Knowledge transfer for innovativeness in family businesses

  • Marina Letonja Doba Faculty of Applied Business and Social Studies
  • Mojca Duh
  • Zdenka Ženko
Keywords: family business, innovation, knowledge transfer, succession


Family businesses (FB) are important in the most of national economies. We explored whether successors’ innovativeness is positively associated with the transfer of the founders’ innovativeness through knowledge transfer and creation processes in a form of the internal transfer of founders’ tacit and experiential knowledge and skills and with the external transfer of knowledge, when potential successors attend educational programs, external training, or gain working experience in other companies. Our research reveals that when the actual forms of internal knowledge transfer are discussed, the positive correlations exist between innovativeness of successors and their early inclusion into FB, apprenticeship, inclusion of successors into meetings with business partners and strategic planning before they get involved in FB. Our survey partially confirmed that regarding external transfer of knowledge, working experiences of successors in other companies and participation in academic courses are positively associated with their innovativeness.


Becerra-Fernandez, I., & Sabherwal, R. (2001). Organizational Knowledge Management: A Contingency Perspective. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18 (1), 23–55.

Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices. Scotts Valley, California, US: CreateSpace

Cabrera-Suárez, K., De Saa-Pérez, P., & García-Almeida, D. (2001). The Succession Process from a Resource and Knowledge-based View of the Family Firm. Family Business Review, 14 (1), 37–46.

Calabro, A., Vecchiarini, M, Gast, J., Campopiano, G., De Massis, A., & Kraus, S. (2018). Innovation in family firms: A systematic literature review and guidance for future research, International Journal of management reviews, 21 (3), 317-355.

Chesbrough, H. W. (2011). Open Services Innovation: Rethinking Your Business to Grow and Compete in a New Era. San Francisco, US: Jossey-Bass.

Chirico, F. (2008). Knowledge Accumulation in Family Firms: Evidence from Four Case Studies. International Small Business Journal, 26 (4), 433–462.

Dacin, M.T., Dacin, P.A., & Keet, D. (2019). Tradition in organizations: A custodianship framework. Academy of management annals, 13 (1), 342-373.

Dankova, P., Valeva, M., & Štrukelj, T. (2015). A comparative analysis of international corporate social responsibility standards as enterprise policy/governance innovation guidelines. Systems research and behavioral science, 32 (2), 152-159.

Delgado-Verde, M., Martín-de Castro, G., & Navas-López, J. E. (2011). Organizational knowledge assets and innovation capability: Evidence form Spanish manufacturing firms. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 12 (1), 5–19.

Diaz-Moriana, V., Clinton, E., Kammerlander, N., Lumpkin, G.T., & Craig, J.B. (2018). Innovation motives in family firms: A transgenerational view. Entrepreneurship theory and practice, 16 (3), 104225871880305.

Dieleman, M. (2018). Reaping what you sow: The family firm innovation trajectory. Journal of family business strategy. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1016/j.jfbs.2018.03.003.

Donckels, R., & Fröhlich, E. (1991). Sind Familienbetriebe wirklich anders? Europäische STRATOS-Erfahrungen. Internationales Gewerbearchiv, 4, 219–235.

Duh, M., & Belak, J. (2008). Special knowledge needs of family enterprises in transition economies: experiences from Slovenia. Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 6 (3), 187–198.

Duh, M. (2009). Distinctive characteristics of family business and supporting infrastructure: comparison of Slovenia with EU and other countries. In: K. Širec (Ed.), Dynamics of Slovenian entrepreneurship: Slovenian entrepreneurship observatory 2008 (pp. 105-121). Maribor: FEB.

Duh, M. (2014). Family business succession as knowledge creation process. Kybernetes, 43 (5), 699 - 714.

Erdogan, I., Rondi, E., & De Massis, A. (2020). Managing the tradition and Innovation paradox in family firms: A family imprinting perspective. Entrepreneurship theory and practice, 44 (1), 20-54.

European Family Businesses. Facts and Figures. (2017). http://www.europeanfamilybusiness Accessed 30. 1. 17.

Ganzaroli, A., Fiscato, G., & Pilotti, L., (2006). Does business succession enhance firm's innovation capacity? Results from an exploratory analysis in Italian SMEs. Working paper n.2006-29, 2nd Workshop on Family Firm Management Research. Nice, Italy. Accessed 5. 2. 14.

García-Álvarez, E., López-Sintas, J., & Gonzalvo, P.S. (2002). Socialization Patterns of Successors in First- to Second-Generation Family Businesses. Family Business Review, 15 (3), 189–203.

Gersick, K.E., Davis, J.A., McCollom Hampton, M., & Lansberg, I. (1997). Generation to Generation. Life Cycles of the Family Business. Boston, US: Harvard Business School Press.

Giambatista, R. C., Rowe, W. G., & Riaz, S. (2005). Nothing Successeds Like Succession: A Critical Review of Leader Succession Literature Since 1994. The Leadership Quarterly, 16 (6), 963–991.

Grant, R. M. (1996). Toward a Knowledge-based Theory of the Firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17 (Winter Special Issue), 109–122.

Hussey, J., & Hussey, R. (1997). Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students. Hamphsire, UK: Palgrave.

Jackson, D.N. (1994). Jackson Personality Inventory—Revised Manual. Port Heron, MI, US: Sigma Assessment Systems, Inc.

Jaskiewicz, P., Combs, J.G., & Rau, S.B. (2015). Entrepreneurial legacy : Toward a theory of how some family firms nurture transgenerational entrepreneurship. Journal of business venturing, 30 (1), 29-49.

Laforet, S. (2012). Innovation in small family businesses. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Le Breton-Miller, I., Miller, D., & Steier, L.P. (2004). Toward an Integrative Model of Effective FOB Succession. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 28 (3), 305–328.

Letonja, M., & Duh, M. (2015). Knowledge transfer in family businesses and its effects on the innovativeness of the next family generation. Knowledge management research and practice, 14 (2), 213-224.

Litz, R. A., & Kleysen, R. F. (2001). Your old Men Shall Dream Dreams, Your Young Men Shall See Visions: Toward a Theory of Family Firm Innovation with Help from the Brubeck Family. Family Business Review, 14 (4), 335–352.

Ljubotina, P., Gomezelj, D., Vadnjal, J. (2018). Succeeding a family business in a transition economy: following business goals or do it in my own way? Serbian Journal of Management, 13 (1), 29-46.

Mandl, I. (2008). Overview of Family Business Relevant Issues. Final Report, Austrian Institute for SME Research, Vienna. p/craft/family_business/family_business_en.htm/ Accessed 31. 07. 09.

Mazzola, P., Marchision, G., & Astrachan, J. (2008). Strategic Planning in Family Business: A Powerful Developmental Tool for the Next Generation. Family Business Review, 21 (3), 239–258.

Miller, D., Steier, L., & LeBreton-Miller, I. (2003). Lost in time: Intergenerational succession, change and failure in family business. Journal of Business Venturing, 18 (4), 513-531.

Morris, M.H., Williams, R.O., Allen, J.A., & Avila, R.A. (1997). Correlates of success in family business transitions. Journal of Business Venturing, 12 (5), 385–401.

Mueller, S. L., & Thomas, A. S. (2001). Culture and entrepreneurial potential: A nine country study of locus of control and innovativeness. Journal of business venturing, 16 (1), 51-75.

Nonaka, I. (1994). A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation. Organization Science, 5 (1), 14–37.

Nonaka, I., Toyama, R., & Konno, N. (2000). SECI, Ba and Leadership: a Unified Model of Dynamic Knowledge Creation. Long Range Planning, 33 (1), 5–34.

Perez-Gonzalez, F. (2006). Inherited control and firm performance. American Economic review, 96, 1559-1588.

Quintaine, E., Casselman, R.M., Reiche, S., & Nylund, P.A. (2011). Innovation as a knowledge based outcome. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15 (6), 928-947.

Roed, I. (2016). Disentangling the family firms’ innovation process. A systematic review, Journal of family business strategy, 7 (3), 185-201.

Rondi, E., De Massis, A., & Kotlkar, J. (2018). Unlocking innovation potential. A typology of family business innovation postures and the critical role of the family system, Journal of family business strategy, 10 (4), 100236

Saan, R., Enu-Kwesi, F., & Nyewie, N.F. (2018). Factors influencing succession planning for continuity of family-owned businesses in the wa municipality, Ghana. Universal Journal of management, 6 (5), 165-177.

Sardeshmukh, S.R., & Corbett, A.C. (2011). The Duality of Internal and External Development of Successors: Opportunity Recognition in Family Firms. Family Business Review, 24 (2), 111–125.

Sexton, D.L., & Bowman, N. (1984). Personality inventory for potential entrepreneurs: Evaluation of a modified JPI/ PRF-E test instrument. In: J. Hornaday, F. Tarpley, Jr., J. Timmons, and K. Vesper, eds., Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, Wellesley, MA, Babson College.

Sharma, P. (2004). An Overview of the Field of Family Business Studies: Current Status and Directions for the Future. Family Business Review, 17 (1), 1–36.

Sharma, P., Chrisman, J.J., & Chua, J.H. (2003). Succession Planning as Planned Behavior: Some Empirical Results. Family Business Review, 16 (1), 1–14.

Sharma, P., Chrisman, J.J., & Gersick, K.E. (2012). 25 Years of Family Business Review: Reflections on the Past and Perspectives for the Future. Family Business Review, 25 (1), 5-15.

Swap, W., Leonard, D., Shields, M., & Abrams, L. (2001). Using Mentoring and Storytelling to Transfer Knowledge in the Workplace. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18 (1), 95–114.

Szulanski, G. (1996). Exploring internal stickiness. Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17 (Special Winter Issue), 27–43.

Turner, K.L., & Makhija, M.V. (2006). The role of organizational controls in managing knowledge. Academy of Management Review, 31 (1), 197–217.

Vadnjal, J. & Ljubotina, P. (2016). Professional trilemma of students with family business experience. Kybernetes: The International Journal of Systems & Cybernetics, 45 (3), 446-460.

Ward, J. L. (1987). Keeping the Family Business Healthy. San Francisco, US: Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers.

Zahra, S. A. (2005). Entrepreneurial risk taking in family firms. Family Business Review, 18 (1), 23–40.

Zehrer, A., & Leiss, G. (2020). Intergenerational communication barriers and pitfalls of business families in transition – a qualitative action research approach. Corporate communications. An international journal 25 (3), 515.532.

Zelenika, R. (2000). Methodology and technology of scientific and professional work (4th Edition). Rijeka: Economic Faculty in Rijeka. (in Croatian)

Ženko, Z. (2014). Innovating with social responsibility as a source of new opportunities. Pp. 40-51 in: T. Štrukelj, and D. Boršič (Eds.), SEP,ISSN 2232-4593, 4, Maribor: EPF. (in Slovenian)

Ženko, Z., & Marn, S. (2016). Innovative approach for social changes by young students. In: M. Mulej, A. Hrast & A. Naterer (Eds.), New social realitiesfrom the view of social responsibility, Maribor: IRDO.

Ženko, Z., & Mulej, M. (2011). Diffusion of innovative behavior with social responsibility. Kybernetes, 40 (9), 1258-1272.

Original Scientific Paper