Knowledge grafting during internationalization: utilizing localized professionals in the foreign market

Martin Johanson, Pao T. Kao, Heléne Lundberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand knowledge grafting through localized professionals in the internationalization of the firm. Knowledge grafting refers to firms increasing their knowledge stock by acquiring new staff, and while the concept is not new in studies on firms’ internationalization, there is little understanding of the characteristics of the individuals carrying the knowledge, the types of knowledge grafted and how it contributes to a market entry process. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted an explorative study with a multiple-case research design and purposely selected five localized Swedish managers working for Russian subsidiaries of Swedish firms. Face-to-face interviews were conducted. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed based on three types of knowledge: general foreign market knowledge, social network knowledge and professional knowledge. The authors also considered both private and professional ties. Findings: The findings show that characteristics of the localized professional and the firm can influence the type of knowledge grafted and how it is used. The findings also highlight the key role of the individual as knowledge carrier and show an alternative way to obtain knowledge in firm internationalization. Research limitations/implications: This study comes with limitations. Only Swedish firms entering Russia with wholly owned subsidiaries have been considered. Further studies comparing knowledge grafting with firms in different entry mode, varying stage of market entry, as well as other countries of origin can further enrich our understanding. Future studies can also focus on localized professionals to shed light on the knowledge transfer between them and other individuals within the firms and the potential impact of their departure on knowledge grafting. Practical implications: Internationalizing firms should pay attention to the opportunity of grafting knowledge by appointing localized professionals already living in the market. Governmental agencies in the host county can be a valuable source for identifying foreign nationals of the same origin as the firm. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to focus on the individual level of knowledge grafting and to examine how localized professionals acquire knowledge to support firms in internationalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2009-2033
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Issue number9
Early online date24 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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