How to Exchange Tacit Knowledge in Multicultural Discussion?


  • Yayoi Hirose Toyo University



Dialogue, tacit knowledge, trust, multicultural discussion


This qualitative study highlights the importance of considering the cultural gaps in interdisciplinary discussion, as people cannot transfer and exchange tacit knowledge without considering the cultural context. Past literature claims that the dialogue style of discussion is an effective approach for interdisciplinary discussion. However, specific cultures, such as collectivist and high-context cultures, do not accept conflict of opinions. The current study defines a two-part research question: How do cultural gaps affect the dialogue process among people who have different cultural values? How can tacit knowledge be exchanged in multicultural discussions?


The study considers Japanese organisations which implemented dialogue-style workshops, as Japanese organisational members have cultural values, such as collectivism and high context, which do not match a dialogue style of discussion. Regarding the first question, the findings show that the participants do not understand tacit knowledge regarding dialogue when they are simply taught the process of how to conduct a dialogue style of discussion. Instead, they tend to use the discussion method based on their cultural context. The study clarifies that simple implementation of dialogue in organisations whose culture does not match it will not enable transfer of tacit knowledge, and participants will not use the dialogue method as expected.

For the second question, the findings show that to exchange tacit knowledge, Japanese participants need a place where they feel safe to share tacit knowledge and build trust on others’ personality rather than their ability. The tendency to trust is related to the Japanese cultural value of low assertiveness, while assertive people tend to build trust based on others’ ability. This finding suggests that people will not exchange tacit knowledge with others who have different cultures without building a trust relationship. An organiser needs to provide a safe place, considering the difference in the trust-building process among people from different organizational cultures.