How does successive inpatriation contribute to subsidiary capability building and subsidiary evolution? An organizational knowledge creation perspective

Kim, Heejin, Reiche, B. Sebastian and Harzing, Anne-Wil ORCID logoORCID: (2022) How does successive inpatriation contribute to subsidiary capability building and subsidiary evolution? An organizational knowledge creation perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 53 (7) . pp. 1394-1419. ISSN 0047-2506 [Article] (doi:10.1057/s41267-021-00494-3)

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Intra-company knowledge transfer is a key source of competitive advantage for multinational companies (MNCs) and this knowledge is usually embedded in individuals. Drawing on organizational knowledge creation theory, we explore how inpatriation contributes to knowledge transfer and, in turn, subsidiary performance. Inpatriation involves the international assignment of employees from an MNC’s foreign subsidiary to its headquarters. Despite increasing attention to the role of inpatriation, we lack a clear understanding of whether and how inpatriates provide value to their subsidiaries after returning from headquarters.

Through a qualitative case study of Japanese MNCs, we demonstrate the process through which inpatriates’ knowledge transfer contributes to subsidiary capability building and subsidiary evolution over time, and explain why successive inpatriation is thus critical to enhance subsidiary performance. Our theoretical model highlights the value of inpatriates as knowledge agents, reveals the process through which inpatriates transfer knowledge between HQ and subsidiaries, and provides a more nuanced understanding of the micro-foundations of intra-MNC knowledge transfer processes. Based on these findings, we argue that inpatriation is not merely a staffing method that is complementary to expatriation, but a key practice in its own right to support subsidiaries’ growth and performance.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 34183
Notes on copyright: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
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Depositing User: Anne-Wil Harzing
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2021 14:10
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2022 17:41

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