Much has been written on the importance of knowledge accumulation and transfer within the network firm but two questions remain. First, what are the specifics of this process, particularly for high tacit content knowledge? Second, how can firms create a sustainable competitive advantage from knowledge acquired from outside the firm? We address the first question by proposing that the mechanisms of external knowledge capture and internal knowledge transfer can best be understood and studied not at the level of networked subsidiary firms, but at the micro-organizational level of Communities of Practice (CoPs). We then offer a model of the dynamics of organizational learning in network organizations, such as MNEs, which builds on this unit of analysis. This framework clarifies the link between CoPs and Networks of Practice (NoPs), by offering a novel conceptual model of how knowledge, particularly tacit, embedded knowledge, is absorbed. The framework also proposes a new link - that between CoPs and Internal Networks of Practice (INoPs), as another essential ingredient to knowledge accumulation and transfer within firms. We also propose that the firm-level architectural knowledge that is developed through INoPs is valuable and rare. In combination with the component knowledge that is developed through NoPs, architectural knowledge can create novel knowledge that may be a source of competitive advantage.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

© 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Article first published online: 30 JULY 2010.

The definitive version is available at:

Full Citation:
Tallman, Stephen and Aya S. Chacar (2011). Knowledge Accumulation and Dissemination in MNEs: A Practice-Based Framework. Journal of Management Studies, 48(2), 278-304. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2010.00971.x/abstract.