Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 505–527 | Cite as

Selective attention and the initiation of the global knowledge-sourcing process in multinational corporations

  • L Felipe MonteiroEmail author


Multinational corporations (MNCs) frequently use their foreign subsidiaries to identify new opportunities to access external knowledge. This article builds on the attention-based view to examine how selective attention – the focus on certain issues or answers at the exclusion of others – works in the global knowledge-sourcing process in MNCs. The results reveal an intriguing paradox: while MNCs may establish foreign subsidiaries far from headquarters to identify diverse, novel knowledge, and overcome local search, headquarters’ decision makers tend to favor opportunities that are market proven and simply confirm what the MNC already knows. Subsidiary managers’ pre-selling and selling efforts, however, can play a pivotal role in overcoming that bias. This study combines detailed qualitative data with access to a proprietary database on 137 external knowledge-sourcing opportunities in one of the world’s largest MNCs in the telecommunications sector.


attention-based view knowledge-based view knowledge transfer and innovation in MNCs/MNEs knowledge sourcing knowledge acquisition and sharing headquarters–subsidiary roles and relations 



The author would like to thank Tina Ambos, Julian Birkinshaw, Laurence Capron, Aya Chacar, Yves Doz, Javier Gimeno, Adam Grant, Mauro Guillen, Martine Haas, Sarah Kaplan, Michael Mol, Phanish Puranam, Subi Rangan, Evan Rawley, Andrew Shipilov, Gabriel Szulanski, and Freek Vermeulen for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. This article has benefited greatly from the comments and suggestions made by JIBS Area Editor Jaeyong Song and three anonymous reviewers. Kaitlin Meiss provided excellent research support. The author is also grateful to the many managers at ET who generously provided him with their time, insights, and ample access to their internal databases. Funding for this project was provided by the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School. Any errors are the author’s.


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© Academy of International Business 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INSEADFontainebleauFrance

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