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The formation of an MNE identity over the course of internationalization

Johann Fortwengel ()
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Johann Fortwengel: Bush House

Journal of International Business Studies, 2021, vol. 52, issue 6, No 3, 1069-1095

Abstract: Abstract Organizational identity describes how members of an organization think about ‘who we are.’ But how exactly does a multinational enterprise (MNE) form an identity revolving around its key feature – that it is a globally operating organization with subsidiaries across several countries? Tracing the evolution of AutoCorp, a German MNE, over almost 30 years, I develop theory on how an MNE identity is formed over the course of internationalization. Focusing on the relational evolvement of the pair comprising headquarters and the first major foreign subsidiary, my data reveal how the formation process of an MNE identity involves awareness, aspiration, and assimilation as key steps, and sensemaking, storytelling, and standardizing as process mechanisms. I unpack how the process of MNE identity formation unfolds along a set of discrete events, which constitute inflection points marking the transition from one stage to the next: from multiple identities via identity reflection and identity envisioning to an MNE identity. By introducing the notion of an MNE identity, this paper enriches the way international business scholars think about classic questions around the coordination and organization of MNEs.

Keywords: organizational identity; multinational enterprise (MNE); internationalization; headquarters–subsidiary relationship; qualitative research (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1057/s41267-020-00397-9

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