Tempus fugit: a hermeneutic approach to the internationalisation process.

VerfasserHurmerinta, Leila

Abstract This article focuses on a somewhat neglected topic in international business (IB), namely how we conceptualise time. Time is critical to many IB research areas, especially the internationalisation process. Yet the way we conceive time is all too often taken for granted, even though it has wide ramifications for the theories we develop. In this paper, we turn to the literature on the philosophy of time in order to enrich our understanding of the concept, contrasting what we term the 'Newtonian' and the 'hermeneutic' perspectives on time. We analyse the treatment of time in the two most popular internationalisation models: the I and U Models. We also offer a hermeneutic basis for understanding internationalisation processes. Our contribution lies not only in making the case as to how philosophical debates are relevant to our conceptualisation of time, but also in proposing a hermeneutical approach to theorising about internationalisation processes.

Keywords Time * Internationalisation process of firms * Philosophy of time * Hermeneutics

1 Introduction

One of the most vibrant and productive research areas in the field of international business (IB) is undoubtedly the firm's internationalisation process with its numerous sub-fields and specialisation areas. The innovation (I Model) and the Uppsala (the U Model) have become the most widely used models of internationalisation (e.g., Welch and Paavilainen-Mantymaki 2014), even though they have also evoked a great deal of criticism over the years (cf., Andersen 1993). Focusing on these two most commonly used models, we analyse how each of them treats time. They are often viewed as being interchangeable (cf., Hadjikhani 1997), even though they treat time differently: the former is quite linear and the latter is more cyclical. We argue that the two models incorporate time implicitly, rather than explicitly: in other words, the concept of time is taken for granted, and its complexity and potential are ignored. Equally, researchers who have sought to empirically investigate and extend the models frequently neglect to do so upfront, or to define what it stands for in their research.

In this article we turn to philosophy to reconsider how we define and conceptualise time, arguing that if IB scholars were to be more time-conscious in their research they could offer new theoretical insights. We take the stance that although we should value the contribution of existing internationalisation models, we should recognise the need to revisit their assumptions and limitations. Since the development of the I and U Models the world has changed, and along with it, so has our experience of time. Postmodernism (e.g., Foucault 1973; Feyerabend 1975; Habermas 2006), for example, has offered the concepts of space suspension and time compression (e.g., Welge and Holtbriigge 1999) to encapsulate these transformations. Space suspension refers to globalisation, the surmounting of spatial barriers by the development of transportation and communication technologies that make everything instantaneously connected, irrespective of geographical distance. Time compression, in turn, refers to the experience of time as having accelerated. 'Quartile thinking', global outsourcing, the virtualisation and digitalisation of society and applications offering instant communication, to give a few examples, have transmitted this acceleration to all aspects of life (e.g., Hassan and Purser 2007; Shove et al. 2009). Among the sources, as well as the victims, of time compression are companies, which are faced with the choice of either updating their business models, operating cultures, organisational structures and survival strategies--or perishing. Further uncertainty comes from various events such as financial and political crises that affect the business environment in which companies operate. No internal operation within firms has been left untouched by these changes, including the internationalisation process. Just as companies have acknowledged the importance of time in their activities, not least for their survival, researchers should also make every effort to unravel these complexities.

Yet our conceptual understanding of time has not changed dramatically. It is true that traditional I and U models have been subjected to considerable criticism. Most of the intense criticism has been focused on whether these models are still useful given developments in the global business environment (e.g., Turnbull 1987; McDougall et al. 1994; Jones 1999; Dimitratos and Jones 2005). Studies on firms that deviate from the pattern suggested in traditional internationalisation models, most notably bom globals (e.g., Knight and Cavusgil 2004) and international new ventures (e.g., Oviatt and McDougall 1994), have brought the concepts of speed and rapidity into the limelight. Terms such as acceleration, speed, change and suddenness are commonly used in current business research and public discussion (e.g., Casillas and Acedo 2013; Chetty et al. 2014), frequently in connection with terms such as globalisation, innovation, development and growth. Yet this stream of research has done little more than proposing additional time-related dimensions of internationalisation. The assumptions about time underlying the traditional models have been left intact. This is perhaps because the point of reference is limited to that of the fields of IB and IE, where time is conceptualised very narrowly and without reference to the active, wide-ranging debate that is taking place elsewhere, notably in the social sciences and physics. Contributions from fields with longer traditions of studying time (e.g., mathematics, physics, history, philosophy and futures research) are under-utilised.

Three studies focusing particularly on the internationalisation process of firms (Hurmerinta-Peltomaki 2003; Chetty et al. 2014; Welch and Paavilainen-Mantymaki 2014) are an exception in that they treat time more explicitly, reflecting broader developments outside the IB/IE fields. Hurmerinta-Peltomaki (2003) focuses on the export-adoption process in her pioneering study, using time theory to enhance the fit between the accelerated empirical reality and internationalisation models. Chetty et al. (2014) borrow from physics in explaining the speed aspect, and use existing theories and models related to the internationalisation process to develop a definition and measures of speed that are empirically tested on a sample of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Welch and Paavilainen-Mantymaki (2014), in turn, take a broader view of time and propose a more holistic approach based on process theory and methodology as applied in the empirical studies they analyse. The current study builds on these earlier contributions, with the purpose of this paper, therefore, being to consider the question:

How can the philosophy of time enhance understanding of the internationalisation process?

The paper continues as follows. We begin the discussion by defining time. The next section focuses on time-philosophical perspectives and the main conceptualisations, insights and terminology that are relevant to the study of the internationalisation process in firms. We then discuss and analyse time in existing IB process models and propose a hermeneutic approach. Our intention is not to suggest incremental changes to existing models. Rather, we attempt to bring to the fore the assumptions and limitations in the way time has been included in the internationalisation process research, and to offer an alternative approach for treating it. The hermeneutic alternative that we propose draws on insights from philosophy to acknowledge time as process, context and content (see also Pettigrew 1990). We argue that it is crucial to rethink the nature of time before attempting to identify or define potential time-related needs or gaps in specific research fields. The philosophy of time, with its more nuanced understanding, can cross-fertilise internationalisation process research and extend our theoretical insights.

2 Defining Time

There appears to be no agreement among philosophers on a single conceptualisation of time. Our aim in this section is to provide a brief overview of what time is from a philosophical perspective, and of the different concepts, constructs and terminology that are applicable to IB research. We introduce the analytical tools for grasping the intangibility of time and the underlying logic of the hermeneutic approach developed in this paper. The philosophy of time affords us different ways of interpreting and theorising about the nature of time. It allows us to foreground and question the assumptions about time that in our research we tend to take for granted, yet which potentially limit our understanding of time-based phenomena. The philosophy of time provides the tools with which to observe, conceptualise, interpret, organise, operationalise and contextualise the temporality of the research phenomenon.

Physicists and mathematicians have over the centuries developed measures and instruments to grasp the abstraction of time. These include clocks, calendars, grids and forms of oscillation, and common indicators of its passing such as seconds, minutes and hours. People have used these exemplary and simplified tools to create a common understanding of the invisible and intangible entity that is time (see e.g., Friedman 1990). They enable us to observe and cope with time in our surroundings. Despite the accuracy of our measurement devices, our understanding of time will always rest upon our observations and therefore our interpretation of it. Time exists around us irrespective of our understanding of it, but becomes only observable to us by comprehending the actions and events that take place in time with the help of the time constructs and instruments at our disposal.

Time is an entity that has challenged and fascinated philosophers and not just scientists...

Um weiterzulesen


VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT