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Towards a re-conceptualization of firm internationalization: Heterogeneous process, subsidiary roles and knowledge flow

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  • Wang, Yue
  • Suh, Chung-Sok

Abstract

This paper proposes a re-conceptualization of firm internationalization to understand and predict the rapid global expansion of firms since the 1990s, especially those from emerging markets. First, based on a review of existing literature, we re-conceptualize firm internationalization as a heterogeneous process of strategic development of subsidiaries in overseas countries or regions. This re-conceptualization captures the pluralistic character of the process of firm internationalization.Second, we delineate peculiar roles played by subsidiaries in pursuit of multinational enterprise (MNE) headquarters' internationalization strategies. We argue that the HQ's heterogeneous strategies toward overseas subsidiary development define the corresponding roles of subsidiaries, which in turn shape the knowledge-flow patterns within the MNEs. Finally, we link firms' internationalization strategies with different subsidiary roles to generate hypotheses concerning the effect of such links on subsidiary performance. We argue that the proper alignment of HQ's internationalization strategies with subsidiary roles will lead to success of the overseas subsidiaries; by contrast, a mismatch will lead to subsidiary failure. The paper thus contributes to the field of firm internationalization by linking its new conceptualization with the literature on subsidiary roles and knowledge flows in MNEs.

Suggested Citation

  • Wang, Yue & Suh, Chung-Sok, 2009. "Towards a re-conceptualization of firm internationalization: Heterogeneous process, subsidiary roles and knowledge flow," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 447-459, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:intman:v:15:y:2009:i:4:p:447-459
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Conti, Claudio Ramos & Parente, Ronaldo & de Vasconcelos, Flávio C., 2016. "When distance does not matter: Implications for Latin American multinationals," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(6), pages 1980-1992.
    2. Schmid, Stefan & Dauth, Tobias, 2014. "Does internationalization make a difference? Stock market reaction to announcements of international top executive appointments," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, pages 63-77.
    3. Moghaddam, Kaveh & Sethi, Deepak & Weber, Thomas & Wu, Jun, 2014. "The Smirk of Emerging Market Firms: A Modification of the Dunning's Typology of Internationalization Motivations," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, pages 359-374.
    4. Michailova, Snejina & Mustaffa, Zaidah, 2012. "Subsidiary knowledge flows in multinational corporations: Research accomplishments, gaps, and opportunities," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, pages 383-396.
    5. Achcaoucaou, Fariza & Miravitlles, Paloma & León-Darder, Fidel, 2017. "Do we really know the predictors of competence-creating R&D subsidiaries? Uncovering the mediation of dual network embeddedness," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, pages 181-195.
    6. McGuinness, Martina & Demirbag, Mehmet & Bandara, Sasanka, 2013. "Towards a multi-perspective model of reverse knowledge transfer in multinational enterprises: A case study of Coats plc," European Management Journal, Elsevier, pages 179-195.
    7. Schmid, Stefan & Dzedek, Lars R. & Lehrer, Mark, 2014. "From Rocking the Boat to Wagging the Dog: A Literature Review of Subsidiary Initiative Research and Integrative Framework," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, pages 201-218.
    8. Grøgaard, Birgitte, 2012. "Alignment of strategy and structure in international firms: An empirical examination," International Business Review, Elsevier, pages 397-407.

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