Enhancing knowledge transfer through nurturing cognitive flexibility
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The ability to leverage knowledge has become a core competence of organizations to compete in the contemporary economy. Knowledge management systems using knowledge repositories capture valuable knowledge assets for future reuse. How knowledge can be presented in these systems to support effective knowledge reuse becomes a critical challenge. Knowledge transfer is an essential knowledge reuse process which involves adopting knowledge from its original problem-solving context to a different context, and adapting the knowledge to solve new problems. Adaptation is vital, yet challenging. This problem was explored from the individual knowledge worker’s perspective. Integrating the research from the educational psychology and learning literatures, this study posits that a knowledge worker’s flexible understanding of the knowledge has a positive impact on the transfer (as in the sense of application) of that knowledge; and that a knowledge worker’s flexible understanding of specific knowledge content can be improved through knowledge presentations that emphasize cognitive flexibility. Further, it was purported that in an effective, successful knowledge management system, knowledge should be presented to enhance flexible understanding, and consequently, improve knowledge transfer. The principles of knowledge presentation that promote flexible understandings were explored and used in an experiment. The empirical findings partially confirmed the effect of knowledge presentation on developing flexible understandings. It was found that the effect of knowledge presentation depends on individuals’ cognitive traits. This interaction effect and the implications to research and practice are discussed.