The liability of localness in innovation

Published on Jan 1, 2016in Journal of International Business Studies7.724
· DOI :10.1057/jibs.2015.24
C. Annique Un14
Estimated H-index: 14
(NU: Northeastern University)
I analyze differences in the innovativeness of domestic firms and subsidiaries of foreign firms operating in the same country. I argue that domestic firms suffer a liability of localness in innovation, or a competitive disadvantage in product innovation relative to subsidiaries of foreign firms. I propose that this liability of localness is driven by the relatively lower levels of multiculturalism in employees of domestic firms in comparison with subsidiaries, which limit the identification, transfer, and integration of a large diversity of knowledge that supports product innovation. I also propose that managers of domestic firms can compensate for this liability of localness in two ways: by investing in the training of their employees and by exporting. Training modifies the mindsets and abilities of employees and enables them to become more cognitively multicultural, which facilitates product innovation. Exporting changes employees’ mindsets as they become exposed to new ideas available abroad, which also facilitates product innovation. I test these arguments on a sample of manufacturing firms and find that, although domestic firms introduce fewer new products than subsidiaries of foreign firms, they introduce more new products than subsidiaries at the same level of investment in language training and of exports.
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