Academic journal article Management International Review

Acceleration and Deceleration in the Internationalization Process of the Firm

Academic journal article Management International Review

Acceleration and Deceleration in the Internationalization Process of the Firm

Article excerpt

Abstract By adopting a processual and dynamic view on internationalization, we develop the concepts of acceleration and deceleration, providing analytical tools to enhance our understanding of the non-linearity and multidimensionality of internationalization. We argue that acceleration and deceleration are embedded in the internationalization process and are a consequence of the firm's capability to absorb and integrate acquired knowledge, and to find and exploit opportunities. In addition, we advance the idea that changes in speed are further influenced by how the firm integrates and coordinates the resources it has deployed within and across various internationalization dimensions. Thus, it emerges that the overall evolution of commitment to internationalization is more complex than received theories tend to present; therefore, empirical studies should aim to include a wide set of international activities and processes embedded in time.

Keywords Internationalization * Speed * Acceleration * Deceleration * International commitment * Time * Process

1 Introduction

Speed has, over the last decade, gained a central position in research into firm internationalization (Jiang et al. 2014; Vermeulen and Barkema 2002; Casillas and Acedo 2013; Casillas and Moreno-Menendez 2013; Acedo and Jones 2007; McDougall et al. 2003), as it is often claimed that international expansion takes place at a higher speed than received theory predicts (Kalinic and Forza 2012). In this literature, speed of internationalization is seen as the relationship between international commitment and time (Chetty et al. 2014; Vermeulen and Barkema 2002). However, we argue that the dominant approach to studying speed is limited by its inattention to process. We provide a more dynamic perspective, moving beyond speed to consider change in speed, and from a single process to multiple interrelated processes. We argue that this shift from a static to a dynamic explanation provides new theoretical insights into the nature of internationalization processes.

In proposing a more dynamic understanding of speed, we address two gaps in current theories on firm internationalization, both of which are especially applicable to the study of bom globals. The first gap is mainly conceptual: the most popular concepts--such as speed, pace, and rapidity--are assumed to be constant throughout the process (Acedo and Jones 2007; Coeurderoy and Murray 2008). This is despite the fact that there are qualitative case studies (e.g., Bell et al. 2003; Kalinic et al. 2014) reporting that the internationalization process is usually not incremental, linear, and gradual. Rather, it can be described as leapfrogging, consisting of both small and big steps (Hedlund and Kvemeland 1985). The second gap is to be found in the literature on speed of internationalization and concerns the over-simplification of the process; that is, most studies consider the speed of one type of international commitment only (e.g., Khavul et al. 2010; Ramos et al. 2011). This overlooks the diverse activities of internationalizing firms, which can be engaged not just in international sales, but also importing and different forms of investment. As a result of these limitations of the existing literature, the view of internationalization that predominates is of a single, linear progression.

This study challenges that dominant view by theoretically accounting for changes in speed over time. We extend the scope of existing studies, beyond the limited time period and limited set of activities that are typically included, in order to develop a deeper and more relevant understanding of internationalization as a non-linear, multidimensional, and irregular process. First, in contrast to the majority of studies on speed (e.g., Khavul et al. 2010; Morgan-Thomas and Jones 2009; Musteen et al. 2010), we argue for a conceptualization that grasps the multidimensionality of internationalization (Casillas and Acedo 2013). …

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