The terminology we use in IE
A new publication from Catherine Welch, Maria Rumyatseva and Lisa Hewerdine offers a useful assessment of how we, as IE scholars, have used and mis-used the concepts of INV and BG in our research.
I encourage you to read their paper because it is a good reminder of how easy it is misrepresent what you think you are looking at. I too have learned this and it’s one of the reasons I work hard to clarify the language we use. To this end, I want to address one particular comment made by Catherine, Maria and Lisa. What follows is an excerpt from their paper followed by one from work written by another team: me, Tricia McDougall-Covin and Ben Oviatt.
Welch, C, Rumyatseva, M and LJ Hewerdine (2016), Using case research to reconstruct concepts: A methodology and illustration, Organizational Research Methods, 19, 1, 111-130.
- “Our review therefore found considerable evidence of conceptual stretching in the form of attributes being dropped or defined inconsistently, and indicators being relaxed, usually without any theoretical justification as to why these decisions were made. This amounts to reification: the theoretical nature of the concept is no longer even acknowledged. While in our analysis we checked for any debates concerning the dropping of specific born global attributes, the only one that we found was in relation to technology orientation. Although Knight and Cavusgil (1996) specify that ‘‘born globals’’ have a technology orientation, this has been disputed by others, notably McAuley (1999), who investigated ‘‘born globals’’ in the arts and crafts sector. Theoretically driven ways of changing the concept—such as creating subtypes or comparing rival concepts—were rare. We found one example of subtype construction in our database. Kuivalainen, Sundqvist, and Servais (2007) have proposed the subtype ‘‘true born global.’’ However, this subtype can be seen as an attempt to rescue the original boundaries of the concept from the stretched versions that have become ubiquitous. More recently, but beyond the scope of our original database, Coviello (2015) has suggested that the born global is a subtype of the international new venture, which is a broader and more general term. While it is too early to judge, it is unlikely that moving the international new venture up the analytical ladder of abstraction will reduce conceptual stretching—in fact, it may well have the unintended consequence of encouraging it [italicized by Nicole]”
The concern I have lies with the italicized point. Here’s an excerpt from Coviello, McDougall and Oviatt (2011) that helps explain why:
Coviello, NE, McDougall, PP and BM Oviatt (2011), The emergence, advance and future of international entrepreneurship research – an introduction to the special forum, Journal of Business Venturing, 26, 6, 625-631.
- “Jones et al. (2011) suggest that the labels attached to venture types in IE are often applied loosely. For example, when they discuss research on entrepreneurial internationalization, they are concerned that the term ‘international new venture’ (INV) is regularly used interchangeably with ‘Born Global’ (BG). We would like to comment further on the interchangeable use of terms to describe organizations in IE, but first we provide some historical perspective on the issue. We believe Rennie (1993) introduced the term ‘Born Global’ in print and this is the term that appears to be most commonly used in today’s literature. Over the years, various efforts to operationalize this concept have emerged (see Rialp et al. (2005) for a review of research on early internationalizing ?rms). Also popular is the term INV, and this was introduced by Oviatt and McDougall in their 1994 JIBS article. In that article, Oviatt and McDougall included the term ‘global start-up’ as one of four types of INV (with a global start-up described as a new venture that was active in many countries and coordinated many value chain activities across countries). Since the mid-1990s, they have consistently used the term INV, but have recognized in their publications that the terms INV and BG are used interchangeably within the broader literature.Importantly, their specific choice of the term INV is reflective of the conversation by IB scholars who often distinguish the term ‘international’ from ‘global, with ‘international’ referring to crossing a single or a few country borders while ‘global’ is reserved for involvement in many countries or continents. With this in mind, Oviatt and McDougall chose to use the term INV in recognition of that fact that many of the ventures they were examining competed primarily in their regional markets or in a relatively limited number of countries, rather than necessarily having a truly global focus. This is re?ected for example, in their conceptual distinction between the geographically-focused start-up and the global start-up, an argument supported empirically by (e.g.) the ‘early internationals’ that are distinguished from BGs by Aspelund and Moen (2005) or the ‘born regionals’ identi?ed by Lopez et al. (2009).
So what’s my point? The original argument that the BG (aka the Global Start-up) is one form of an INV is from the seminal work of Oviatt and McDougall (1994). Since then, research has refined our understanding of firm types although much work is yet to be done. I believe it remains pertinent to understand if how and why differences exist for sub-types of firms. My hope is that this type of research will reduce conceptual stretch – not expand it. This is because scholars will more carefully consider and distinguish the types of firms under examination.
If you are interested in this issue, please read Welch et al (2016 ORM), as well as the full versions of Coviello et al (2011 JBV) and Coviello (2015 JIBS). And of course, comments are welcome!!