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Transformation of “a business in risks”: knowledge and learning for reinvention

Carol Matheson Connell (Department of Economics, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, New York, New York, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



Jardine Matheson & Company is a Hong Kong multi‐industry conglomerate that has gone through political upheaval, global and regional economic crises, and has survived and transformed itself several times in the process. Firm learning and adaptability are audited across five breakpoints (1832, 1885, 1977, 1996, 2004), thereby contributing information about changes in the long‐term, large‐scale behavior of Jardine Matheson & Company. The paper takes a historical transformation approach to learning and knowledge in Jardine Matheson, largely inspired by Edith Penrose and The Theory of the Growth of the Firm and the recent work of William Lazonick to describe a theory of innovative enterprise. The paper also draws on contemporary resource‐based and knowledge‐learning literature. The paper addresses the question of whether firms can learn from change and apply new knowledge for continuous reinvention. The analysis reveals the extent to which Jardine Matheson stimulated or adapted to changes in the environment and saw new opportunities for value capture that demanded the development or reuse of capabilities and the reconfiguration of relationships necessary for survival, transformation and advantage in Hong Kong and the ASEAN. The research is analytical, observational and interpretive. The analytic approach is generalizable and provides insight useful to scholars and practitioners. The research itself is neither predictive nor prescriptive. The research findings communicated here present a picture of Jardine Matheson's ability to acquire, integrate and apply knowledge.



Matheson Connell, C. (2004), "Transformation of “a business in risks”: knowledge and learning for reinvention", Management Decision, Vol. 42 No. 9, pp. 1178-1196.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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