Keywords: global product development, learning, communication, cross-cultural study, strategy
Continuous learning in global product development: a cross-cultural comparison
The paper develops a framework for the analysis of inter-project learning in different cultures, applies the framework to a comparative case study within one multinational company, and presents preliminary results about cultural differences in learning patterns. The results indicate that the designers in the Italian unit, representing a multi-active culture, enthusiastically use meetings for the transfer of explicit knowledge between R&D projects. In the Finnish unit, on the contrary, the designers prefer face-to-face discussion and transfer of tacit as well as codified knowledge, which is typical of a reactive culture. First results from the replication of the study in a German unit reveal that this unit prefers more structured forms of communication between projects, which fits its linear-active culture. This communication style is also observed in the Swedish centre organisation, representing a linear-active culture. At the end of this paper, some implications of cultural differences for learning strategies and reward systems in global R&D project management are discussed, and directions for future research are presented.