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Chapter 7 U.S. Expatriates, Postwar Knowledge Transfer and Japanese Telecommunications Revival

The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization

ISBN: 978-1-78052-112-1, eISBN: 978-1-78052-113-8

Publication date: 10 October 2011


Purpose — This study assesses the effectiveness of initiatives by expatriate employees of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T, popularly referred to as the ‘Bell System’11The use of the term ‘Bell System’ as a synonym for AT&T reflected the firm's initial dependency on the exploitation of the telephone patents of Alexander Graham Bell. The Bell System consisted of AT&T, a holding company, and its affiliates including The Bell Telephone Laboratories (research), Western Electric (manufacturing) and 13 regional telephone operating subsidiaries.) in the revival of the Japan's telecommunications system and allied industries after World War II.

Methodology — Our primary methodology involves historical analysis of archival resources for AT&T and the Civil Communications Section (CCS) of the Supreme Command Allied Powers (SCAP), the American occupation government agency responsible for advising Japanese government and industry during the period 1945–1950.

Findings — Before the war, the Bell System maintained strong direct connections in Japan. AT&T's influence during the occupation, however, was indirect: knowledge dissemination through the activities of the CCS, which had several employees on loan from the Bell System.

Research limitations/implications — While our sample of organisations seems narrow and the duration of time relatively brief, the Bell System's people made a tremendous impact: transforming the Japanese telecommunications system. This suggests that guidance and tutelage by expatriate experts may enable host countries to master best practices rapidly without incurring high costs of evolutionary development.

Social implications — Local social mores and differences in workforce educational attainment may temporarily impede the acceptance of new foreign approaches to management and administration.

Value of the chapter — This chapter demonstrates how firm-specific and proprietary knowledge built up over decades at one firm could, through the agency of expatriates, revolutionise in just a few years the basic approaches followed in another country's telecommunications industry.



Adams, S.B. and Miranti, P.J. (2011), "Chapter 7 U.S. Expatriates, Postwar Knowledge Transfer and Japanese Telecommunications Revival", Mariano, S., Mohamed, M. and Mohiuddin, Q. (Ed.) The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization (International Business and Management, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 131-150.



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