Complexity and Multinationals

Few refute the conception of complexity in global strategy. Besides diligently coordinating intricate webs of knowledge flows and organizational linkages across country borders, multinational organizations are externally embedded in multiple and rapidly changing environments that necessitate constant monitoring and prompt responsiveness (Gupta and Govindarajan, 2000; Meyer et al., 2011)). Concepts such as the M-form, contingency, and strategic fit have emerged as central to understanding how firms amidst high levels of complexity organize most effectively (e.g., Birkinshaw and Pedersen, 2009).

In this Special Issue, we seek to revisit the question of complexity and organization, with a focus on multinational corporations (MNCs). There are two specific reasons we believe this inquiry is specifically pertinent. First, there are a number of political and environmental changes that potentially challenge conventional forms of MNCs’ organizational design, including the global value chains they orchestrate. The recent backlash against globalization with a gradual return to a more fragmented and nationally oriented economic world system could lead to higher complexity as firms need to scale back their global efforts and devise more country-by-country-oriented approaches to international business. Given the concurrent climate crisis, firms are also increasingly required to absorb and comply with new and stricter regulations on sustainability, including a higher degree of transparency and control on complex global value chains and trading relationships. Second, disruptive technological advancements including artificial intelligence, digitalization, additive manufacturing, and algorithmic decision making open up radical new ways of organizing international business activities. The speed and amount of change should also potentially fuel entrepreneurial activity, in society generally as well as more specifically by and within organizations, as new opportunities emerge and are uncovered and acted upon. 

Deadline for submission: December 1, 2020
Expected date of publication: 2022

Special Issue Editors

picture of Julian Birkinshaw
Julian Birkinshaw
London Business School
picture of Marcus Møller Larsen
Marcus Møller Larsen
Copenhagen Business School
picture of Yue Maggie Zhou
Yue Maggie Zhou
University of Michigan

GSJ Co-Editor

picture of Gabriel R G Benito
Gabriel R G Benito
BI Norwegian Business School