Intra-corporate plagiarism? Conceptualising antecedents and consequences of negatively perceived mobility of ideas


Journal of Global Mobility, 4(3), 257-275 (2016) .


Purpose – We examine and reflect on the mobility of ideas between Multinational Corporation (MNC) headquarters and subsidiaries. Does it always represent (positively perceived) knowledge transfer or can it sometimes constitute (negatively perceived) intra-corporate plagiarism? What are the antecedents and consequences of negatively perceived mobility of ideas? Design/methodology/approach – We conceptualise inter-unit knowledge transfer in MNCs without recognition of originators as an act of intra-corporate plagiarism. Our conceptualisation is informed by theoretical perspectives in the literature and indicative data emerging unexpectedly from a study designed to examine knowledge transfer in MNCs. These illustrate the concept, point to factors affecting the propensity to plagiarise, and provide preliminary insight on both negative and positive consequences. Aiming to build theory, we offer propositions for further research. Findings – Our conceptualisation suggests that adopting units lose access to the original sources of ideas as plagiarism victims may establish defensive strategies. Originators of ideas may experience loss of trust, be unsupportive of implementation, and erect barriers to future mobility. There is risk of reputation loss and rejection of ideas and practices from other units. However, our conceptualisation also suggests that, ironically and counterintuitively, plagiarism may increase the mobility of ideas within MNCs. Research limitations – We do not test hypotheses and make no claims from our data about statistical validity or prevalence of the phenomenon. As our emergent data are not longitudinal, and specific to human resource management practices, we cannot empirically establish all antecedents and consequences of intra-corporate plagiarism. Hence, our theorisations primarily rely on perspectives in the literature. The study merely offers the theoretical conceptualisation of the phenomenon and propositions for future research. Practical implications – Drawing on theoretical perspectives in the literature at the country-level (ethnocentrism, dominance effects, legitimacy, capability) and organisation-level (not-invented-here syndrome, micro-politics), the study indicates consequences that MNCs may wish to consider in their knowledge management. Originality/value – Our first contribution is the conceptualisation of inter-unit knowledge transfer in MNCs without recognition of originators as an act of intra-corporate plagiarism. Second, we point out that knowledge transfer directionality reported in other research may be based on intentional or unintentional misrepresentation. Third, we theorise intra-corporate plagiarism as potentially useful in mitigating ethnocentrism, country-of-origin dominance effects and perceptions about legitimacy and capability.

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