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