Capability development within the multinational corporation

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2013-02-01
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Kansainvälinen liiketoiminta
International Business
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253 s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 13/2013
The operating environment is being shaped by globalization forces, rapid technological change and intensified competition, which call for strategic changes and new capabilities from multinational corporations. Even though the capability-based determinants to firm survival and growth have been recognized, research on capability development has been limited. This study investigates capability dynamics within MNCs and the interactions between strategy and the environments internal and external to the firm. It puts forward longitudinal case studies of three Finnish multinational firms, Nokia, Kone and Iittala, as they were undergoing strategic changes, in order to explain how capabilities are developed within MNCsand how the MNC context, including globalization, has an impact on capability development. The findings explain how MNC strategies and activities trigger various mechanisms and generate complex outcome patterns in capabilities. The findings indicate that the various patterns or ‘logics’ by which the MNCs build capabilities can be regrouped into four main logics: variation-based, (internal) selection-based, retention-based and access-based logics, which represent patterned links between intra-firm evolutionary processes, dynamic capabilities and capability development. This study demonstrates how the case firms employed different capability logics at different periods of time in order to adapt to external changes, but also to shape the external environment. The findings also elucidate the ‘liability of complexity’ that the multinational corporations encounter, as they possess complex internal and external selection environments and need to respond to divergent external and internal pressures. This may create various forms of inertia or counteracting mechanisms to capability development and may result in ‘indirect selection’ of certain capabilities with significant implications on firm performance. The study also demonstrates how the advantages of the multinational firm increasingly relate to and are augmented by its capacity to use not only the subsidiary network but also its global network of partner firms, ‘enterprise ecologies’, to complement its internal capability base with cospecialized assets. This study extends current research by explicitly integrating the dynamic capabilities view (DCV) and the evolutionary perspectives for a more holistic picture on capability development within the MNC context. It also provides empirical evidence of the dynamic process of capability development when subject to a global business environment of uncertainty and complexity. The managerial implications of the study involve the capability logics that managers may employ to cope with and to influence the external environment. They also relate to identifying the various complexities within the MNC context and promote aligning the internal selection criteria with strategy.
Supervising professor
Piekkari, Rebecca, professor
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