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Small firm internationalisation unveiled through phenomenography


  • Peter Lamb

    (Regional School of Business, La Trobe University, Wodonga, Australia)

  • Jörgen Sandberg

    (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia)

  • Peter W Liesch

    (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia)


Phenomenography is proposed here as a qualitative methodology for investigating how owner-managers practise internationalisation in small firms, and it is applied in an empirical study of internationalising owner-managed small Australian wineries. The findings show a common internationalisation activity cycle but four qualitatively different ways in which these owner-managers practise internationalisation. We reveal that this variation in owner-manager internationalisation practices is determined by their understandings of internationalisation, which produce differences in the ways activities within their internationalisation activity cycle are orchestrated. In particular, phenomenography has enabled new insights into the multiplicity of firm internationalisation practices not able to be captured through other qualitative methodologies such as ethnography or semiotics, as they are not designed to capture such variation. Based on our findings, we propose an understanding-based theory to explain the idiosyncratic nature of owner-managed small firm internationalisation. Furthermore, we suggest that phenomenography, used independently or in conjunction with other qualitative methodologies, also has potential to reveal the varying practices of internationalising large MNEs by enabling an investigation of the collective or shared understanding of firm internationalisation within MNEs. Finally, we point out how phenomenography can be extended beyond firm internationalisation practices to investigate other topics within international business.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Lamb & Jörgen Sandberg & Peter W Liesch, 2011. "Small firm internationalisation unveiled through phenomenography," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 42(5), pages 672-693, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:jintbs:v:42:y:2011:i:5:p:672-693

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    Cited by:

    1. Francioni, Barbara & Vissak, Tiia & Musso, Fabio, 2017. "Small Italian wine producers’ internationalization: The role of network relationships in the emergence of late starters," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 12-22.
    2. Martineau, Charles & Pastoriza, David, 2016. "International involvement of established SMEs: A systematic review of antecedents, outcomes and moderators," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 458-470.
    3. repec:pal:jintbs:v:48:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1057_s41267-017-0068-x is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Curran, Louise & Zignago, Soledad, 2012. "EU enlargement and the evolution of European production networks," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 240-257.
    5. Nielsen, Bo Bernhard & Asmussen, Christian Geisler & Weatherall, Cecilie Dohlmann, 2017. "The location choice of foreign direct investments: Empirical evidence and methodological challenges," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 62-82.
    6. Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra & Ulf Andersson & Mary Yoko Brannen & Bo Bernhard Nielsen & A. Rebecca Reuber, 2016. "From the Editors: Can I trust your findings? Ruling out alternative explanations in international business research," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 47(8), pages 881-897, October.
    7. Casillas, Jose C. & Barbero, Jose L. & Sapienza, Harry J., 2015. "Knowledge acquisition, learning, and the initial pace of internationalization," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 102-114.
    8. Paul, Justin & Parthasarathy, Sundar & Gupta, Parul, 2017. "Exporting challenges of SMEs: A review and future research agenda," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 327-342.
    9. repec:spr:manint:v:55:y:2015:i:2:d:10.1007_s11575-015-0244-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:touman:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:324-334 is not listed on IDEAS

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