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The overlooked distinction of multinational enterprise subsidiary learning: its managerial and entrepreneurial learning modes

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Pergamon
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Abstract

The theme concerning modes of learning in multinational subsidiaries is the focus of enquiry in the current study. This theme is closely linked to the issue of how subsidiaries become alert and seize opportunities. Such an investigation is also important for management practice because effective subsidiary learning can render sustainable competitive advantage in the host country. We performed an in-depth case examination on six multinational subsidiaries of a large Finnish firm. We identify two learning modes of multinational subsidiaries that we refer to as managerial and entrepreneurial learning. We find that managerial learning shares characteristics with the systems-structural learning perspective; is facilitated by embeddedness of the subsidiary in the MNE system; and, transferred in the MNE through many conventional and reverse knowledge flows. On the contrary, entrepreneurial learning shares characteristics with the interpretive learning perspective; is facilitated by embeddedness of the subsidiary in the host country; and, transferred in the MNE through relatively fewer reverse knowledge flows. The distinction between these two learning modes and their discrete characteristics enlighten past research that has largely failed to pinpoint the importance of the two modes for MNE subsidiary activities.

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