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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1095
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number6
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Accepted/In press15 Nov 2020
E-pub ahead of print15 Feb 2021
Published1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: I would like to thank Mary Teagarden for her editorial guidance and the three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive comments, which have helped improve the paper. Funding for this research was provided by two separate grants from the German Research Foundation (DFG), under grant numbers GRK 1012 and FO 1024/1-1. I am grateful to the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina for having hosted me, and to Charlotte Cloutier, Michael Etter, Gabriela Gutierrez Huerter O, Aimee Hamilton, Ahmed Hassan, Arne Keller, Michael Pratt, Juliane Reinecke, Thomas Roulet, and Luda Svystunova for their feedback. The paper has also benefited from comments I received during a workshop at Griffith University in 2017, the ‘Cognition in the Rough’ workshop of the Managerial and Organizational Cognition Division of the Academy of Management in 2018, and presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in 2019 and Newcastle University Business School in 2020. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, Academy of International Business.


  • MNE Identity_Accept

    MNE_Identity_Accept.pdf, 461 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:20 Nov 2020

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

King's Authors


Organizational identity describes how members of an organization think about ‘who we are.’ But how exactly does a multinational enterprise (MNE) form an identity revolving around its key feature – that it is a globally operating organization with subsidiaries across several countries? Tracing the evolution of AutoCorp, a German MNE, over almost 30 years, I develop theory on how an MNE identity is formed over the course of internationalization. Focusing on the relational evolvement of the pair comprising headquarters and the first major foreign subsidiary, my data reveal how the formation process of an MNE identity involves awareness, aspiration, and assimilation as key steps, and sensemaking, storytelling, and standardizing as process mechanisms. I unpack how the process of MNE identity formation unfolds along a set of discrete events, which constitute inflection points marking the transition from one stage to the next: from multiple identities via identity reflection and identity envisioning to an MNE identity. By introducing the notion of an MNE identity, this paper enriches the way international business scholars think about classic questions around the coordination and organization of MNEs.

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