Academic journal article Management International Review

Commitment and Opportunity Development in the Internationalization Process: A Note on the Uppsala Internationalization Process Model

Academic journal article Management International Review

Commitment and Opportunity Development in the Internationalization Process: A Note on the Uppsala Internationalization Process Model

Article excerpt


* This paper starts from the observation that the internationalisation process (IP) model frequently is interpreted as a model of risk reduction in the internationalization of the firm. The dominating view of the model seems to be that commitment is the dependent variable and experience is the independent variable. A basic assumption of the original model, however, is that opportunity development is an important outcome of commitment. The purpose of this note is to articulate this relation, which is not stressed enough in earlier writings.

Key Results

* A causal chain from relationship commitment over relationship knowledge development and network knowledge development to opportunity development is specified. Two propositions are formulated regarding the effects of mutual relationship commitment and of network embeddedness in a country market on opportunity development in the market.


25 years afterwards, we are surprised. Firstly, we never expected this longevity of the model. Secondly, we are surprised, because after some thinking we have arrived at the conclusion, that we would not have built the model differently today, but with somewhat different underpinning. In a way we were lucky in using concepts such as "knowledge" and "commitment", which later came to be widely used in research on the theory of the firm but also in some functional disciplines. We were left with our inductively produced understanding of these concepts. We are grateful to the organizers of the conference and editors of this issue of MIR for focusing on the IP model and giving us this opportunity to elaborate on it.

But, we must point out that the model is not "the establishment chain", going from ad hoc exports to the establishment of manufacturing subsidiaries. This was the empirical phenomenon we observed, giving the impetus to construct the model. The model is on learning and commitment building or, more precisely, on the interplay between knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. While the effect of knowledge development on foreign market commitment has been recognized and studied by many researchers the effect of commitment on knowledge development has been less noticed. The purpose of this note is to elaborate on this latter effect. In particular, we are here interested in the effect on opportunity development.

Admittedly, this note is written in a way that it presupposes the reader is familiar with the original version of the internationalization model published in 1977 (Johanson/Vahlne 1977). In that article we tried to explain the gradual internationalization process observed by relying on two interdependent sub-processes--experiential learning and commitment building. We related those processes to the focal company only, later realizing that indeed these processes occur as interplay between at least two (potential) partners (Johanson and Vahlne 1990). In Johanson/Vahlne (2003), we tied the mechanisms of our original model closer to the network view of industrial markets by focusing on the critical role of building and changing relationships. One implication is that the concept of a "country market" is no longer seen as a valid unit of analysis. In this note, we focus on network or partner commitment and its role not only for uncertainty reduction, but on a sub-set of issues, notably--opportunity development. We believe we have under-estimated this aspect and the purpose of this note is to make up for that.

The paper is structured as follows. After a short introductory review of important applications of the IP model in international business research, we discuss the change from market commitment to relationship commitment. In a following section, we discuss the relations between relationship commitment and knowledge development. Next, we widen the discussion to include network relationships, social capital and knowledge development. …

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