International Business in a VUCA World: The Changing Role of States and Firms: Volume 14

Cover of International Business in a VUCA World: The Changing Role of States and Firms
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Table of contents

(27 chapters)

Prelims

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Part I: International Business in a VUCA Environment

Abstract

The optimal location of plants by a global firm is analyzed for the first time using measures of distance along the spherical surface of Planet Earth. With a uniform distribution of customers an optimal location strategy will normally seek a space-filling configuration of identical areas that are as near circular as possible. The hexagonal space-filling solution for location on an infinite plane cannot be generalized to the surface of a sphere. Different spatial patterns are required for different numbers of plants; these may be based on triangles, squares, or pentagons. The chapter reviews the current state of knowledge on the topic, drawing on theories of spherical geometry and regular convex polyhedra, and on applications in physics, chemistry, and medicine. Overall, there appears to be no general solution to the problem; only a set of quite different solutions for various special cases. The lack of any general solution to this central problem in international business illustrates the “impossibility” referred to in the title of this chapter.

Abstract

In this chapter we chart the evolution of the theory of the multinational enterprise (MNE) from Buckley and Casson’s original depiction to Buckley’s conceptualization of the global factory. Within that context we consider the issues of risk and uncertainty which continue to challenge firms in the international context. Indeed, despite the explosion in access to greater wealth of digital sources of information and knowledge, risk, uncertainty, volatility, complexity, and ambiguity remain constraints on the ability of firms to function effectively in the international arena. Theoretical development around the nature of the MNE must deal with such enormities, but also other demands in the global context. The evolution of the global factory has been recognized as the disintegration of the MNE through the externalization of many of its previously core activities, including parts of production and marketing, but this form of the MNE will not be the end-game. Ultimately, it may be questioned whether the MNE is becoming, or has become, just a global super-manager of value activities orchestrating the internationalization of production.

Abstract

The acronym and neologism “VUCA” is employed by management and some scholars to denote the unpredictability of the modern world and its impact on business. The VUCA approach suggests that a rational firm’s response should be to: protect against volatility by engineering-in redundancy and slack, gather information to reduce uncertainty, develop expertise to make complexity computable, and learn heuristically to reduce ambiguity. We combine a critical perspective on the VUCA approach with the global factory model, popularly used to describe the flexibility sought by advanced economy multinational enterprises (MNEs) within the global value chain. Both VUCA and the global factory would seem to account less well for the expansion of emerging multinational enterprise (EMNEs) abroad, particularly the preference for equity-based control and inflexibility when seeking strategic assets. Also, both approaches fail to incorporate behavioral principles toward risk. Using International Business theory, we propose a research agenda that may help to make VUCA more tractable, the global factory more useful, and the internationalization of EMNEs more comprehensible.

Part II: New Perspectives on the Interplay Between Firms and the Non-Market

Abstract

Many multinational firms attempt to cope with trade policy uncertainties by developing the option of manufacturing their goods in multiple production facilities in different countries. In this chapter, we explore how such “production switching” options affect the vulnerability of a country’s exports to foreign protectionism. We present a theoretical model of such behavior and show that production switching increases the elasticity of a country’s export with respect to tariffs. The magnitude of the elasticity depends on a country’s position in the value chain. We use the model’s predictions to provide new insights into the vulnerability of China’s exports during the current Sino–US trade war.

Abstract

In the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) contemporary business environment intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) play a central role. Their objective is to align member countries for collective global problem solving activities under the guidance of the organization. They aim at providing global stability and security through the creation of supranational institutions. While political sciences have studied IGOs from a global political perspective, little is known about the influence of these IGOs and their supranational institutions on country institutional environments and business environments. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to understand how IGOs influence these national institutional environments, especially considering the countries’ development levels. By using regime and institutional theory we are able to conceptualize the relation of supranational and national institutions within the differently developed countries. We identify two interconnected factors that impact this analysis, the strength of the national institutional environment of member countries and their power in the IGO. Using these factors, we identify a clash and misalignment of national and supranational institutions in emerging countries, which is leading to enhanced VUCA business environments. We provide an exemplary case that discusses institutional schisms created by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) influence in Argentina. Moreover, the impact of IGOs is significant in least developed countries and has little to no impact in highly developed countries.

Abstract

The promotion of low tariffs and free trade has been the underlying driver of global economic growth. The recent political developments in the United States and Great Britain calls into question, whether free trade will be supported by the governments of the industrialized world in the future. Shortly after being inaugurated in 2017, the President of the United States has repeatedly announced his plans to impose punitive tariffs on the import of foreign products in order to protect the country’s domestic economy. Besides a controversial border adjustment tax, he has frequently brought up the possibility of imposing a 35% tariff on automobile imports. The chapter aims to analyze the effects of such a tariff on trade in the automotive sector between the United States and Germany as well as on German automobile manufacturers. It takes a quantitative approach to draw a conclusion about the relationship between import tariffs on automobiles and passenger vehicle imports from Germany to the United States utilizing a fixed effects regression model based on panel data. The model finds a significant negative correlation between the examined variables, but even in a worst case scenario, German manufacturers are resilient to the predicted revenue losses caused by a tariff increase.

Abstract

The probability of sanctions’ effectiveness increases not only due to their severity for the target country’s economy but is also a function of adherence to their principles by enterprises from senders’ countries. Sanctions avoidance and increasing investments in the target country (the observed behavior of many companies facing the European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia which were imposed in 2014) mitigate the impact of these restrictive measures. In this chapter we show (by analyzing adaptation strategies of EU enterprises affected by sanctions imposed on Russia by EU) how particular types of strategies affect the effectiveness of sanctions and what factors determine the choice of their respective behavior. We draw our conclusions from the online survey of more than 1,000 responses from British, French, German, Italian, and Polish enterprises. We find that while administrative burdens make conformance to sanctions more likely, market dependency and non-tangible assets in the target country induce strategies that challenge sanction policies. We conclude that the EU–Russian sanctions dispute incentivizes European companies to increase their engagement in Russia. These so-called defiance strategies diminish the real economic effect of the sanctions and generate a new equilibrium which outlasts the lifting of these restrictive measures and has negative long-term political implications.

Abstract

The effects of economic liberalization have been subject to academic and political discussion for many decades. The trade war between the United States and China brought new perspectives to this debate and raised the question: do fewer trade barriers and more economic freedom lead to better functioning societies? Following the perspective of the transaction cost theory, we argue that more economic freedom reduces non-productive expenses and allows private companies to improve the allocation of resources. It also allows more competition among companies, which facilitates access to funding. In this research, we use data of 1,248 publicly traded companies in the seven largest Latin American countries to analyze the effect OF increasing economic freedom on administrative expenses and financial. Our results indicate that, on average, increasing economic freedom allows the reduction of transaction costs and facilitates financial leverage for companies.

Part III: New Governance Challenges in International Business

Abstract

The macroenvironment constitutes a widely acknowledged source of firms’ risk in international business. A substantial body of research on macroenvironmental risks encapsulates a variety of measurement approaches, antecedents, and managerial consequences. However, a review of established macroenvironmental risk measures reveals that these measures strongly focus on the quality of the macroenvironment, assuming a rather static perspective and mainly excluding dynamic aspects. Building on prior research on macroenvironmental risk as well as on environmental dynamism, we argue that macroenvironmental dynamism – i.e. the frequency, intensity, and predictability of macroenvironmental variation – is a pivotal source of risk in international business, which so far only received limited attention. Moreover, we suggest that macroenvironmental dynamism influences firms’ risk management activities, a measure we use to empirically investigate firm implications of macroenvironmental dynamism. We explore this effect using primary survey data on risk management activities from 158 foreign subsidiaries in six emerging countries and secondary data on the macroeconomic context in these countries. We find evidence that macroenvironmental dynamism, if compared to macroenvironmental quality, exerts a strong influence on firms’ risk management activities. Our findings enhance the understanding of the dynamic nature of macroenvironmental risk in international business as well as provide a concept to more comprehensively measure macroenvironmental dynamism that future research can build upon.

Abstract

We study the relationship between firms’ top management teams (TMT) and internationalization complexity. We consider the effect of three different sets of TMT characteristics – international business orientation intensity, education intensity, and team diversity – on three different and increasingly complex facets of internationalization - international markets intensity, international operations intensity and international country diversity. We argue that more international, highly-educated and diverse TMTs are better able to face the complexity derived from international competition. The results of our empirical analysis show that TMTs having foreign managers or managers with international experience are more likely to be in charge of firms facing higher international operations intensity. Conversely, more educated and more diverse TMTs are associated with complexity deriving from international diversification.

Abstract

Manufacturing offshoring has received substantial attention within international business studies that have explored where activities are located and how they are governed. However, recent examples of manufacturing relocation to the home country/region have put the advantages of offshoring under scrutiny, since the location of production activities in high-cost countries may have positive impacts in terms of innovation and marketing opportunities. Despite the growing interest in offshoring and “relocations of second degree,” there is a lack of knowledge on the alternative strategies firms may implement after offshoring. This chapter aims to propose a comprehensive framework to summarize and classify the multiple alternatives firms may implement after the initial relocation abroad of manufacturing activities. Based on an extensive literature review and a comparative analysis of Italian case studies, the chapter suggests theoretical advancement in the theory of location of business activities, offering multiple post-offshoring strategic options that may be implemented individually or in combination. In so doing, the analysis also stresses the variety of strategic paths and the complexity of choices concerning manufacturing location, emphasizing reshoring as a nuanced phenomenon and exploring how domestic and foreign locations can complement each other and be mutually reinforcing.

Abstract

Based on in-depth case studies from a high-cost environment, we identify context-specific aspects as important motivating factors for decision-makers re-evaluating the previous offshoring decisions. This chapter sheds light on the complexity of backshoring motives by adding a meso level, illustrating how case companies’ sourcing decisions evolve alongside the institutional context at a regional level. Further, the chapter provides a deeper understanding of the motives that underlay backshoring decisions and argues that these motivating factors differ from a broader set of drivers that can be found within the existing frameworks of backshoring.

Abstract

This contribution discusses how multinational firms could serve poorer consumers in developed regions like Europe and through which business models, beyond the traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions. MNEs have still limited capacity to address poverty in developed countries, notwithstanding some experience they have matured in developing markets and the striking figures of rising poverty in Europe and the United States. This research focuses on a specific issue: the role of MNEs in addressing poverty in developed markets, either leveraging on their previous expertise gained in developing countries or designing novel ad hoc solutions. The capacity of Western multinationals to tackle effectively the challenge of profitably doing business at the base of the pyramid (BoP) represents a controversial issue in literature and an intriguing topic for international business studies. The empirical research is based on three case studies. The companies have already gained experience in targeting BoP markets in developing countries. They are analyzed in order to understand better their approaches and their applicability in Europe.

Part IV: New Contexts for Newly Internationalizing Firms

Abstract

Is a born-global strategy reflective of high performance or are there merits in a regional strategy? In studying a sample of 32 internationalizing small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), we find that many of the early internationalizing firms that formally meet the accepted “born-global criteria” are actually regional. With this concept as a starting point, this study aims to contribute to the literature on early internationalizing firms by comparing how born globals (BGs) and born regionals (BRs) differ in terms of the liability of foreignness, networking activities and performance. Our results indicate that both liability of foreignness and knowledge development in networks is more challenging for BGs than for BRs, and for this reason, BRs are likely to perform better than BGs. Hence, we identify a “born global disadvantage” stemming from a lack in the capacity of acquiring relevant foreign-market knowledge and tackling foreign-market institutions. The implications of the study highlight the need for researchers and practitioners to be more careful when using the concept of BG and to acknowledge that differences do exist between regional and global business strategies.

Abstract

This study analyzes emerging market (EM) firms’ entrepreneurial transformation process at both the cognitive and behavioral levels to facilitate successful international venturing. Specifically, the relationships among entrepreneurial orientation (EO), strategic renewal, and international venturing, the mediating role of strategic renewal, and the contingent roles of technological dynamism and competitiveness are examined. Cross-sectional survey data collected from 137 paired EM firms in China confirm our hypotheses. Results show that strategic renewal positively mediates the link from EO in the form of proactiveness, risk-taking, and innovativeness, to international venturing. Moreover, technological dynamism elevates the mediation effect of strategic renewal, whereas technological competitiveness diminishes the facilitating role of strategic renewal.

Abstract

We investigate the role of market uncertainties as determinants of the adoption of control and prediction in the internationalization of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Building on the possibility that uncertain markets may lead to trade-offs between these strategies, as suggested by the convergence between effectuation and internationalization research, we differentiate between uncertainties originated in SMEs’ home and host countries. We test our hypotheses with a cross-country data set encompassing 597 SMEs surveyed in Brazil, China, Poland, and Italy. Our results indicate that home-country uncertainty is related to the adoption of control strategies, while host-country cultural uncertainty is related to prediction efforts. Moreover, internationalization knowledge emerged not as a moderator of these relationships but as a relevant antecedent of both control and prediction. Our findings have implications for the use of effectuation in the study of SME internationalization and also for the conceptualization of the effectuation process itself.

Abstract

Social enterprises (SEs) have become important new actors in solving grand challenges in a VUCA world. Nevertheless, International Business (IB) research has paid little attention to them. To address this gap, we draw upon a comparative case study of two SEs: one addressing poverty and the other tackling ocean plastics pollution. Our analysis uncovers two issue-specific internationalization paths: a multi-local path and a born-glocal path. On the basis of the findings, we re-conceptualize internationalization in the context of SEs as an ongoing, issue-specific process of social impact scaling through bricolage, global optimization, and local integration. We conclude by offering suggestions for further accounting for SEs in the IB research agenda.

Part V: Contemporary Management Perspectives in IB Research

Abstract

The disruption global digitally based firms are imposing on the positions of established multinational telcos is not just in degree, but also in kind. As such, the telcos are entering a period of VUCA. Although digitally based competitors could suffer from liabilities of “outsidership,” we argue that the physical presence of telcos in local markets will be insufficient to avoid a future as utilities or dumb-pipes. One significant issue as they confront VUCA is therefore whether telcos are able to develop and apply dynamic capabilities.

Abstract

The manager of the 21st century is expected to succeed in an environment strongly characterized by unprecedented volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). In fact, today’s business environment consists of contradictory pressure and tensions, where competitive advantage could be gained by ambidextrous activities. The concept of ambidexterity has already been discussed by many scholars, but still little is known about managerial practice and actions that are useful for finding the balance between the paradoxes that have been identified at that level. Although there are different tensions, dynamic and evolving according to the changes observed in the environment: more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, the pressure to remain flexible and simultaneously maintain the plan of development, seems to be essential. In recent research studies, networking perspective is mentioned as one of areas worth exploring while analyzing the concept of ambidexterity. For that reason, the main goal of this chapter is to investigate if networking is one of the factors useful for managing ambidexterity. To gain deeper insight, we investigated further, searching for the factors essential for managing ambidexterity: we compared the research results between companies of different sizes to identify any regularities. We focused on ambidexterity reflected by managerial practice where stability/plans and flexibility are implemented simultaneously. We investigated 150 managers using paper-and-pencil interviewing. Our research results confirmed that networking could be one of the main approaches having an impact on ambidextrous activities. However, we cannot conclude that companies are obliged to apply a networking perspective to be ambidextrous, although it could be recommended. Further analysis of companies of different sizes revealed the relationship between ambidexterity and networking in case of small and large companies, and no relation in medium-sized enterprises.

Abstract

Over the last decade, scholars extensively discuss talent management phenomenon in various country contexts paying much attention to different exogenous and endogenous factors influencing talent management systems and practices and their relationships with other organizational processes. In this chapter we particularly talk about the peculiarities of talent management in Brazil and Russia and explore the potential impact key management practices aimed at attracting, developing and retaining high potentials and high performers have on the development of firms’ absorptive capacity. We argue that for Brazilian and Russian firms “crossverging” context-specific talent management practices play a key role in the acquisition, assimilation, transformation, and exploitation of external and internal valuable knowledge, thus becoming one of the main drivers of organizational performance and competitive advantage.

Abstract

Research suggests that context matters for MNEs’ international business strategy. MNEs’ strategies vary when different intertwined contexts interact with each other. While International Business scholars understand well the influence of the institutional environments on firms’ international strategies and operations, some contextual differences are less understood as is the case involving African countries and firms. In this study we investigate how different institutional contexts and legitimacy challenges combine to impact ownership strategic choices of African firms in their cross-border acquisitions (CBAs). Specifically, we study the influence of the host country institutional development and two institutional dimension distances: administrative distance and knowledge distance. Methodologically, we use a sample of 314 CBAs made by acquirers from 24 African countries in 71 host countries worldwide to test a number of theoretically driven hypotheses. This study contributes to our understanding of how foreign investors from less institutionally developed countries that are more likely to face higher legitimacy barriers use ownership strategies to achieve legitimacy abroad.

Abstract

Adaptation of foreign market strategy and its performance outcomes have been among the key research topics in international business and international marketing. The present chapter provides new evidence on the contingent nature of the adaptation-performance relationship. Drawing from the institution-based view, we argue that adaptation increases legitimacy in the foreign market, hence improving foreign market performance. This relationship can be expected to gain importance for higher levels of institutional distance. Conversely, we expect that a successful development of foreign market relationships can be an alternative way of gaining legitimacy. These statements are supported with quantitative data from 284 firms and qualitative evidence from 8 firms.

Abstract

The main objective of the present chapter is to address empirically the impacts of institutional distance (ID) on the multinationality level of firms from developing countries and interpret how the interaction between ID and firm resources affects firms from developing countries. Using data of firms from developing countries, we estimated an empirical cross-section model. The results show that while cultural distance was not found statistically significant, ID, on the other hand, was statistically significant. The higher the distance between home and host country, the higher the multinationality of firms from developing countries. We also found a positive and statistically significant correlation between intangible resource and multinationality, which suggests a tendency toward new pattern in the internationalization of firms from emerging economies.

Index

Pages 507-519
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Cover of International Business in a VUCA World: The Changing Role of States and Firms
DOI
10.1108/S1745-8862201914
Publication date
2019-10-21
Book series
Progress in International Business Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-83867-256-0
eISBN
978-1-83867-255-3
Book series ISSN
1745-8862