Journal of International Entrepreneurship

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 172–195 | Cite as

The internationalization of small firms: The relationship between the global mindset and firms’ internationalization behavior

  • Oyvin KyvikEmail author
  • Willem Saris
  • Eduard Bonet
  • J. Augusto Felício


Some firms in internationally oriented industries are internationalized while other comparable firms in the same sector or industry do not. Observing this difference in strategic behavior among small firms led us to consider how differences in CEOs’ attitudes, international orientation, and mindset might explain it. Therefore, this study adopts a cognitive perspective on management to explore the formation of the global mindset and the relationship between the global mindset of small-firm decision makers and their firms’ internationalization behavior. A theory-based conceptual model and measurement instrument are developed and—using structural equation modeling—the model is estimated based on empirical data from cross-sectional samples of small Norwegian and Portuguese firms. The study finds: (1) a strong causal relationship between the global mindset and firms’ internationalization behavior; (2) the combination of the findings and substantive theory indicates that the main driver of firms’ internationalization operates through the global mindset. This study also covers the factors that strongly influence the formation of a global mindset, especially the decision makers’ work experience and personal characteristics in terms of propensity to interdisciplinary collaboration, cognitive flexibility, and networking capability. Based on these findings, suggestions are made for policies that can foster the internationalization of small firms.


Small firms Managerial cognition Global mindset Internationalization 



The authors would like to thank Hamid Etemad (editor-in-chief) for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. We also acknowledge the helpful comments by two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oyvin Kyvik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Willem Saris
    • 2
  • Eduard Bonet
    • 3
  • J. Augusto Felício
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Technology, Business, and Maritime EducationStord/Haugesund University CollegeHaugesundNorway
  2. 2.Research and Expertise Centre for Survey MethodologyUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Economics, Social Sciences and Quantitative MethodsESADE Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.School of Economics and ManagementTechnical University of LisbonLisboaPortugal

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