CALL FOR PAPERS Special Issue of the Journal of International Business Studies THE MULTIFACETED ROLE OF LANGUAGE IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: UNPACKING THE FORMS, FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES OF A CRITICAL CHALLENGE TO MNC THEORY AND PERFORMANCE Special Issue Editors • Mary Yoko Brannen (INSEAD and The University of Victoria, [log in to unmask]) • Rebecca Piekkari (Aalto University, School of Economics, formerly Helsinki School of Economics, [log in to unmask]) • Susanne Tietze (Sheffield Hallam University, [log in to unmask]) Deadline for submission: November 23, 2012 Tentative publication date: Spring 2014 Introduction Streams and sequences of decisions and resource commitments characterize the day-to-day activities of multinational companies (MNCs). Such decision-making activities encompass major strategic moves like internationalization and new market entries or diversification and acquisitions. In most companies, strategic decisions such as these are extensively discussed and debated. They are generally framed, formulated, and articulated in specialized language often developed by the best minds in the company. Yet the language used in such deliberations and in detailing and enacting the implementation strategy is usually taken for granted and receives little if any explicit attention (Brannen & Doz, 2012). MNCs have come to recognize the importance of language when it comes to national language in deciding upon language policies and employing the services of specialized interpreters in order to avoid Babel-like communication inefficiencies. They have also understood the importance of an official corporate language in regards to eliciting employee and investor commitment around strategic initiatives. Carefully “word-smithed” statements of strategic intent and corporate values in annual reports, internal organizational documents, and plasticized pocket-sized value-statement cards are just of few indicators of this. In addition, more and more companies have begun to put in place implicit language guidelines for use in virtual communication including e-mail, texting, webex, and video conferencing in order to avoid misinterpretations. As such, the interplay between language (corporate) and languages (natural and national) is a critical challenge to international business theory and practice (Welch, Welch, & Piekkari 2005). The common corporate language is built over time around firm-specific usages of words, acronyms, and stories that often reflect the industry context and the language environment in the firm’s country of origin. While the corporate language is clear to insiders of the MNC, it is not to outsiders who lack their shared experience. Language is at once an artifact of how thoughts are formulated as well as how they are communicated and discussed. Therefore, the language used by decision makers in international business both shapes and bounds what the firm focuses on and how it articulates its strategic options (Brannen & Doz, 2012). In this regard, language can facilitate and significantly limit strategic growth and performance of the MNC. There have been attempts to render IB studies more sensitive to the existence and influence of languages and language use in the corporate context. Models about the internationalization process of the firm, both traditional (Johanson & Vahlne, 1977; Luostarinen, 1979) and recent ones (Knight & Cavusgil, 2004), are cases in point. Johanson and Wiedersheim-Paul (1975) viewed language as one of the key factors that prevented information about the target market from reaching organizational decision makers. More recently, there have been efforts to raise the field’s awareness about the existence and influence of languages in internationally operating companies. These efforts have been pulled together in conference streams (Critical Management Studies, 2007) and also in special issues of journals (International Studies of Management & Organization, 2005; Journal of World Business, 2011). Despite these contributions, the field of IB research remains unsophisticated in appreciating the multiple forms, facets, and features of language and its impact on MNCs and on the way in which we study IB phenomena. This special issue is meant as a continuation and extension of this emergent body of research on language in IB. We concur with Cheng et al. (2009: 1072) that “moving [IB] forward is not about reformulating novel dependent or independent variables; it is about addressing a phenomenon that can only be unpacked by combining theories, concepts, data and methods from multiple disciplines.” As such, we seek interdisciplinary insights gained from a plethora of fields such as anthropology, communications, linguistics, political science, and psychology in order to generate genuinely innovative frames of reference for understanding the role of language in international business. Language and Knowledge During the past decade IB scholars have devoted considerable attention to studying knowledge and knowledge transfer across national, cultural and geographical boundaries of the MNC. Yet language considerations have remained peripheral in this endeavor. We see language and knowledge as inseparably linked in that knowledge is always coded into language. Firms face pressures to continually reformulate their strategies based on new knowledge accumulated through organizational learning (Levitt & March, 1988; Schultz, 2002). This is especially true for firms operating in global contexts as strategy implementation is mediated by the effects of divergent cultural and institutional environments (Westney, 1993). Having a multi-country presence can provide tremendous opportunities for comparative learning for firms capable of simultaneously managing the additional demands from foreign markets, conflicting pressures on organizing in diverse cultural and institutional contexts, and cross-border integration. In fact, this learning opportunity has been termed the promise of the metanational firm (Doz, Santos, & Williamson 2001); that is, to sense, stockpile, and redeploy knowledge within its global footprint. In this special issue we acknowledge the diversity of disciplinary perspectives on language and knowledge and adopt an inclusive position toward the range of approaches available to IB researchers. For example, in linguistic anthropology language is considered as “a cultural resource” that (re)produces the social world (Duranti, 1997). Building on this view, Tietze, Cohen and Musson (2003) define language as a system of meanings that is central in constructing organizational, social, and global realities. In this vein, language has a performative aspect because using language then becomes equivalent to “acting in the world.” Language is the first and foremost means and source through which the connecting of different socio-cultural, institutional and individual worlds occurs (Tietze, 2008). Yet achieving such connections in international contexts is far from easy. Even in situations in which English is used as the common language, speakers attach invisible meanings to knowledge that stem from their own interpretive frames and complicate the transfer (Henderson Kassis, 2005). We also denote the importance of verbal and non-verbal language in IB research. For example, in semiotic terms transferring the linguistic signals alone across borders does not ensure that the meaning is transferred as intended. On the contrary, more often than not shifts in meaning occur as the linguistic codes are given sense in a new cultural context, from the perspective of local interpretive frames and communicative norms (Brannen, 2004). Why Make Language Central to International Business Enquiry? Despite the dominance of English as a lingua franca, IB encounters have not become monolingual. On the contrary, given the growing importance of BRIC countries, languages such as Chinese, Russian, and Spanish are gaining prominence. In this regard, the field of IB has not advanced further in documenting and thus realizing the mechanisms by which MNCs can learn from their operations embedded in different language environments. One reason for this is that the methodologies used have been ineffective. In the JIBS special issue on qualitative research in IB (Birkinshaw, Brannen, & Tung, 2011), Westney and Van Maanen (2011) posit that this shortcoming is due to the fact that management knowledge in international business has been largely developed using classical economic models and that even when field-based studies have been deployed, these have been focused on executive-level practices. This has resulted in a ‘bird’s-eye-view” from afar and atop rather than an “up-close” and contextually grounded understanding of the micro-processes that either block or facilitate the dynamic organizational learning that is essential for an MNC to improve its performance. The latter requires research methodologies designed to surface deep, contextually rich insights from individuals at all levels, functions, and geographies in the MNC’s multilingual community (Marschan-Piekkari, Welch, & Welch, 1999). Another reason for not realizing the mechanisms for organizational learning is that such learning is generally facilitated by multicultural teams. And, language, as both an essential artifact of culture and the vehicle by which strategic thoughts are formulated, communicated and discussed plays an essential role in the functioning of such teams. Building an integrated global strategy across markets which are geographically remote and have differing native languages and cultures is undoubtedly harder than what has been commonly acknowledged in IB research. Whether we are talking about language as the vehicle for expressing corporate strategic values and purpose (Brannen & Doz, 2012) or languages as the means of expression of multiple unique cultures and groups within and around organisations (Harzing & Feeley, 2008; Welch et al., 2005), the IB literature to date fails to take adequate account of its influence and impact on realizing international business goals. The Scope of This Special Issue This special issue invites submissions that develop, discuss, or apply interdisciplinary language-based approaches to IB phenomena in order to advance IB theory and research. The special issue is hoped to lead to an important reexamination of current IB models and frameworks and unravel the micro-processes through which MNCs, institutions, and networks are created, maintained, or disrupted. For example, themes may include understanding the effects of language on knowledge-sharing in MNCs or how knowledge residing in foreign subsidiaries is managed in linguistically constrained environments. Challenges in regards to transferring explicit knowledge such as issues related to effectively translating standard operating procedures, processes, and polices as well as in transferring tacit knowledge that is deeply socialized and context specific are of interest. Language considerations may also be one of the decisive factors in selecting an appropriate foreign operation mode to serve a target market or in making decisions about where to locate a shared service center or a foreign production unit. For marketing and service companies, resources in the customer language – both in-house and external – may be instrumental in reaching out for foreign markets and providing high-quality services. In terms of staffing and international human resource management, language requirements may influence job performance and affect staff selection, opportunities for promotion, as well as training and development. Bilingualism and the role of biculturals in global teams, cross-cultural communication, and innovation offer an increasingly relevant area of research. We also invite submissions that treat language as a methodological question and a window into cultural meanings. While IB researchers often construct survey instruments in multiple languages and pay considerable attention to equivalence of meaning and backtranslation (Usunier, 2011), the effect of the chosen language on survey responses is seldom examined. Language can act as a type of psychological priming that then affects survey responses. Further, data are generally collected and analyzed in one or multiple languages but reported predominantly in English. Such translations and crossing of language boundaries often go un-mentioned and un-problematized in methodology sections of published IB articles and therefore do not enter methodological debates. Submissions that contribute to the field by offering novel linguistic approaches are also encouraged. These approaches could be derived from semiotics, evolutionary linguistics, socio-linguistics, neuro-linguistics, as well as from other non-linguistically based fields such as political sciences, psychology, or artificial intelligence in order to shed light on constructs such as translation, intercultural communication, negotiation, as well as micro aspects of managing MNCs. Here, scholars are invited to redraw the intellectual reach of IB from a language perspective. Potential Themes of Interest to This Special Issue The purpose of this special issue is, therefore, to identify new research questions and avenues that originate from a focus on language. We welcome papers that approach well-established IB phenomena through a language lens or make a contribution through interdisciplinary pollination (Cantwell & Brannen, 2011). Our call for papers invites language-sensitive research that is pluralistic in terms of underlying philosophical assumptions and research methods employed (Welch et al., 2011). We intend to include theoretical and conceptual contributions as well as empirical work that draw on qualitative or quantitative methods or an innovative mix of both. To achieve these goals, we also welcome conceptual pieces that attempt to frame language issues in IB and encourage submissions that are related to the following themes: Control, coordination, and communication in international organizations • In what ways does language use (corporate as well as national language use) affect communication and coordination within and outside international organizations? • Is it meaningful for MNCs to have official language policies? If so, how should they be designed and implemented? • How do national languages blend with corporate language? • How do language policies and practices differ between large MNCs, SMEs, and NGOs, and what are the effects on productivity? • How does language use evolve in MNCs and what is the effect on organizational growth and performance? • What are the costs associated with managing language diversity in an MNC? • Is there a need to re-examine the basic code-model of cross-cultural communication given today’s changing workforce demographic of biculturals and multiculturals? • What is the role and impact of non-verbal aspects of language on managing global organizations? Internationalization and foreign operation modes • How does language explain different internationalization processes and patterns? Is there something called “language-driven internationalization”? • How does language influence the choice and implementation of foreign operation modes (e.g., FDI such as mergers, acquisitions, greenfield investment, international joint ventures, outsourcing or the Internet)? • Does language foster cooperation and/or conflict between companies and their foreign export intermediaries? • What is the role of language in negotiating and contracting with international partners? Managing people in international organizations • How does language diversity influence workplace interactions and relationships between, e.g., local employees and expatriates? • Does language competence in general and bilingualism in particular pre-dispose managers to communicate better across cultural boundaries? • What kind of psychological and emotional effects does the imposition of a non-native language have on staff? • What is the impact of a common corporate language on human resource policies and practices? • How are language considerations taken into account when recruiting and effectively managing immigrant workers (e.g., English language manuals)? Innovation management, knowledge transfer, and organizational learning • How do language barriers enter global innovation and diversification processes? • What kind of new product or service innovations may emerge from multilingual global teams? • How are tacit as well as explicit language issues overcome in knowledge sharing and organizational learning across contexts? • How is knowledge transfer in the absence of a common language? International marketing issues • How is translation handled in international marketing activities? • How does the consideration of the “customer language” affect international marketing? • How is language diversity accounted for in services that are offered across language boundaries? • Are global branding and advertising language-free or language-dependent? • What is the role of language in the traditional dilemma of global standardization and local adaptation? Methodological issues • How does language diversity in collaborative research teams affect team dynamics and the production of knowledge? • How can key questions in research design and methods in IB be better understood from a language perspective? • What improvements can be made to current measurements of language differences in comparative IB research? The above is an indicative list, and we invite authors to explore themes and research questions beyond it. Detailed information about JIBS’ mission, emphasis, and preferences is available at www.jibs.net. Submission Process All manuscripts will be reviewed as a cohort for this special issue. Manuscripts must be submitted in the window between November 5, 2012, and November 23, 2012, at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jibs. All submissions will go through the JIBS regular double-blind review process and follow the standard norms and processes. For more information about this call for papers, please contact the Special Issue Editors or the JIBS Managing Editor ([log in to unmask]). References Birkinshaw, J., Brannen, M. Y., & Tung, R. 2011. From a distance and generalizable to up close and grounded: Reclaiming a place for qualitative methods in international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(5): 573–581. Brannen, M. Y. 2004. When Mickey loses face: Recontextualization, semantic fit and semiotics of foreigness. Academy of Management Review, 29(4): 593–616. Brannen, M. Y., & Doz, Y. L. 2010. From a distance and detached to up close and personal: Bridging strategic and cross-cultural perspectives in international management research and practice. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26: 236–247. Brannen, M. Y., & Doz, Y. L. 2012. The languages of strategic agility: Trapped in your jargon or lost in translation. California Management Review, forthcoming. Cantwell, J., & Brannen, M. Y. 2011. Positioning JIBS as an interdisciplinary journal. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(1): 1–9. Cheng, J. L., Henisz, W. J., Roth, K., & Swaminathan, A. 2009. Advancing interdisciplinary research in the field of international business: Prospects, issues and challenges. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(7): 1070–1074. Doz, Y. L., Santos, J., & Williamson, P. 2001. From global to metanational: How companies win in the knowledge economy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Duranti, A. 1997. Linguistic anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harzing, A. W., & Feely, A. J. 2008. The language barrier and its implications for HQ-subsidiary relationships. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 15(1): 49–60. Henderson Kassis, J. 2005. Language diversity in international management teams. International Studies of Organization & Management, 35(2): 66–82. Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.-E. 1977. The internationalization process of the firm: A model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. Journal of International Business Studies, 8(1): 23–32. Johanson, J., & Wiedersheim-Paul, F. 1975. The internationalization of the firm: Four Swedish cases. Journal of Management Studies, 12(3): 305–322. Knight , G. A., & Cavusgil, S. T. 2004. Innovation, organizational capabilities and the born-global firm. Journal of International Business Studies, 35(2): 124–141. Levitt, B., & March, J. G. 1988. Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology, 14: 319–340. Luostarinen, R. 1979. Internationalization of the firm: An empirical study of the internationalization of firms with small and open domestic markets with special emphasis on lateral rigidity as a behavioral characteristic in strategic decision-making. Helsinki: Helsinki School of Economics Press. Marschan-Piekkari, R., Welch, D. E., & Welch, L. S. 1999. In the shadow: The impact of language on structure, power and communication in the multinational. International Business Review, 8(4): 421–440. Schultz, M. 2002. Organizational learning. In J. Baum Ed.), The Blackwell companion to organizations, 415–442. New York: Wiley-Blackwell. Tietze, S., Cohen, L., & Musson, G. 2003. Understanding organisations through language. London: Sage. Tietze, S. 2008. International management and language. London: Routledge Usunier, J.-C. 2011. Language as a resource to assess cross-cultural equivalence in quantitative management research. Journal of World Business, 46(3): 314–319. Welch, C., Piekkari, R., Plakoyannaki, E., & Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E. 2011. Theorising from case studies: Towards a pluralistic future for international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 42: 740–762. Welch, D. E., Welch, L. S., & Piekkari, R. 2005. Speaking in tongues: The importance of language in international management processes. International Studies of Management & Organization, 35(1): 10–27. Westney, D. E. 1993. Institutional theory and the multinational organization. In S. Ghoshal & D. E. Westney, Organizational theory and the multinational. London: Macmillan. Westney, D. E., & Van Maanen, J. 2011. The casual ethnography of the executive suite. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(5): 602–607. Guest Editorial Team Mary Yoko Brannen is Visiting Professor of Strategy and Management at INSEAD, Fontainebleau and the newly appointed Jarislowsky East Asia (Japan) Chair of Cross-Cultural Management at the University of Victoria beginning Fall 2012. She is also Deputy Editor of JIBS and as such will serve as the internal guest editor of this Special Issue. She has PhD and MBA degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a BA (with Distinction) from the University of California at Berkeley in Comparative Literature. In addition to publishing in noted management journals including the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management Inquiry, the California Management Review and Human Relations, she has also published pieces on language and culture in Semiotica, and several anthropology journals. Her 2004 AMR article which develops a model of recontextualization using semiotics to understand semantic fit as an important complement to strategic fit in internationalization is widely recognized as an important methodological and theoretical contribution across the disciplines of management, marketing, communications, culture theory as well as political science. Rebecca Piekkari is Professor of International Business at Aalto University, School of Economics (formerly known as Helsinki School of Economics) and serves on the JIBS Editorial Review Board. Her first article on language issues in MNCs dates back to 1997 (co-authored with Denice Welch and Lawrence Welch). It was followed by a stream of work which focused on the implications of a corporate language in MNCs for e.g., the control of foreign subsidiaries, power plays and politics between units, human resource management, internationalization patterns, as well as integration of cross-border mergers and acquisitions. Moreover, she has actively contributed to the discussion about language as a methodological question in IB research. Her work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Management Studies, International Business Review, Management International Review, and International Journal of Human Resource Management as well as in handbooks of qualitative research in IB and research on international human resource management (by Edward Elgar). Susanne Tietze is Professor of Organisation Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Business School, UK. She is a linguist by training and is widely regarded as a renowned authority on language and organizations. She has been awarded MBA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University and MA in English and German (first class), from Karl-Ruprechts-Universität, Heidelberg (Germany). Her highly regarded innovative book, International Management and Languages (Routledge), establishes the relationship between two orientations – social construction and linguistic relativity – and demonstrates how they can be drawn on to frame and understand the activities of managers. Her research focuses on language and discourse as used in work contexts and she has conducted studies on emergent forms of work organizations. She has published in leading scholarly journals such as Organization Studies, Journal of Management Studies and Journal of Business Ethics. ____ AIB-L is brought to you by the Academy of International Business. 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