A Time-Use Perspective on Entrepreneurial Initiatives in the Multinational Corporation

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW1.3.01 (Tower One)
Christopher Williams, Durham University Business School, Durham, United Kingdom; Durham University Business School, Durham, United Kingdom; Durham University Business School, Durham, United Kingdom
Wendelien van Eerde, Amsterdam Business School, Amsterdam, Netherlands
We develop a new perspective on entrepreneurial initiatives within the Multinational Corporation (MNC) based on time-use theory. Conceptualizations of the phenomenon of entrepreneurial initiatives within the MNC have drawn from various mainstream theories, such as entrepreneurial cognition, knowledge-based view of the MNC, and management control theory. Empirical studies, however, have consistently pointed to the temporal dimension, highlighting the dynamic elements of learning, capability development and evolution of power and politics. We extend these views with a more explicit focus on time-use, developing a dual individual-group level model that predicts how time horizons, urgency, polychronicity and pacing determine how entrepreneurial initiatives progress within the MNC.

The literature on entrepreneurship in established multinational corporations (MNCs) increasingly has paid attention to the initiative as unit of analysis (Birkinshaw, 1997; Birkinshaw, Hood & Jonsson, 1998). An MNC entrepreneurial initiative is seen as a process that takes place over time and one that may be driven by headquarters or subsidiary, by the firm or by partners (Williams & Lee, 2011). The MNC provides a unique and challenging context for analyzing the nature and performance of entrepreneurial initiatives. Firstly, there is diversity due to geographic dispersion of resources needed to support an entrepreneurial initiative (i.e., entrepreneurial resources); there is a range of resources in the MNC not present in domestic firms: international human capital; external embedment of subsidiaries abroad; cultural and institutional contexts of resources; different subsidiary functions and assets. Secondly, there are communication and coordination problems due to various forms of distance between membersinvolved in the initiative (time-zone, spatial, linguistic, cultural, institutional distances) (Berry, Guillen, & Zhou, 2010). These distances have been shown to impact internal MNC knowledge flows (Szulanski, 1999) which in turn are vital for entrepreneurial initiatives in the MNC.

            In this paper we develop a time-use perspective on MNC entrepreneurial initiatives. Central to our theory is that individual and group attitudes towards time-use influence the progress of an entrepreneurial initiative in the MNC. We start by reviewing prominent existing theories that have been used to explain entrepreneurial behaviors in MNCs. These include entrepreneurial cognition theory, knowledge-based views and management control theory. We then provide a review of the time-use literature and develop new propositions based on characteristics of time horizons, urgency, polychronicity and pacing that are found in individuals and groups within organizations. Our contribution is to develop new theory to explain how entrepreneurial initiatives progress within the MNC and to extend the body of literature on this topic from a time-use perspective. Our central assertion is that the time-use perspective is a powerful tool for understanding MNC entrepreneurial initiatives, but has been neglected in favor of more mainstream theories. Our conclusion is that behavioral notions of individual and group use of time need to be integrated into cognitive-, resource-, and control-oriented explanations of the phenomenon of entrepreneurial initiative involving the MNC.