Comment on Ries' Paper

Article excerpt

The role of regional studies in international business research and education is as difficult to define as the role of international business itself. Regional studies do not have a natural home in business schools that are organized around the core functional areas. John Ries's paper presents an excellent summary on how the contents of regional studies can be related to existing courses in the business environment and functional areas. I find his suggestions relevant for the courses that I teach at the University of Alberta on Japanese firm behavior in international business settings.

I agree with Ries that a specific regional focus provides a practical context for theories of the foreign direct investment behaviour of multinational firms. More generally, a regional focus can serve as a mechanism for injecting nontraditional ideas and interesting examples into core functional areas in business schools. A regional focus can also serve as an integrating theme running through multiple core discipline areas.

For example, virtually all textbooks on production management discuss the Toyota (just-in-time) production system which has been adopted by non-Japanese as well as Japanese competitors. The Toyota production system is tied to certain aspects of Japanese industrial relations practices. In adopting this system, North American auto manufacturers have adopted or experimented with fewer job classifications and organized team work concepts. These features of Japanese management are mentioned in some North American industrial relations courses. The sheer size of the Japanese capital markets and financial institutions have generated interest in the Japanese finance. The Japanese bank-based (and corporate group-based) system for monitoring and disciplining firm management has attracted academic attention in the corporate control area as an alternative to the Anglo-American monitoring/disciplinary mechanisms based on hostile takeover threats.

Interregional comparative research projects can stimulate new ideas and serve an integrating function too. With my colleagues at Alberta and elsewhere, I have been using Japanese data to investigate the applicability of various behavioral hypotheses put forward by North American researchers on production, industrial relations, finance and corporate control. These research projects seem to generate genuine interest of my colleagues who have been teaching and doing research on these topics based on North American data. …