The Influence of Culture on Knowledge Exchange between International Consultants and Local Clients
: The Case of Saudi Arabia

  • Asem Aldhalaan

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Aim: This research investigates the influence of culture on knowledge exchange between international consultants and Saudi clients.

    A gap in the research into knowledge exchange has been identified at three levels: industrial, organizational and interpersonal. At the industrial level, the significant influence of culture on the international work of consultancy has been insufficiently studied. At the organizational level, the influence of various meanings of the symbolic representations of the consulting organisations and their services in new environments remain unstudied. Also, it is not yet clear how consulting organisations utilise their knowledge systems in new cultures. At the interpersonal level, the influence of culture on the client-consultant relationship has been only implicitly acknowledged in the literature. This implicit acknowledgement is related to the ability of people from different cultures to understand the knowledge they receive from those from other cultures. This remains unaddressed in the specific context of international consulting.

    Following an extensive literature review, a theoretical review was conducted to develop an understanding about the relationships between the main components constituting the research question, namely, culture, knowledge, power and language. This research takes an interpretive position towards culture and the ways in which it can be analysed. The relationships between these components and culture in the context of the client-consultant relationship have been operationalised by the deployment of social constructionism.

    Data was collected through deep semi-structured interviews from both sides of the client-consultant relationship with the aim of contributing to the neglected client side in consultancy research.

    The early empirical findings from the study suggest that the distribution of impact can be detected during three chronological instances. Firstly, during the hiring stage when different symbolic representation may cause conflicts. Secondly, during the advice development stage when advice is culturally conditioned to accommodate the clients’ culture. Thirdly, during the advice implementation stage when advice implementation is subject to differing expectations of duties, and to independent power barriers.

    The thesis makes a novel contribution by theorizing about the role of experience in the ability of international consultants to recognise and accommodate explicit and implicit cultural elements that affect their cross-cultural work. Therefore, the developed theory suggests that country-specific work experience plays a significant role in accommodating the influence of culture on knowledge exchange between international clients and consultants.
    Date of AwardJun 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorStephanos Avakian (Supervisor) & Steve Reeve (Supervisor)

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