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Expatriate managers' relationships and reverse knowledge transfer within emerging market MNCs: The mediating role of subsidiary willingness
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies. (International Business)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies. (International Business)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5393-2440
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies. Department of Business Administration, Public University of Navarre, Spain; INARBE (Institute for Advanced Research in Business and Economics), Spain.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1043-2133
2018 (English)In: Journal of Business Research, ISSN 0148-2963, E-ISSN 1873-7978, Vol. 93, p. 216-229Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the effects that expatriate managers' relationships within multinationals have on reverse knowledge transfer. Specifically, drawing on agency theory, we characterize how expatriate managers' relationships with subsidiary local managers, and with headquarters' managers, influence subsidiary willingness and reverse knowledge transfer. Based on a survey of 128 subsidiaries in 73 Chinese multinationals, we show how a good-quality relationship between expatriate managers and subsidiary local managers has positive effects on subsidiary willingness, which acts as a mediator between this relationship quality and the extent of reverse knowledge transfer. The paper contributes to the international business and knowledge transfer literature by generating new insights into whether and how expatriate managers' relationships within multinationals can help reduce agency problems and support reverse knowledge transfer processes. Understanding the potential role of expatriates in relation to reverse knowledge transfer is particularly important within the context of emerging market multinationals employing knowledge-seeking strategies overseas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 93, p. 216-229
Keywords [en]
Emerging market multinationals, Reverse knowledge transfer, Expatriate managers, Subsidiary willingness, Headquarters-subsidiary relationship, Agency theory
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-360421DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.05.045ISI: 000449245800018OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-360421DiVA, id: diva2:1247835
Available from: 2018-09-13 Created: 2018-09-13 Last updated: 2019-06-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Modern Journey to the West: Exploring Key Factors Influencing Reverse Knowledge Transfer in Emerging-market Multinationals
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Modern Journey to the West: Exploring Key Factors Influencing Reverse Knowledge Transfer in Emerging-market Multinationals
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

As latecomers to the world economy, emerging-market multinational corporations (EMNCs) often use international expansion as a ‘springboard’ for seeking and accessing advanced knowledge from overseas, particularly from advanced markets, with the goal of offsetting their competitive weaknesses and catching up with their Western counterparts. This behavior is conceptualized as the springboard perspective formulated by Luo and Tung (2007). From this perspective, reverse knowledge transfer (RKT) from subsidiaries to home-country units is a compulsory path to achieve innovation catch-up in EMNCs. This thesis explores reverse knowledge transfer in EMNCs and its key influencing factors, an important and timely phenomenon that has so far received little attention in research.

Empirical data were collected through a combination of a qualitative case study of one Chinese state-owned multinational and a survey of Chinese multinationals. Results suggest that headquarters’ political relationships in home countries both promote and inhibit RKT practices in EMNCs. Specifically, headquarters’ political relationships are found to enhance the motivation to seek and demand knowledge from subsidiaries. However, at the same time, these political relationships hinder RKT by reducing headquarters’ absorptive capacity, subsidiary willingness and headquarters’ control over subsidiaries, and by increasing the organizational distance between headquarters and subsidiaries. Thus, this study highlights the fact that political relationships can be a liability for cross-border knowledge acquisition. These results contrast with many prior studies, which have tended to view political ties mostly as a source of competitive advantage for EMNCs during internationalization.

This study also shows how subsidiary willingness to transfer knowledge is restricted by headquarters’ political ties and a large organizational distance between headquarters and subsidiaries in EMNCs. However, the low willingness of subsidiaries to transfer knowledge can be ameliorated if expatriate managers have good-quality relationships with subsidiary local managers. Moreover, the findings suggest that expatriate managers do not engage directly in RKT through their relationship ties. Instead, their relationship ties with local managers can enhance the extent of RKT by stimulating subsidiary willingness. This finding challenges the view of expatriate social ties as channels for transferring knowledge.

By highlighting the relevance of headquarters’ home-country political relationships and expatriate managers’ relationships in the RKT practices of EMNCs, this thesis enriches the literature on reverse knowledge transfer, on the political relationships of EMNCs and on expatriation. In addition, it contributes to the view of multinationals as a differentiated network. This research also contributes to the understanding of the antecedents and difficulties behind the logic of springboard internationalization and extends the knowledge of intra-organizational agency problems in the context of expatriates and reverse knowledge transfer.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. p. 123
Series
Doctoral thesis / Företagsekonomiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet, ISSN 1103-8454 ; 198
Keywords
Emerging-market multinational corporations, reverse knowledge transfer political relationships, expatriate managers, headquarters-subsidiary relationship.
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-363926 (URN)978-91-506-2730-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-12-06, Hörsal 2 (Lecture Hall 2), Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10A, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-11-08 Created: 2018-10-21 Last updated: 2018-11-12

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Kong, LingshuangCiabuschi, FrancescoMartín Martín, Oscar

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