Special Issue of the Journal of International Business Studies





Special Issue Editors:


*         Luis Alfonso Dau (Northeastern University, USA,
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*         Aya Chacar (Florida International University, USA,
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*         Marjorie Lyles (Indiana University, USA,
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*         Jiatao Li (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong
Kong,  <mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]) 


Deadline for submission: August 31, 2018


Tentative publication date:   Spring 2020




This call invites papers focusing on the relationship between informal
institutions and international business. In this special issue, we
understand institutions to be ※humanly devised constraints§ or ※the rules
of the game in a society§ (North, 1990: 3). Much attention has been paid to
formal institutions, or the written (or codified) rules or constraints, such
as laws, regulations, constitutions, contracts, property rights, and formal
agreements. On the other hand, much less attention has been given to
informal institutions or the typically unwritten but socially shared rules
and constraints (Pejovich, 1999; Sartor & Beamish, 2014; Sauerwald & Peng,
2013). These informal institutions include common values, cognitions,
beliefs, traditions, customs, sanctions, and norms of behavior that are
often expected or taken for granted (North, 1990, 2005). In common parlance,
the term &institutions* is often used to refer to &organizations* (e.g.,
governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations,
etc.), but it is important to distinguish between institutions and
organizations for academic purposes in order to examine the relationship
between them (Chacar, Celo, & Hesterly, 2017; North, 1990, 2005; Scott,
2013). For instance, the WTO is an organization that provides a formal
institutional framework of written rules to which its member countries agree
to adhere. Simultaneously, membership in the WTO creates informal (or
unwritten) institutional structures between member nations, such as
reciprocity and interdependency expectations. Papers examining the
interaction of formal and informal institutions on international business
are also welcome.


In the advent of globalization, the international business literature has
increasingly emphasized the importance of considering the institutional
environment, instead of studying firm behavior in a vacuum (Dau, 2012, 2013,
2017; Eden, 2010; Kostova, 1997, Kostova et al., 2008; Li, 2013; Li & Qian,
2013). Still, a gap exists in our understanding of informal institutions, as
formal institutions only provide part of the picture (North, 1990). This gap
is particularly problematic in developing and emerging markets, where
informal institutions may have a more prominent role, enabling and
facilitating business transactions (Khanna & Palepu, 1997, 2000; Verbeke &
Kano, 2013).


Note that this special issue invites papers on informal institutions and not
culture, although submissions may examine their relationship and tease out
the differences between the two constructs as they relate to international
business. Some prior work has treated culture and informal institutions as
synonymous. However, these two terms are distinct albeit they can overlap at
times. Definitions of culture vary in the literature, but it is typically
defined as ※the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes
the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense
is a system of collectively held values§ (Hofstede, 1984: 51). It ※is the
deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs§ (Schein, 1985: 6-7; see
also, Hofstede, 1980, 1994; House et al., 2004; Schein, 2004; Tung &
Verbeke, 2010). Informal institutions, on the other hand, are the actual
unwritten rules and norms of behavior (North, 1990, 2005), which likely
arise as a result of and in conjunction with the cultural framework, but
also of formal structures in place in a given location. For instance,
whereas culture is often captured with broad dimensions such as the degree
of uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1980), embeddedness (Schwartz, 1992), or
assertiveness (House, et al., 2004), informal institutions specifically
refer to the shared unwritten rules or norms in a society, organization, or
other social grouping.


Interdisciplinary Work and Work from Different Perspectives

Interdisciplinary work and research from different institutional
perspectives is particularly welcome. Campbell (2004) has identified three
main ※institutional theories§: rational choice institutionalism (or
institutional economics/comparative institutional analyses) (North, 1990;
Williamson, 1975, 1985, 2000), organizational institutionalism (or
neo-institutional theory) (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991; Scott, 1987, 2013), and
historical institutionalism (or institutional sociology) (Granovetter, 1985,
1992, 2017). These theoretical strands are associated primarily with
economics, political science, and sociology, respectively, but have been
used across disciplines using other names as well (Campbell, 2004).


Submissions should make a clear and novel theoretical contribution, but may
build on any theoretical lens (e.g., internalization theory, resource based
view, transaction cost economics, evolutionary theory, learning theory,
agency theory, etc.) in addition to the institutional theories (Cantwell et
al., 2010; Dunning & Lundan, 2008, 2010). What is critical is to use the
institutional framework to help develop new theoretical insights.


Furthermore, we encourage work that provides novel ways of measuring
informal institutions.


Sample Topics

Given the limited attention on the effects of informal institutions on
firms, as well as on the joint effects of formal and informal institutions
on firms, this call for papers is purposefully broad. The following is not
an exhaustive list, but provides some examples of potential topics:


1.      How do informal institutions, and their interactions with formal
institutions, affect firms?

*      What is their impact on firm strategy across borders (e.g.,
internationalization decisions, location choices, mode of entry decisions,
entrepreneurship, global corporate social responsibility, global innovation,
etc.) (Dau & Cuervo-Cazurra, 2014; Pejovich, 1999)?

*      Are some of these institutions or combinations of institutions in
different markets more conducive to firm success (Chacar, Newburry, & Vissa,

*      How do firms organize internally to improve their institutional fit
across countries? What structures and organizational models do they choose
under different institutional conditions? 

*      How do organizations learn the informal rules and develop
international capabilities to manage them (Easterby-Smith & Lyles, 2011;
Lyles, 2014)? How do resources and capabilities vary in these differing
institutional contexts? 

*      How does informal knowledge sharing or know-how sharing take place?
How do inter- and intra-organizational learning systems and knowledge
transfer relate to informal vis-角-vis formal institutional information and

*      Do informal rules and governance choices allow unethical choices that
are covered up? What happens if they are exposed?

*      What is the relationship between governance choices and the use of
informal institutional structures, such as relational contracting based on
favors, trust, reciprocity, interdependency, family ties, social capital
networks, mutually beneficial relationships, interpersonal connections, and
business group networks (Vissa, Greve, & Chen, 2010)? What is the specific
role of informal structures such as Guanxi/Guanxiwang in China, Blats/Svyazy
in Russia, Wasta in the Arab World, Immak in Korea, Kankei in Japan,
Jeito/Jeitinho in Brazil, and &grease* payments (Batjargal, 2007; Chen et
al., 2004; Chua et al., 2009; Ledeneva, 1998; Millington et al., 2005; Opper
et al., 2017; Park & Luo, 2001; Smith et al., 2012; Zhou et al., 2007)?

*      How do informal institutions alter the value distributions among
stakeholders (Chacar & Hesterly, 2008; Coff, 1999; Lieberman & Chacar,

*      How does the nature of competition and industry structure change with
the informal institutional structure? Are foreign and local firms affected
differently (Chacar & Vissa, 2005)?


2.      How do these institutions change and how do actors and organizations
affect them (Vaccaro & Palazzo, 2015)?

*      How do firms engage in non-market strategies to affect informal and
formal institutions and institutional structures/frameworks? 

*      How do firms influence formal and informal institutions in different

*      What is the impact of informal institutions on international
organizations (e.g., international non-governmental organizations [INGOs],
inter-governmental organizations [IGOs], international non-profit
organizations [INPOs], etc.) and how do these organizations affect informal


Research Across Levels of Analysis

Although institutions are typically conceptualized at the national level of
analysis, they may also be conceptualized at other levels, such as the
supranational, regional, corporate, subsidiary, functional area, or
workgroup/team levels of analysis. Papers focusing on informal institutions
at different levels are also welcome. In particular, papers that study
informal institutions across levels of analysis are particularly welcome.
Some examples follow:


*         How are informal supranational institutions (i.e., hyper norms
that cross borders) and formal supranational institutions (i.e.,
international laws, rules, regulations, and agreements) shaped by
globalization and how does this affect international business?

*         How are supranational informal and formal institutions impacted by
the diversity in informal and formal national environments and how does this
complicate international business? Similarly, how can firms cope with or
even benefit from such differences?

*         When do the informal and formal institutional frameworks of a firm
clash and when are they compatible with the informal and formal
institutional environments of their home and host countries of operation?

*         How can firms align informal and formal institutions across their
international subsidiaries or across their areas of operation to enhance
their international efficiency, growth, and performance?

*         How do business group informal institutional structures and
networks operate and what are the implications for international business?

*         How do firms manage informal institutional differences across
their international units (headquarters/subsidiaries), functional areas, or
work groups?

*         Do MNEs provide a means of reducing informal and formal
institutional differences across nations?


Conference and Symposium

With the aim of helping the authors further develop their papers, we will
organize a paper development workshop conference during the spring of 2019.
We will invite the authors of papers that receive the option to revise and
resubmit their manuscripts. Together with the review process, the
opportunity to present and receive comments from discussants and conference
participants, will aid authors in strengthening and refining their papers.


Furthermore, we plan to have a symposium at a major academic conference in
2020 for the final selected papers that will appear in the special issue, in
order to increase their visibility and impact.


Submission Process and Deadlines

Submissions need to meet JIBS guidelines, including in terms of what is
considered international business. Typically, single country studies are
only considered international if they focus on international firms or firm
internationalization. Furthermore, submission should have implications for
international business, although they may also have secondary implications
for other fields. 


All manuscripts will be reviewed as a cohort for this Special Issue.
Manuscripts must be submitted between August 17-31, at
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 (
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]).



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About the Guest Editors


Luis Alfonso Dau is an associate professor of International Business and
Strategy at the D*Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern
University. His research focuses on the strategic responses of emerging
market firms to institutional processes and changes. He is particularly
interested in the impact of regulatory reforms on the international strategy
and performance of such firms.


Aya Chacar is an Professor in Management and International Business and
Ingersoll-Rand Chaired Professor at Florida International University. She
holds a PhD in Strategy and Organization from University of California, Los
Angeles. Her research interests are on the interaction of institutions and
globalization on firm organization and leadership, strategy and performance,
strategic human assets and value appropriation.


Marjorie Lyles is Professor of International Strategic Management at Indiana
University Kelley School of Business and the Kimball Faculty Fellow. She was
founding Director of the Indiana University Center on Southeast Asia. She is
a member of the American Management Association's International Council and
has been an Invited Scholar and consultant for the U.S. Department of
Commerce in the Peoples' Republic of China. Marjorie's writings center on
organizational learning, international strategies and cooperative alliances,
and technology development particularly in emerging economies. She is a
Fellow of the Academy of International Business and a JIBS Area Editor.


Jiatao (JT) Li is Lee Quo Wei Professor of Business, Head and Chair
Professor of Management, and the Senior Associate Dean of the HKUST Business
School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His current research
interests are in the areas of organizational learning, strategic alliances,
corporate governance, innovation, and entrepreneurship, with a focus on
issues related to global firms and those from emerging economies.  His work
has appeared in top academic journals such as Academy of Management Journal,
Academy of Management Review, Journal of International Business Studies,
Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. He is a Fellow of
the Academy of International Business and a JIBS Area Editor.


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