The Digital Business Ecosystem

The Digital Business Ecosystem

Edited by Angelo Corallo, Giuseppina Passiante and Andrea Prencipe

By bringing together elements of a radical new approach to the firm based on a biological metaphor of the ecosystem, this unique book extends the limits of existing theories traditionally used to investigate business networks.

Chapter 4: From a National to a Metanational Ecosystem: Harnessing the Value of Global Knowledge Diversity

Peter J. Williamson

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, organisation studies, strategic management, innovation and technology, organisational innovation


Peter J. Williamson INTRODUCTION Despite globalization of their supply chains, few companies have developed an ecosystem that harnesses the potential value of global knowledge diversity (Bartlett and Ghoshal 1989). Indeed, most companies still see the diverse knowledge that arises from the specific contexts of locations around the world as an impediment to their globalization strategies, rather than as a fount of new competitive advantage (Vernon 1966, 1979, Cantwell 1998). The fact that most companies view knowledge diversity as a problem for globalization, rather than as an opportunity, stems from the very fundamentals of their internationalization mindset: the idea that building international strength comes from exploiting competitive advantages pioneered at their home base by transferring it into more and more locations around the world (Dunning 1996). From this standpoint, knowledge diversity is a problem, because it necessitates that the firm engages in a costly and uncertain process of adapting the business model and sources of competitive advantages it has perfected at home to fit diverse and different contexts in each new location (Hu 1992, Caves 1996). This chapter explores companies that have taken an alternative approach to global knowledge diversity – by building an ecosystem that harnesses differentiated knowledge that is scattered around the world to fuel innovation that cannot be matched by competitors whose innovation process focuses on more restricted, local sources of knowledge around their home base (Johanssen and Vahlne 1977). My colleagues and I termed these companies ‘metanationals’ (denoting the idea of looking beyond national markets)...

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