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Keywords:

  • global comparative strategy;
  • internationalization;
  • MNC learning;
  • grounded strategizing;
  • strategy implementation

Abstract

Firms formulate their global strategies from what they have learned from observing others and from their own experiences relying on the logic of comparison. From the literature and an in-depth case analysis, we identify three modes of comparative learning for global strategy formulation: seeking best practice, surfacing universals, and grounded strategizing. We argue that grounded strategizing, which we define as the process by which firms learn from unanticipated variations in their own global strategy implementation, is often inferred, remains relatively unexplored, and may provide the most valuable source of learning. By examining the case of NSK Ball Bearings, we show that strategy formulation is much like theory building—each era of internationalization has its own theoretical foundation based on differing basic assumptions and logics of comparison.