Informal Networks in International Business

ISBN: 978-1-83982-879-9, eISBN: 978-1-83982-878-2

Publication date: 5 August 2022


(2022), "Prelims", Horak, S. (Ed.) Informal Networks in International Business, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xviii.



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Informal Networks in International Business

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Informal Networks in International Business


Sven Horak

St. John's University, USA

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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First edition 2022

Copyright © 2022 by Emerald Publishing Limited.

Cover image: Miljan Suknovic, Four Season Series, 36″ × 36″, Acrylic on canvas, 2017 - Provided courtesy of Sven Horak.

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About the Contributors

Faten Baddar AL-Husan is a Lecturer in International Human Resource Management at Newcastle University (UK). Her research interests include international HRM, expatriate management, HQ-subsidiary relationships, transfer of HRM practices, knowledge management, cross-borders mergers and acquisitions, social networks, and key account management.

Fawaz Baddar ALHussan is an Associate Professor of Strategic Account Management at Léonard de Vinci Pôle Universitaire EMLV Business School. Fawaz explores International Strategic/Key Account Management in the Arab World and emerging economies. His research brings a new dimension of understanding of how business is conducted in emerging economies and in the field of industrial marketing in cross-cultural contexts. It provides more insights about the transfer of practices across borders that enhances the understanding of global management.

Dr Sa'ad Ali is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Management at the University of Derby (UK) with research interests in the fields of cross-cultural management and HRM. Sa'ad is specifically interested in researching management practices in the Arab Middle East and during the last 11 years has focused on exploring the impact of informal social networks on business practices with special interest in the Arab countries of the Middle East. He has worked and taught in several countries including Jordan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, China, and Belgium.

Yanjie Bian is Professor of Sociology at University of Minnesota, USA, and Director of the Institute for Empirical Social Science Research at Xi'an Jiaotong University, China. He formally taught at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology where he was the Funding Director of Survey Research Center. Author and editor of 20 books and 180 articles on social networks and social capital, social stratification and mobility, and Chinese society, Dr. Bian's current projects are pandemic-specific social capital and job-search networks in China. His most recent book is Guanxi: How China Works (Polity, 2019).

Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan, PhD, is a Macroeconomist focusing on open economy development, economic history, labor migration, diaspora, and postsocialist transition economics. He is the Henry George Chair in Economics and Associate Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics and Finance of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John's University in New York City. Dr. Gevorkyan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Vincentian Centre for Church and Society and a Research Fellow at the Center for Global Business Stewardship. He is a Member of the Board of Trustees at the Henry George School of Social Science and a Board Member at the Armenian Economic Association. Dr. Gevorkyan also serves as Expert on Economic Issues for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See To the United Nations. Dr. Gevorkyan is the author of Transition Economies: Transformation, Development, and Society in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (Routledge, 2018).

Sven Horak is an Associate Professor and Director of the Global Management Program (MS) at the Peter J. Tobin College of Business, St. John's University, in New York City. He works in the broad field of global management and organization, specializing in effective networking, leadership, and ethics. Sven worked for several years in the global automotive industry, managing operations for a leading automotive supplier from its headquarters and subsidiaries located in Tokyo, Seoul, and Stuttgart. He has held visiting positions at institutions such as the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Korea University, Pennsylvania State University, and others. He has led and participated in consulting and research projects for the European Commission and other public and private institutions. Sven holds a PhD in Institutional Economics from the Mercator School of Management of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

Marina Latukha is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management at the Graduate School at St. Petersburg State University, Russia. She graduated from postdoctoral programs at the Harvard Business School, the Haas School of Business, and the London Business School. Her research interests focus on global talent management, international and strategic human resource management, talent diversity, and emerging multinationals. She is the author of a number of academic articles published in top-ranked academic journals, such as Human Resource Management, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Journal of Business Research, Thunderbird International Business Review, Advances in Human Resource Development, European Management Journal, Journal of Global Mobility, European Journal of International Management, and others. Marina is the author of Talent Management in Emerging Market Firms: Global Strategy and Local Challenges (2015) and has edited Talent management in global organizations: A cross-country perspective (2018).

Jong Min Lee is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in International Business and Strategy at Henley Business School, University of Reading. His research interests sit at the intersection of international business and global strategic management. His current research focuses on the management of multinational firms, with a particular interest in subsidiary portfolio characteristics and global staffing strategies. His recent works appeared in the Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of World Business, Journal of International Management, and Journal of Business Ethics, among others. He currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of International Business Studies and the Asian Business & Management.

Chao Liu is a PhD candidate in Sociology at North Carolina State University. He uses quantitative methods and computational social science approaches to study social networks, labor markets, and technology and work in global contexts. His dissertation examines the association between network embeddedness and collaboration in the GitHub community.

Daniel J. McCarthy is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus and the Alan S. McKim and Richard AD'Amore Distinguished Professor of Global Management and Innovation at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, Boston USA, and is also an Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Dr. McCarthy has more than 120 publications, including four editions of Business Policy and Strategy, as well as Business and Management in Russia, The Russian Capitalist Experiment, and Corporate Governance in Russia, and the 2018 award-winning coauthored book, Hammer and Silicon: The Soviet Diaspora in the US Innovation Economy. His articles have appeared in the Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Perspectives, Journal of World Business, and Management International Review, among other leading journals. Professor McCarthy holds AB and MBA degrees from Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business, and a DBA from Harvard University.

Steve McDonald is a Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on social networks, social capital, labor markets, and economic inequality. He studies informal recruitment processes and inequality in access and returns to social capital in the labor market.

Snejina Michailova (PhD from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, 1997) joined the University of Auckland, New Zealand, as a Professor of International Business in 2005. Her research interests include people in multinational enterprises, knowledge processes, talent management, and modern slavery. Her work has appeared in the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Executive, California Management Review, Global Strategy Journal, International Journal of Management Reviews, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of International Management, Journal of Knowledge Management, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of World Business, Long Range Planning, Management International Review, Management Learning, Organizational Dynamics, Organization Studies, and others. She coauthored Talent Management in Small Advanced Economies (2019) and coedited The Routledge Companion on Cross-Cultural Management (2015), Research Handbook on Women in International Management (2014), Knowledge Governance (2010), Human Resource Management in Central and Eastern Europe (2008), and research methodologies in non-Western contexts (2005).

Thiago G. Nascimento is Lecturer at the Business Administration Department and Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Organization Strategic Management at Brasilia's Institute of Superior Education, and a Researcher and Professor of the Graduate Program in Behavioral Sciences in the University of Brasilia – UnB. He holds a PhD in Management Sciences from the University of Aix-Marseille – France, and in Business Administration from the University of Brasilia, investigating the influence of organizational culture, and organizational and work identity on the professional performance competencies. Since then, he has spent his sabbaticals and has acted as a visiting academic at the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and the University of Brasilia, Brazil, always developing applied behavioral research. His main interests include basic human values, organizational behavior, and criminal psychology. He participated in previous research projects that included studies organizational behavior, the validity of the basic values in the refined values theory, organizational behavior of police organizations, crime and fear of crime, among others. Dr. Nascimento has published recently over 20 articles and book chapters on above related content and has supervised about 10 MSc theses. He lectures courses on Organizational behavior, Criminal Psychology, and Social Psychology.

Yongsun Paik is a Professor of International Business and Management and Director of the Center for International Business Education (CIBE) at Loyola Marymount University. He received his PhD in International Business from University of Washington, Seattle, WA. He is the author of three books and has published more than 60 articles in major international business and management journals. His research focuses on international human resource management, business ethics, cross-cultural negotiation, and international entrepreneurship.

Andrei Panibratov is a Professor of Strategic and International Management in the Graduate School of Management and Director of the Center of Russian Multinationals and Global Business at St. Petersburg State University, Russia. His research focuses on the internationalization, legitimacy, and liability of foreignness of emerging market firms, state ownership and political capital, and the competitive advantages of Russian MNEs. He has published in the British Journal of Management, International Business Review, Management and Organization Review, Multinational Business Review, and Thunderbird International Business Review, among others. He has authored Russian Multinationals (2012) and International Strategy of Emerging Market Firms (2017), both with Routledge. Andrei is the National Representative of Russia and a Board Member of the European International Business Academy. He serves as an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Education and Sciences, and on the editorial and review boards of Russian and international journals.

Jong Gyu Park, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Management in the Department of Business Administration at Pennsylvania State University-Altoona. He is also a co-founder of Global Leadership Research (GLR) Labs, a research network among leadership scholars and practitioners from China, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United States. Prior to joining Penn State, he worked for Deloitte and Willis Towers Watson as a management consultant. He earned his PhD in Business Administration with an emphasis in Organization and Human Resources at the Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea, and also holds a PhD in Workforce Education and Development at Penn State. His current specialist areas of interest and research include team leadership and informal networks in organizations. He has published several articles in refereed journals, such as the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management Review, and Personnel Review.

Grace T. Peng is a History major and a Psychology minor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She has published a trilogy of three novels: Autumn Mirage (2016), Winter Reminisce (2018), and Spring Ascension (2020). She has also published a case “Tory Birch’s Rise in the Fashion Industry” in a leading textbook, Global Strategy, 5th edition (2022). She has also worked as a research assistant for The World Bank.

Mike W. Peng is the Jindal Chair of Global Strategy at the Jindal School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas. He is a National Science Foundation Career Award winner and a Fellow of the Academy of International Business and Asia Academy of Management. He has authored over 160 articles and three leading textbooks: Global Strategy, Global Business, and Global. With over 50,000 Google citations, he is one of the most widely cited scholars in his field.

Sheila M. Puffer is University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University, Boston, where she is a Professor of International Business at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business. She is also an associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. In 2015 she was a visiting research professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and in 2019 was a fellow at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at New York University. Among her over 170 publications is her award-winning coauthored book, Hammer and Silicon: The Soviet Diaspora in the US Innovation Economy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. Dr. Puffer earned a diploma from the Plekhanov Institute of the National Economy in Moscow, and holds BA (Slavic Studies) and MBA degrees from the University of Ottawa, Canada, and a PhD in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

Nicos A. Scordis is a Professor at the Tobin College of Business of St. John's University where he holds the John R. Cox/ACE Limited Chair of Risk and Insurance. Examples of his peer-reviewed publications are in the Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Risk and Insurance, Journal of Insurance Issues, and the Journal of Business Ethics. He investigates how insurance firms respond to risk and uncertainty. His research enhances the ability of managers to create sustainable and shared wealth from taking on volatility. He has served on panels and task forces for both industry and the academy. He has worked extensively with managers of both large and small insurance firms. The US Congress has invited him as an impartial expert witness on financial services legislation. He has served as the Chairperson of the Maurice R Greenberg School of Risk Management and Insurance at St. John's University.

Cláudio V. Torres is a Professor at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Brasilia – UnB, Brazil, at the Department of Basic Psychological Processes, and a Researcher of the of the Graduate Program in Behavioral Sciences in the same university. He obtained his PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego – California (USA), investigating preference for leadership styles between Americans and Brazilians employees. Since then, he has spent his sabbaticals and has acted as a visiting academic at the Griffith University, Australia; at the University of Sussex, UK, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and University of Haifa, Israel, always developing cross-cultural research. His main interests include basic human values, cultural values, consumer behavior, and political psychology. He participated in previous research projects that included studies on indigenous approaches to achieve informal influence, the validity of the basic values in the refined values theory, political consumerism, and core political values, among others. Dr. Torres has published over 90 articles and book chapters on the above related content and has supervised about 40 MSc theses and PhD dissertations. He lectures courses on Cross-cultural Psychology, Social Psychology, and Cultural Diversity and Inclusion.

Marian van Bakel is Associate Professor with the Department of Business and Management of the University of Southern Denmark, where she conducts research in international human resource management, particularly expatriation. Her main research interests are the social context of expatriation, expatriate–local interactions both in and outside the organization, (intercultural) mentoring and intercultural competence. She received her PhD in International Business Communication at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, while also working as in-house communication consultant at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. Her passion is to bridge the gap between theory and practice and make sure practitioners benefit from her research.

David Weir is Professor of Intercultural Management at York St John University. He has researched and published extensively on Management in the MENA world and undertaken consultancy with many leading organizations in the MENA region including Islamic Development Bank, Jordan Economic Development Corporation, Palestinian Authority and Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program in the UAE. He is a Foundation Fellow of the Leadership Trust and founded the International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management in 2007 and the Arab Management Conferences at Bradford. He has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Prince Hassan bin Mohammed University, Dubai.

Preface: Informal Networks Worldwide

Networking is widely regarded as an activity managers should do, simply speaking, to get things done and to meet corporate goals, to get ahead professionally or stay informed about opportunities. Networking is not solely a management technique. It is about meeting people and developing relationships as for many activities we are better off when we collaborate, receive and give help, and offer goodwill and support to others. This in turn is important for our social well-being and personal growth. As some people engage more in networking than others, in principle we all network for different reasons. While we all have a pretty good idea what networking is and how it works – like it or not – how networking works abroad, in countries or regions unfamiliar to us, is not so clear to most of us. Meeting people and developing relationships, i.e., networking, is usually based on shared values and behavioral norms. Commitment to relationships plays a role, as do the ideals of altruism and norms of reciprocity, to name just a few features. As values, norms, and ideals relevant to relationship building differ around the globe, the ways in which people network can be assumed to differ too. This is where this edited volume seeks to contribute. Managers working abroad but being socialized in a different environment, i.e., expatriates, as well as business travelers, traveling executives, country representatives at headquarters and others, are among those who need to integrate and connect to informal networks abroad for several reasons. The rise of China, and accordingly the influx of businesspeople from all over the world, has made the Chinese way of networking, known as guanxi, the most prominent example of informal networking to date. While every expatriate manager knows the central importance of developing and maintaining guanxi in China, the characteristics and structures of other informal networks, for instance, yongo (Korea), wasta (Arab world), jeitinho (Brazil), blat/svyazi (Russia), sifarish (Pakistan), jaan-pehchaan (India), and many others, remain largely unknown, underestimated, or misunderstood by many expatriate managers. Most of the named network constructs are featured in this edited volume. Informal networks are often reflections of societal structures and deeply engrained into the respective cultural environment. Hence, understanding them and developing informal network competence is pivotal for successfully managing locally.

Informal networks can be an influential factor in day-to-day operations in leadership and human resources management (recruitment, selection, promotion), in sales, project acquisition and business development, or in any functions relating to relationship management at large. Understanding informal networks helps in better managing risks and opportunities in business, including those difficult to formally enforce. Before we can think of how to network effectively abroad, we need to understand what networking is about, what ideals prevail, and what structures possibly preexist that make up networks. While informal networks come in different shapes, in this book we predominantly discuss informal network constructs, outlining the characteristics and their relevance to international business activities from theoretical and practical perspectives. Given the intertwinement of theories, concepts, and constructs surrounding informal networks, it is difficult to clearly separate them from each other. While some contributions in this book focus more on general aspects of informal networks, others inform about their distinct nature respectively. Following this idea, the book is divided into three parts. Each part is diverse, reflecting the current nature of the field. While contributions in the first part present emerging theories, concepts, and observations about informal networks, works in the second part contribute to construct knowledge. A further, final part features contributions pointing out potential future areas of research on informal networks.

The first part sheds light on the very general question of what informal networks actually are. To what extent are they different and/or similar to conventional social networks? What theories are utilized and suitable for framing informal network research in international business studies? In what form do informal networks appear? While it is difficult, again, to separate one from another, it is obvious that the nature of networking is shaped by the respective social organization of a society, i.e., its values, expectations, and behavioral norms in interpersonal interactions. Since those differ around the world, the way people network differs accordingly. That's the reason why the first paper in this section, among others, suggests regarding informal network research as a distinct area in the field of social network research with some overlap with the latter. Informal networks may be seen as informal institutions and sources of social capital at the same time. However, it is important to understand the distinct character of informal networks to guide further research in this direction to accumulate knowledge on features like their cultural embeddedness, persistence, ethicality, accessibility to outsiders (e.g., business expatriates), and integration of outgroups, minorities, and gender equality, to name just a few. A high degree of loyalty between network members translates into rather strong ties, and in fact, informal network ties are often (but not always) synonymous with quite strong ties. This, however, is currently a hypothesis rather than a fact, and Peng and Peng in this volume make a good case for suggesting that during institutional transitions, initially strong ties develop into weak ties in later phases of transitions. While tie strength is debated in sociology as well as in international business studies, a further frame for accessing informal networks is provided by the “liability of foreignness” concept, which is popular in international business studies in particular. While being foreign to a business environment is often seen as a disadvantage for a multinational firm, for instance making it difficult to integrate and access local informal networks, Lee and Paik suggest that their foreign status can be turned into an “asset of foreignness” as they are in a better position to balance network ambivalence, i.e., its bright and dark sides. Lee and Paik's work sends an important message to international businesses that has probably not yet been taken seriously enough by multinational firms: Informal networks can (and should) be proactively managed by firms to curtail negative effects and develop a relational competitive advantage. Further, while in the past, international business research has explored, in particular, the contribution of the Chinese diaspora to economic development and China's further integration into the world economy, increasing levels of global migration have fertilized interest in diaspora studies and the positive economic effect it brings. Gevorkyan connects to this debate and provides deep insights into the key elements defining the operational capacity of diaspora networks, i.e., identity, trust, and engagement infrastructure, which run parallel to dimensions of social capital. Finally, the first part of the book concludes with an observation away from individual behavior toward network features within an industry. With the example of the insurance industry, where firms maintain both transactional and effectual informal networks with clients and competitors, Scordis points out the function of these networks in reducing uncertainty and supporting entrepreneurial innovation.

The second part of the book utilizes the environmental context of informal networking to bring the development of construct knowledge into the limelight. It features works on the most prominent informal networks in the literature, such as guanxi (China), yongo (Korea), wasta (Arab world), and jeitinho (Brazil). It sheds light on the informal networks of Russian multinationals and their political connections, elaborates on how the old boys' networks operate in the United States, and presents the challenges of expatriates in developing informal ties in Denmark. First, the contribution by Bian relates to the important question of whether informal networks in China, i.e., guanxi, will persist or disappear over time. Bian draws on authoritative empirical evidence accumulated over decades that speaks in favor of the persistence of guanxi, which is especially evident when it comes to job mobility. Based on data gathered between 1978 and 2014, it can be concluded that the use of guanxi ties for job acquisition has substantially increased rather than decreased. Among others, we learn from Bian's work that guanxi dynamics are influenced by external forces, such as the level of institutional uncertainty and market competition. Though it is up to future research to explore whether we can generalize insights derived from guanxi research to other informal networks, the parallels to yongo ties and networks in Korea are intriguing. In the second paper in this section, Horak and Park assert, in line with Bian's work on guanxi, that yongo has not disappeared in Korea. It persists and can be seen as a characteristic feature in business, politics, and the society. The fact that Korea is not an emerging economy with transitional institutions provides a powerful argument that informal networks generally persist and do not disappear with further economic advancement and institutional effectiveness. Horak and Park catch up with the dynamic aspect of informal networks as suggested by Bian and report on the adjustment capabilities of yongo as it evolves and adjusts to changes in the sociocultural environment. Notably, while for Koreans yongo affiliation is immutable and irreversible, it is by nature closed and exclusive, and international business expatriates can hardly access them or acquire yongo. This feature is of central importance to the field of international human resource management, which is concerned with expatriate adjustment, performance, and social integration. Going further, Alhussan and AL-Husan point out the pervasiveness of wasta influencing economic, social, and political outcomes, which is regarded as the backbone of the social organization of Arab societies. Alhussan and AL-Husan point out the complexity of wasta and describe the construct by its core values and according to different dimensions. While trust is a central aspect of wasta ties, it differs according to the relational distance within a family and acquaintance context. As the Arab world is an important market for international businesses, research on how the wasta context influences decision-making and actions taken by multinational enterprises will help to improve managerial effectiveness and mutual understanding. Further, the work by Panibratov, Michailova, and Latukha analyzes the informal ties between Russian multinational enterprises and the government, assessing the role of political networks in the internationalization process. While this perspective brings structural features into focus, it contributes to a better understanding of the internationalization process of emerging market enterprises and the dark and bright side of the political connectedness of firms. Going forward, jeitinho is an informal practice often requiring network access to get things done in Brazil. Torres and Nascimento provide a rich sociocultural exploration of Brazilian jeitinho in a historical context. Jeitinho, as is typical for informal ties and networks, has dark and bright sides. While it is prone to corrupt activities, it contributes to managerial efficiency and effectiveness and hence keeps operational costs low. Developing personal relationships and understanding how good and bad jeitinho work, as well as understanding the consequences of both, is essential for foreign businesses in Brazil. As mentioned before in the case of Korea, informal ties and networks have often been related to emerging economies. Nevertheless, exclusiveness and challenges in developing informal ties or accessing informal networks have been explored in developed economies too. Applying the social network lens, van Bakel reports on business expatriates' challenges developing social ties in Denmark. Often, expatriates stay among themselves and live in an “expatriate bubble,” which does not contribute much to cultural learning and may have a negative effect on well-being and satisfaction. Drawing on expatriate interviews, it becomes evident that, among other things, the homogeneity of the Danish society, the valuation of equality, and often simply a lack of interest in connecting to foreigners while already having an established circle of friends and acquaintances, often from school days, are factors not helping expatriates to connect to locals. While environmental receptiveness differs strongly among countries – a counterexample to Denmark would be the United States – van Bakel's research has implications superseding organizational questions. Given the increasing shortage of labor in many countries these days, governments are well advised to think about how to create environments that are receptive and friendly toward expatriates of all types to make them stay and feel accepted and integrated. Going further, the old boys' network in the United States is not the typical social network but rather a distinct type of network that deserves special attention. In their contribution, Liu and McDonald make it clear that the old boys' network is not an open and accessible network but an exclusive elite network of usually white males. Old boys' networks have features we find in many other informal networks: The degree of social closure is high, as is the level of homophily. As resources are somewhat distributed within the network, members benefit, for instance, in hiring decisions or when it comes to performance evaluation and promotion, among other things. Finally, the third part of the volume features two perspective papers pointing toward selected future areas of research. The first one, by Horak, McCarthy, and Puffer, reflects on the fact that networking behavior differs across countries, while at the same time networking is surrounded by ambiguity as it has both a dark and a bright side. This makes informal networking in international business relevant to the field of business ethics as deviation in underlying norms, values, and ideals of networking can lead to ethical dilemmas that international managers need to be aware of. This becomes evident in particular when it comes to favor exchange, which represents one of many mechanisms in the operation of informal networks. International managers need to develop competencies to navigate networking ideals in order to avoid ethical dilemmas abroad. In closing, using the example of wasta, Weir, and Ali elaborate on the progression of research in this field since the 1990s. While theorizing has become more inclusive by granting more space to informal phenomena in economic thinking, in a further step, wasta research needs to move on from often rather descriptive approaches to providing evidence through hypothesis testing in a more advanced methodological framework.

Overall, the contributions in this edited volume access informal ties and networks from a variety of perspectives. The diversity of views and emphasis reflects the state and nature of research in this field. While informal network research has a research history, it is rather eclectic, built around single network constructs. Comparative approaches, though some exist, between two or more network forms have so far been a less pursued approach, not to speak of generalizations working toward theory development. Nevertheless, as research on informal networks evolves, some branches of research are more mature than others. While at this point work exploring the persistence hypothesis (will informal networks persist or recede?) is likely the most advanced research stream, informal networks can also be characterized by their ambiguity (dark and bright side). While money-based corruption representing the dark side has been comprehensively explored, many other facets at both ends of the continuum have not. Further, the question of network accessibility is an exciting research stream. In this regard, the need to acquire global networking skills becomes central, which is relevant in particular for managing international business. As we have learned from the contributions in this book, some networks (but not all) are quite exclusive and/or familistic or clan culture driven, hence they are more difficult for foreigners – i.e., international managers – to access, which has important implications for managing business abroad, leading teams or for subsidiary integration in many respects, such as supply networks or ties between managers of a foreign firm and representatives of the government. The role of factors that define network cohesion, i.e., the level and nature of loyalty among network members, is another important field of inquiry indicating the extent to which network ties are given priority over common fairness and ethical standards, or even formal rules, such as, for instance, following compliance rules or a corporate code of conduct.

Besides the inspiration the contributions provide for theoretical advancements, they have useful implications that will assist international managers in becoming more sensitive and therewith more effective in their work abroad. Managing or even leading informal networks requires a deep understanding of the respective sociocultural environment in order to “see” informal ties and networks operate, as they often do so in the shadows. It requires an understanding about the factors contributing to network formation and cohesion. Last but not least, a thorough understanding of consequences to engaging in networking needs to be developed as behavioral norms and expectations need to be understood when managing in an unknown environment. Developing sensibility and networking competence for respective countries and regions helps a multinational firm develop a relational competitive advantage.

Sven Horak, New York, January 2022