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Resilient or not: boundary-spanning in innovation focused MNEs during global crises

Andreas Schotter (Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Canada)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 4 February 2021

Issue publication date: 17 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical perspective on whether the boundary-spanner model and consequently complex disaggregated intra-MNE value chain activities are crisis resilient.


The paper is a conceptual theory development based on literature integration and phenomenological juxtaposing.


The need for boundary-spanning in assisting dispersed new and complex knowledge creation activities – which can hardly be replicated in virtual collaboration spaces alone – will endure if not even grow. This requires deeper understanding of boundary spanning in the context of the globally dispersed MNE. Increased location diversification engendered by COVID-19 implies a greater need for the boundary spanning function, not less.

Research limitations/implications

Regarding future research, the crisis provides a unique opportunity for taking a closer look at the formation, nurturing and resilience of interdependence, particularly behavioural interdependence and the actions and characteristics of individuals associated with [boundary spanning] actions. Specific research questions should focus on the boundary-spanning model in the virtual space; the characteristics and effects of temporality and the boundary-spanning model, the specific actions of boundary spanners during unforeseen events and the empirical testing of the relationships developed in Table 1.

Practical implications

For practitioners, I suggest avoiding compromising structural interdependence with defaulting on top-down hierarchical approaches during crises; and while doing so, not paying attention to the effects of such actions on behavioural interdependence and its champions (i.e. global boundary spanners). Such interference likely results in sub-optimal global collaboration outcomes and innovation, characterized by fundamentally recursive processes involving creativity, failure, reconfiguring, sensemaking and improvisation.

Social implications



The author develops a critical perspective to assess the crisis-resilience of the boundary-spanning model. In so doing, I juxtapose two contemporary views on the persistence or fading of the global MNE model, and hence, the future need for a socio-behavioural managerial function – like boundary-spanning – connecting dispersed MNE activities. The authors provide numerous avenues for advancing extant research on boundary-spanning in MNEs.



Schotter, A. (2021), "Resilient or not: boundary-spanning in innovation focused MNEs during global crises", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 342-358.



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