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Working Papers (2015), ESSEC Business School

Ritualization and the Process of Knowledge Transfer


We analyze interactions among members of rural communities in Ghana and agriculture development specialists. We find that these participants in the knowledge transfer process are separated by deep knowledge boundaries, as well as by diverging worldviews (one centered on community relations, the other on market relationships). In this context, knowledge transfer is enabled through ritualized interactions and in particular by the use of two types of ritualization strategies: marking strategies (visiting dignitaries and events, praying, gift-giving) and recurring strategies (performing, fabletelling, affirming community values). These findings show that ritualization – understood as a way of acting that distinguishes particular situations from other, usually more mundane, activities – allows encounters between opposing orders and thus enables knowledge transfer. We suggest that this is the case because ritualization speaks to people’s aspirations to change; it is morally redemptive; and it bridges across groups. Ritualized interactions facilitate knowledge transfer by creating a context for learning during mundane interactions, by fostering mechanisms for peer-learning and teaching and by triggering reverse learning on behalf of knowledge workers from rural communities. Our study contributes to the literature on organizational rituals, learning in strong culture contexts, and economic sociology.

METIU, A. and SLAVOVA, M. (2015). Ritualization and the Process of Knowledge Transfer. ESSEC Business School.