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Fighting the corporate immune system: a process study of subsidiary initiatives in multinational corporations

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  • Birkinshaw, Julian
  • Ridderstråle, Jonas

Abstract

This paper examines subsidiary initiatives, which are entrepreneurial activities carried out by foreign owned subsidiaries in multinational corporations; and the forces that resist them that we refer to as the 'corporate immune system'. The study is based on case study analyses of 44 initiatives, both successes and failures, undertaken by Canadian subsidiary managers. The key finding is that subsidiary initiatives take two different forms. Internally-focused initiatives are based on opportunities identified within the corporation, and are pursued through a traditional bottom-up process. Externally-focused initiatives are based on opportunities in the external marketplace. The most successful ones typically gain allies outside the corporation early on, and only confront the corporate immune system once they are relatively well established.

Suggested Citation

  • Birkinshaw, Julian & Ridderstråle, Jonas, 1999. "Fighting the corporate immune system: a process study of subsidiary initiatives in multinational corporations," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 149-180, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iburev:v:8:y:1999:i:2:p:149-180
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    4. Ginsberg, Ari & Hay, Michael, 1994. "Confronting the challenges of corporate entrepreneurship: Guidelines for venture managers," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 382-389, December.
    5. Vernon, Raymond, 1979. "The Product Cycle Hypothesis in a New International Environment," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 41(4), pages 255-267, November.
    6. Danny Miller, 1983. "The Correlates of Entrepreneurship in Three Types of Firms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(7), pages 770-791, July.
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