One size doesn't fit all: MNC knowledge sourcing in Bulgaria

[Guest post by my former Middlesex colleague and co-author Shasha Zhao. In this post Shasha introduces our latest paper with Middlesex colleague Mariana Dodourova.]

Given the rise of emerging economies, I have always been intrigued by their dynamic and diverse nature. This includes their rapidly evolving - often along different trajectories - innovation environment and implications on sustainable development.

My recently published work with Middlesex co-authors has showcased novel findings on these two related topics. It includes a longitudinal case study in Asia Pacific Journal of Management and a special issue in Critical Perspectives on International Business. Most recently, we published a paper in International Business Review on the ambidextrous nature of MNC knowledge sourcing in emerging economies. 

Story in the paper

Innovation performance of multinational corporations (MNCs) derives from access to and utilization of a combination of explorative and exploitative knowledge across heterogeneous settings. These settings increasingly encompass flagship industries in emerging economies. There is limited research, however, that scrutinizes the processes of knowledge sourcing within such dynamic host environments, taking into account MNCs’ differing location.

We draw on the concept of ambidexterity – the combination of exploration and exploitation – and the microfoundations approach to study eleven MNCs in the Bulgarian software development industry by focusing on their local R&D projects. We extend the explanatory capacity of ambidexterity at the micro level and clarify the relationship between exploration and exploitation by identifying four types of ambidexterity: global knowledge differentiator, global-local knowledge integrator, emerging local-global integrator, and local knowledge integrator. Our typology (see the above figure) is underpinned by three specific dimensions of R&D capabilities: technical know-how, scope of expertise, and market potential.

Story about the paper

When writing this blogpost, a slightly mixed feeling came over me. It is probably because when I think about the history and background of this paper – where it all started and ended – it reminds me of my time at Middlesex University London. While many outside the UK might not be familiar with the University, to me it is a very special place. It is the place which I call "the womb of my research programme". It was the place where I found my new research passion, a move away from my earlier interest in headquarter-subsidiary relationship during my PhD time. More importantly, it was the place that offered me everything I needed to develop and conduct an interesting research programme that gives me pride.

There were so many people that made this happen for me but if I must name one person, without a doubt it would be Anne-Wil Harzing. She was the person that connected Mariana (our co-author) and me, and the three of us decided to work on this project together to bring it to fruition. After some hard groundwork and being rejected by two journals, we realized that the revised paper was far more suited to the Special Issue in International Business Review. The outcome confirmed our decision. After a few months, our paper was published. This just shows rejections are not "scary", they are an opportunity to learn and improve, and more crucially, that the fit between a paper and a journal (or special issue) is really important.

This is the last project that I worked on before my time ended at Middlesex University, but I am sure this will not be the last one with "old friends".   

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