczuk, R. 1999. Hewlett-Packard: Planet-Wide Patterns in the Company’s Technology Tapestry. In Boutellier, R.; Gassmann, O.; von Zedtwitz, M. (eds): Managing Global Innovation - Uncovering the Secrets of Future Competitiveness. 3rd edition. Springer: Heidelberg. 397-444.Google Scholar
  51. van de Ven, A. 1986. Central Problems in the Management of Innovation. Management Science 32, 5, 590-607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. von Zedtwitz, M.; Gassmann, O. (2002): Market versus Technology Drive in R&D Internationalization: Four different patterns of managing research and development. Research Policy, 31, 4, 569-58Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Innovation and International BusinessKaunas University of TechnologyKaunasLithuania

Personalised recommendations