Contextualizing International Business Research: Rigor and Relevance
Contextualizing international business research to achieve research rigor and practical relevance is a challenge faced by all sub-disciplines within the domain of international business. Contextualizing international business research focuses on the big question, 'How do we identify and integrate context into our international business research?' and a corollary, 'Why should we identify and integrate context into our international business research?' We seek submissions for this special issue that explore the implications of context for IB theory building, research design and methodology including methodological approaches to build more robust IB theories; articles that focus on the conceptualization and meaning of context; and limitations of contextualization. Additionally, submissions that demonstrate novel methodological approaches for integrating context into IB theory building are welcome.
When the renowned international business scholar Peter Buckley (2002) questioned the distinctiveness of IB research, he responded to his own question and argued for more integration of culture, more use of comparative studies and of distinctive methods in IB research. Many argue contextual dimensions are what differentiate domestic research from international business and international management research (Buckley, 2002; Child, 2009; Oesterle & Wolf, 2011). Oesterle and Wolf (2011) raised the question, 'how international are our international journals?' And concluded that context was not adequately or at best modestly addressed in most of our research. We concur.
Despite the urging of thought leaders in IB for more contextualization, our approaches to contextualization appear limited, for example, focusing on categorical data or concepts like country or nationality (Von Glinow & Shenkar, 1994). They are static since our methods do not appear to be changing despite calls to do so (Buckley, 2002; Child, 2009; Teagarden, et al. 1995). Perhaps, most importantly, the scope of IB is expanding dramatically and our research contextualization appears inadequate, given the shift in business from the United States and Europe toward more 'exotic' emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa with more pronounced differences in business and cultural environments. For our IB research to remain relevant we must more adequately contextualize our theory building.
Contextualization has been viewed through many lenses, and at multiple levels of analysis. While focusing on theory building, Whetten (2009) and Tsui (2004) differentiate context-specific and context-bound theory development, and Child (2009) discusses an 'outside in' versus 'inside out' perspective of contextualization. Von Glinow, Shapiro and Brett (2004) and Shapiro, Von Glinow and Xiao (2007) suggest a more complex perspective when they contrast 'single contextuality' with 'polycontextuality' or the multiple and qualitatively different contexts embedded within one another. Each of these studies acknowledges that context is important in IB theory building and each offer prescriptive recommendations for incorporating context.
Strategists (Ricart et al., 2004, Rugman & Verbeke, 2001) and behaviorists (Rousseau & Fried, 2001; Gelfend, Erez & Aycan, 2007) assert that location, one form of context, has an impact on theory. Khanna (2002) explores institutions and institutional voids in locations. Ghemawat (2001, 2003) examines country differences and offers the CAGE (Culture, Administrative, Geographic and Economic) framework to guide analysis. Ghemawat (2007) argues that despite globalization, there are significant locational differences that must be considered. Cheng (1994) suggests that context-embedded research ought to include '…a nation's social, cultural, legal, and economic variables as predictors and organizational attributes as dependent variables. Enright (2002) urges the use of multilevel analysis including supranational, macro, meso, micro and firm levels in the integration of location into competitive strategy. House and colleagues (2004) in their seminal GLOBE study discuss societies and their impact on leadership. Von Glinow and colleagues (2002 a, 2002 b) identify locational influences on human resource management best practices as do Von Glinow & Teagarden (1988, 1990). Shapiro and colleagues (2007) identify numerous contextual variables, including location, that address the multiple and qualitatively different contextual variables that influence understanding behavior in China.
Given the magnitude of possible contexts, researchers are challenged to comprehend the contextual and polycontextual dynamics in a limited number of foreign cultures. Tsui (2004) argues for inside-out, context specific indigenous research, and this represents one possible solution to the context challenge. Teagarden and Schotter (2013) and Enright (20020 argue for the importance of multilevel analysis to contextualize research and provide a deeper understanding of phenomena. Teagarden and colleagues (1995) suggest that team-based comparative-management studies provide the collective understanding to contextualize and make sense of multiple contexts in a single research project. There have been numerous examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of this latter approach (House, et al., 2004; Von Glinow, Teagarden & Drost, 2002a, 2002b).
The list of topics below is merely suggestive of the range of topics appropriate for the Special Issue, which ideally seeks inputs from scholars across a number of disciplines related to conducting research on organizational, institutional and environmental contexts. Through contributions to this special issue, we aspire to expand the boundaries of rigor and relevance in international business research.
Contributors are invited to submit manuscripts focus on topics and themes such as:
- How important is context to conducting International Business research?
- What are the various methodological approaches used to measure context?
- Is national culture an accurate reflection of context; if not, what other contextual variables better capture the notion of context?
- Do traditional measures of political, institutional, and governance capture important contextual conditions; if not, how are they incomplete and what additional constructs are required to supplement them?
- How does indigenous research help us uncover multiple contexts?
- What is context-embedded research, and why is it important?
- What role do institutions and institutional voids play in establishing context in International Business research?
- How does the use (or abuse) of context affect rigor or relevance in our theory development?
- How does the use of context help us expand theory in International Business?
- What research methods are most appropriate to uncovering the different and multiple contexts that underlie most international settings?
By 01 November, 2015, authors should submit their manuscripts online via the new Journal of World Business EES submission system. The link for submitting manuscript is: http://ees.elsevier.com/jwb.
To ensure that all manuscripts are correctly identified for consideration for this Special Issue, it is important that authors select ‘SI: Contextualizing Research’ when they reach the “Article Type” step in the submission process
Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the Journal of World Business Guide for Authors available at http://www.elsevier.com/journals/journal-of-world-business/1090-9516/guide-for-authors. All submitted manuscripts will be subject to the Journal of World Business’s blind review process.
We may organize a workshop designed to facilitate the development of papers. Authors of manuscripts that have progressed through the revision process will be invited to it. Presentation at the workshop is neither a requirement for nor a promise of final acceptance of the paper in the Special Issue.
Questions about the Special Issue may be directed to the guest editors:
Mary B. Teagarden, Thunderbird School of Management, Arizona State University, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mary Ann Von Glinow, Florida International University, USA (email@example.com)
Buckley, P.J. (2002) 'Is the international business research agenda running out of steam?', Journal of International Business Studies, 33(2): 365-373.
Cheng, J.L.C. (1994) 'On the concept of universal knowledge in organization science: implications for cross-national research', Management Science, 40: 162-168.
Child, J. (2009) 'Context, Comparison, and methodology in Chinese Management Research', Management and Organization Review, 5(1): 57-73.
Enright, M.J. (2002) 'Globalization, regionalization, and the knowledge-based economy in Hong Kong. In J.H. Dunning (ed.) Regions, Globalization and the Knowledge-based Economy, Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 381-406.
Gelfend, M.J., Erez, M.and Aycan, Z. (2007) 'Cross-cultural organizational behavior', Annual Review of Psychology, 58: 479-514.
Ghemawat, P. (2001) 'Distance still matters', Harvard Business Review, 79(8), September: 137-147.
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Ghemawat, P. (2007) 'Why the world isn't flat', Foreign Policy, March-April: 54-60.
House, R. J., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W. and Gupta, V. (2004) Culture, Leadership and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. Sage.
Khanna, T. (2000) Local Institutions and Global Strategy, Harvard Business School: Boston, Harvard Business School Note No. 702-475.
Oesterle, M.J. and Wolf, J.M. (2011) '50 years of MIR and IB/IM research; an inventory and some suggestions for the fields development', Management International Review, 51: 735-757.
Ricart, J.E., Enright, M.J., Ghemawat, P., Hart, S.L., and Khanna, T. (2004) 'New frontiers in international strategy', Journal of International Business Studies, 35: 175-200.
Rousseau, D.M. and Fried, Y. (2001) 'Location, location, location: contextualizing organizational research', Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22: 1-13.
Rugman, A.M. and Verbeke, A. (2001) 'Subsidiary-specific advantages in multinational enterprises', Strategic Management Journal, 23(3): 237-250.
Shapiro, D.L., Von Glinow, M.A. and Xiao Z. (2007) 'Toward polycontextually sensitive research methods', Management and Organization Review, 3(1): 129-152.
Shenkar, O. and Von Glinow, M.A. (1994) 'Paradoxes of organizational theory and research: using the case of China to illustrate national contingency', Management Science, 40: 56-71.
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Von Glinow, M.A. and Teagarden, M.B. (2009) 'The future of Chinese management research: rigor and relevance redux', Management and Organization Review, 5(1): 75-89.
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Von Glinow, M.A, Teagarden, M.B. and Drost E. (2002a). 'Converging on IHRM best practices: lessons learned from a globally-distributed consortium on theory and practice', Human Resource Management, Special Issue, 41(1): 123-140.
Von Glinow, M.A, Teagarden, M.B. and Drost E. (2002b). 'Converging on IHRM best practices: lessons learned from a globally-distributed consortium on theory and practice', Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resource Management, Special Issue, 40 (1): 123-140.
Whetten, D. (2009) 'An examination between context and theory applied to the study of organizations in China', Management and Organization Review, 5(1): 29-55.