The Quest for Innovation and Sustainability
Innovation, Co-operation and Development series
Edited by Wilfred Dolfsma, Geert Duysters and Ionara Costa
Chapter 1: Multinationals are Multicultural Units: Some Indications from a Cross-cultural Study
1. Multinationals are multicultural units: some indications from a crosscultural study Nantawan Noi Kwanjai and J. Friso den Hertog INTRODUCTION Academic and policy discourse on multinational corporations has been prolific in both economic and management communities with substantial interdisciplinary influences, notably of the former on the latter. A side effect of the dominance of economic thinking in the discourse on multinationals is a sore lack of attention on one fundamental element of multinational corporations, namely culture. Culture, although not entirely ignored in economics, has never been given a rigorous attention (DiMaggio, 1990; Fernández, 2008; Guiso et al., 2006). Treatment of culture in economics, in brief, is still in elementary state. For this, management thinking may return the favour and inject an inspiring influence. This chapter makes a case for the value of looking at culture and multinationals from a management and organizational perspective because it is one that could direct greater attention towards culture as a significant factor in future investigation on multinational corporations. This is because multinationals are fundamentally multicultural units in more ways than one, as we attempt to illustrate in this chapter. Culture permeates many aspects of a multinational and to ignore, put aside, or downplay its role may render our understanding of multinational corporations inexcusably simplistic and critically incomplete. This chapter is based on selected materials from a qualitative study of culture and learning in organizations and management that was informed primarily by the interpretative paradigm of inquiry (Kwanjai, forthcoming). The study investigated four selected...
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