EIBA panel: New Avenues for IB Research in the Digital Era

Report on a panel on IB & Technology on the EIBA conference at Leeds University in December 2019

[Guest post by CYGNA member Dorota Piaskowska]

Panelists: Douglas Dow, Martin Hannibal, Esther Tippmann, Edith Ipsmiller, Helene Tenzer

There is no denying the ever more pervasive role of digital technologies in business, politics, and society. Surprisingly, international business scholars have only recently started exploring digital technologies. These are just some of the critical questions we have few answers for. 

  • How can firms design and implement digital strategies for global markets?
  • What new, digitally-enabled opportunities are opening in global business?
  • Which technologies help firms engage customers on an international scale?
  • In what ways can managers use digital technologies to improve the effectiveness and collaboration of their increasingly diverse multinational teams?

And so, at the recent conference of the European International Business Academy hosted by the University of Leeds in December 2019, we undertook to map out some of the exciting new research avenues at the intersection of IB and technology during a panel discussion titled “Time for IBtech”, convened by Tilo Halaszovich and Dorota Piaskowska.

Five panelist, five exciting presentations

Starting at the macro level, Douglas Dow discussed how technological change diminishes some barriers to IB and drives a partial convergence in social attitudes. Yet technological change also drives increasing within-country diversity [presentation download] and nationalistic sentiments – both of which need to be understood better.

Martin Hannibal (@Dr_Hannibal74) zoomed in on the changing nature of global production [presentation download], in particular due to additive manufacturing technologies. Such new technologies are set to disrupt the established structure and operations of international business – and provide a fertile ground for research into the global factory, logistics, and operations.

Esther Tippmann (@EstherTippmann) focused on the internationalization and international management of “born digitals,”, i.e. firms with a digital business model active in the online space while having a limited physical footprint. Many such firms internationalize rapidly, using and augmenting “industry recipes” to do so. Still, the exact mechanisms of their internationalization need to be understood better, and many such research opportunities are highlighted in a recent JIBS commentary on the internationalization of born digitals.

Edith Ipsmiller shared insights from her work with Desislava Dikova into digital entry modes [presentation download], in particular online sales channels. Despite increased usage in recent decades, only few researchers have studied online sales channels in the context of foreign market entry or export channel choice so far. How effective these modes of market entry are and how they affect existing export channel structures are some of the new research questions in this area.

Global internet diffusion has also enabled a more widespread use of technologies such as augmented or virtual reality. By bridging the digital and physical world, augmented reality facilitates decision-making by allowing humans to better process information and may thus increase the effectiveness of online sales channels. We have yet to explore how these new technologies (augmented and virtual reality) will impact global export marketing.

Last but not least, Helene Tenzer zoomed in on the role of digital technologies in virtual teamwork [presentation download]. Virtual teams researchers can draw on several established media choice theories, such as media richness theory, media synchronicity theory or media naturalness theory, which aim to assist virtual collaborators in choosing the optimal communication media to facilitate mutual understanding. In sharp contrast to the reality of today’s virtual teams, however, these general theories neglect the national, linguistic, functional, gender or age diversity between team members.

In her own work, Helene found that the normative propositions of media synchronicity theory are reversed in the presence of language barriers, which may trigger cognitive overload among team members and consequently favor the use of asynchronous media over synchronous ones. She also found that integrated meeting systems such as Microsoft Lync or Webex can ease cognitive load while securing timely communication. Building on these results, she encouraged future international business research to investigate how different types of diversity influence the optimal choice of communication media in virtual teamwork and to probe other media choice theories for their applicability in corporate settings characterized by diversity.

Helene also discussed the possibility of measuring virtual collaborators’ cognitive load through functional magnetic resonance imaging in order to identify those communication media, which take the least cognitive capacity away from work processes. Finally, she highlighted the need for more research on new and emerging technologies of computer-mediated communication, which could help to update media choice theories and provide guidance for multinational corporations wishing to develop their communication infrastructure.

These are just some of the new, exciting research avenues. Watch this space!

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