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Learning from the periphery: beyond the transnational model

Learning from the periphery: beyond the transnational model Purpose – Numerous studies have proliferated on the salient role of the subsidiary in multinational enterprise learning and innovative capability building. However, this role has not been considered outside the structural properties of the transnational or integrated network configuration. This paper aims to highlight the role of agency in learning beyond effective configurations. Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on case studies that systematically compare the ways in which parent company knowledge embedded in a transnational and an international structure is transferred to subsidiaries in the European chemical industry. Findings – The paper demonstrates that an international structure can also promote higher levels of learning, despite the absence of learning‐facilitating structural properties, when subsidiaries' orientation to enact acquired knowledge or their “effortful accomplishments” are considered. Practical implications – The findings point to the significance of agency or adaptation to contexts that require either idiosyncratic or ongoing changes, where structural properties of a multinational enterprise are not conducive to higher levels of learning. In the absence of these structural properties, employees need to be guided to change their recognisable pattern of interdependent actions. Originality/value – The learning implications of Bartlett and Ghoshal's MNE structures are fine‐tuned with the conceptualization of learning as practice. By adopting an agency‐based understanding of learning, the two aspects of learning are reconciled, i.e. knowledge transfer and the actor's orientation to acquired knowledge for a more refined understanding of the concept within the MNE context. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png critical perspectives on international business Emerald Publishing

Learning from the periphery: beyond the transnational model

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1742-2043
DOI
10.1108/17422041111103831
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – Numerous studies have proliferated on the salient role of the subsidiary in multinational enterprise learning and innovative capability building. However, this role has not been considered outside the structural properties of the transnational or integrated network configuration. This paper aims to highlight the role of agency in learning beyond effective configurations. Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on case studies that systematically compare the ways in which parent company knowledge embedded in a transnational and an international structure is transferred to subsidiaries in the European chemical industry. Findings – The paper demonstrates that an international structure can also promote higher levels of learning, despite the absence of learning‐facilitating structural properties, when subsidiaries' orientation to enact acquired knowledge or their “effortful accomplishments” are considered. Practical implications – The findings point to the significance of agency or adaptation to contexts that require either idiosyncratic or ongoing changes, where structural properties of a multinational enterprise are not conducive to higher levels of learning. In the absence of these structural properties, employees need to be guided to change their recognisable pattern of interdependent actions. Originality/value – The learning implications of Bartlett and Ghoshal's MNE structures are fine‐tuned with the conceptualization of learning as practice. By adopting an agency‐based understanding of learning, the two aspects of learning are reconciled, i.e. knowledge transfer and the actor's orientation to acquired knowledge for a more refined understanding of the concept within the MNE context.

Journal

critical perspectives on international businessEmerald Publishing

Published: Feb 1, 2011

Keywords: Learning organizations; Social environment; Subsidiaries; Entrepreneurialism; Multinational companies

References