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 Kyvik
  • 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.


  1. Andersen O, Rynning MR (1994) Prediction of export intentions—managing with structural characteristics? Scand J Manag 10(1):17–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson S, Gabrielsson J, Wictor I (2004) International activities in small firms: examining factors influencing the internationalization and export growth of small firms. Can J Adm Sci 21(1):22–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen PH, Strandskov J (1998) International market selection: a cognitive mapping perspective. J Glob Mark 11(3):65–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Argyris, C. (1991) Teaching smart people how to learn. Harv Bus Rev (May–June):99–109Google Scholar
  5. Argyris C, Schön DA (1996) Organizational learning II: theory, method, and practice. Addison-Wesley, ReadingGoogle Scholar
  6. Armstrong S, Overton TS (1977) Estimating non-response in mailed surveys. J Mark Res 14:396–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baird IS, Lyles MA, Orris JB (1994) The choice of international strategies by small businesses. J Small Bus Manag 32(1):48–59Google Scholar
  8. Barney JB (1991) Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. J Manag 17(1):99–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron RA (2004a) The cognitive perspective: a valuable tool for answering entrepreneurship’s basic “why” questions. J Bus Ventur 19:221–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baron RA (2004b) Potential benefits of the cognitive perspective: expanding entrepreneurship’s array of conceptual tools. J Bus Ventur 19:169–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Baron RA, Ensley MD (2006) Opportunity recognition as the detection of meaningful patterns: evidence from comparison of novice and experienced entrepreneurs. Manag Sci 52(9):1331–1344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bell J, McNaughton R, Young S, Crick D (2003) Toward an integrative model of small firm internationalization. J Int Entrep 1:339–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bunderson, S.J. and Sutcliffe, K.M. (1995) Work history and selective perception: fine tuning what we know. Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, 459–463Google Scholar
  14. Busenitz LW, Barney JB (1997) Differences between entrepreneurs and managers in large organizations: biases and heuristics in strategic decision-making. J Bus Vent 12:9–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Calof JL (1994) The relationship between firm size and export behavior revisited. J Int Bus Stud 25:367–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Calof J, Beamish P (1995) Adapting to foreign markets: explaining internationalization. Int Bus Rev 4(2):115–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chetty S, Campbell-Hunt C (2003) Paths to internationalization among small- to medium-sized firms. A global versus regional approach. Eur J Mark 37(5/6):796–820CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clegg C, Walsh S (2004) Change management: time for a change! Eur J Work and Organ Psychol 13(2):217–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cyert RM, March JG (1963) A behavioral theory of the firm. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  20. Dana LP (2001) Introduction: networks, internationalization & policy. Small Bus Econ 16:57–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Diamantopoulos A, Siguaw JA (2005) Introducing LISREL a guide for the uninitiated. SAGE Publications Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Dichtl E, Koeglmayr H-G, Mueller S (1990) International orientation as a precondition for export success. J Int Bus Stud 21:23–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dörrenbächer, C. (2000) Measuring corporate internationalisation—a review of measurement concepts and their use. Discussion Paper, FS 100–101, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für SozialforschungGoogle Scholar
  24. Dutz MA, Ordover JA, Willig RD (2000) Entrepreneurship, access policy and economic development: lessons from industrial organization. Eur Ec Rev 44:739–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eden C, Spender JC (1998) Managerial and organizational cognition, theory, methods and research. SAGE Publications Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Fletcher R (2001) A holistic approach to internationalization. Int Bus Rev 10:25–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fornell C (1982) A second generation of multivariate analysis: an overview. In: Fornell C (ed) A second generation of multivariate analysis: methods. Praeger, New York, pp 407–450Google Scholar
  28. Gardner H (2004) Changing minds—the art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Harvard Business School Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  29. Gimenez C, Ventura E (2005) Logistics-production, logistics-marketing and external integration: their impact on performance. Int J Op & Prod Manag 25(1):20–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gosling, J. and Mintzberg, H. (2003) The five minds of a manager. Harv Bus Rev :54–63Google Scholar
  31. Gupta AK, Govindarajan V (2002) Cultivating a global mindset. Acad Manag Executive 16(1):116–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hair JF, Anderson RE, Tatham RL, Black WC (1998) Multivariate data analysis. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  33. Havnes P-A, Senneseth K (2001) A panel study of firm growth among SMEs in networks. Small Bus Econ 16:293–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Haynie MJ, Shepherd D, Mosakowski E, Earley CP (2010) A situated metacognitive model of the entrepreneurial mindset. J Bus Ventur 25(2):217–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hedlund, A., Johnstad, T., Rasmussen, J.G. and Pentti, V. (1990) Competence, networks and regional policy, NordREFO: Networks and Regional Development, no. 1/90Google Scholar
  36. Hodgkinson GP, Healey MP (2008) Cognition in organizations. Annu Rev Psychol 59:387–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hodgkinson GP, Sparrow PR (2002) The competent organization—a psychological analysis of the strategic management process (Managing Work and Organizations Series). Open University Press, Buckinghan, Dr. Graeme Salaman (editor)Google Scholar
  38. Holzmüller HH, Kasper H (1990) The decision-maker and export activity: a cross-national comparison of the foreign orientation of Austrian managers. Manag Int Rev 13(3):217–230Google Scholar
  39. Huff AS (1997) A current and future agenda for cognitive research in organizations. J Manag Stud 34(6):947–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hu L, Bentler PM (1998) Fit indices in covariance structure modeling: sensitivity to underparameterized model misspecification. Psych Meth 3(4):424–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Javidan, M., Steers, R.M. and Hitt, M.A. (2007) The global mindset, advances in international management, Vol. 19 (Series Editors: Joseph L.C. Cheng and Michael A. Hitt)Google Scholar
  42. Javidan M, Teagarden M, Bowen D (2010) Making it overseas. Harvard Business Review (April), 1–5Google Scholar
  43. Jeannet JP (2000) Managing with a global mindset. Pearson Education Limited, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  44. Jenkins M, Johnson G (1997) Linking managerial cognition and organizational performance: a preliminary investigation using causal maps. Br J Manag 8:77–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Johannisson B, Mönsted M (1997) Contextualizing entrepreneurial networking—the case of Scandinavia. Into Stud Manag & Org 27(3):109–136Google Scholar
  46. Johansen J, Vahlne JE (1977) The internationalization process of the firm—a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. J Int Bus Stud 8:23–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Johansen J, Vahlne JE (2003) Business relationship learning and commitment in the internationalization process. J Int Entrep 1:83–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Johanson J, Vahlne JE (2009) The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: from liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership. J Int Bus Stud 40:1411–1431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Johnson JP, Lenartowicz T, Apud S (2006) Cross-cultural competence in international business: toward a definition and a model. J Int Bus Stud 37:525–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Jokinen T (2005) Global leadership competencies: a review and discussion. J Eur Ind Train 29(3):199–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Jones MV, Nummela N (2008) International entrepreneurship: expanding the domain and extending our research questions. Eur Manag J 26:349–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kahneman D, Lovallo D (1994) Timid choices and bold forecasts: a cognitive perspective on risk taking. In: Rumelt RP, Schendel DE, Teece DJ (eds) Fundamental issues in strategy: a research agenda. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, pp 71–96Google Scholar
  53. Knight GA (2000) Entrepreneurship and marketing strategy: the SME under globalization. J Int Mark 8(2):12–32Google Scholar
  54. Knight GA (2001) Entrepreneurship and strategy in the international SME. J Int Manag 7(3):155–171Google Scholar
  55. Kotey B, Meredith GG (1997) Relationships among owner/manager personal values, business strategies, and enterprise performance. J Small Bus Manag 35(2):37–64Google Scholar
  56. Kyvik O (2011) Internationalization of small firms: the importance of a global mindset. Int J Technol Transf Commer 10(3–4):314–331Google Scholar
  57. Leonidou LC, Katsikeas CS, Piercy NF (1998) Identifying managerial influences on exporting: past research and future directions. J Int Mark 6(2):74–102Google Scholar
  58. Levy O, Beechler S, Taylor S, Boyacigiller NA (2007) What we talk about when we talk about ‘global mindset’: managerial cognition in multinational corporations. J Int Bus Stud 38:231–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Liesch PW, Knight GA (1999) Information internalization and hurdle rates in small and medium sized enterprise internationalization. J Int Bus Stud 30(1):383–394Google Scholar
  60. Lyles MA, Schwenk CR (1992) Top management, strategy and organizational knowledge structures. J Manag Stud 29(2):155–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Maignan I, Lukas BA (1997) Entry mode decisions: the role of managers’ mental models. J Glob Mark 10(4):7–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. McDougall PP, Oviatt BM (2000) International entrepreneurship: the intersection of two research paths. Acad Manag J 43(5):902–906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Miller D, Toulouse JM (1986) Chief executive personality and corporate strategy and structure in small firms. Manag Sci 29:221–235Google Scholar
  64. Minkes AL, Foxall GR (2003) Herbert Simon and the concept of dispersed entrepreneurship. J Ec Psych 24:221–228Google Scholar
  65. Mitchell RK, Busenitz LW, Bird B, Gaglio CM, McMullen JS, Morse EA, Smith BJ (2007) The central question in entrepreneurial cognition research. Entrep Theory and Pract 1(31):1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Mittelstaedt JD, Harben GN, Ward WA (2003) How small is too small? Firm size as a barrier to exporting from the United States. J Small Bus Manag 41(1):68–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Moen O, Servais P (2002) Born global or gradual global? Examining the export behavior of small and medium-sized enterprises. J Int Mark 10(3):49–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Nummela N, Saarenketo S, Puumalainen K (2004) A global mindset—a prerequisite for successful internationalization? Can J Adm Sci 21(1):51–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Oviatt BM, McDougall P (1994) Global start-ups: creation forces and success characteristics, paper school of management. Georgia Institute of Technology, AtlantaGoogle Scholar
  70. Oviatt BM, McDougall PP (1999) A framework for understanding accelerated international entrepreneurship. In: Rugman AM, Wright RW (eds) Research in global strategic management, vol 7. CTJAI Press, Stamford, pp 23–40Google Scholar
  71. Philp NE (1998) The export propensity of the very small enterprise (VSE). Int Small Bus J 16(4):70–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Peng MW (2001) The resource-based view and international business. J Manag 27:803–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Peteraf M, Shanley M (1997) Getting to know you: a theory of strategic group identity. Strateg Manag J 18:165–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Peterman NE, Kennedy J (2003) Enterprise education: influencing students’ perception of entrepreneurship. Entrep Theory and Pract 28(2):129–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Porac JF, Thomas H, Baden-Fuller C (1989) Competitive groups as cognitive communities: the case of Scottish Knitwear manufacturers. J Manag Stud 26:4Google Scholar
  76. Reid SD (1981) The decision-maker and export entry and expansion. J Int Bus Stud 12(2):101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Reve, T. and Stokke R. P. (1994) Competitive strategy analysis: an integrated practical approach. NHH (the Norw School of Ec & Bus Adm) Working paper, 92Google Scholar
  78. Robinson RB, Pearce JA (1983) The impact of formalized strategic planning on financial performance in small organizations. Strateg Manag J 4:197–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Saris WE, Gallhofer IN (2007) Design, evaluation, and analysis of questionnaires for survey research. Wiley, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Saris WE, Satorra A, Van der Veld W (2009) Testing structural equation models or detection of misspecifications? Structural Equation Modeling 16(4):561–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Scherer R, Adams J, Carley S, Wiebe F (1989) Role model performance effects on development of entrepreneurship. Entrep Theory and Pract 13(3):53–72Google Scholar
  82. Senge PM (1990) The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. Random House Business Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  83. Shane S, Eckhardt J (2003) The individual-opportunity nexus, chapter 8. In: Acs ZJ, Audretsch DB (eds) Handbook of entrepreneurship research. Kluwer Academic, Boston, pp 161–191Google Scholar
  84. Shuman JC, Seeger JA (1986) The theory and practice of strategic management in smaller rapid growth firms. Am J Small Bus 11:7–18Google Scholar
  85. Simmonds K, Smith H (1968) The first export order: a marketing innovation. Eur (Br) J Mark 2:93–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Simon H (1996) You don’t have to be German to be a “Hidden Champion”. Bus Strat Rev 7(2):1–13Google Scholar
  87. Singleton RA, Straits BC (1999) Approaches to social research. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  88. Storey DJ (2003) Entrepreneurship, small and medium sized enterprises and public policies. In: Acs ZJ, Audretsch DB (eds) Handbook of entrepreneurship research. Kluwer Academic, Boston, pp 473–511Google Scholar
  89. Teece DJ, Pisano G, Shuen A (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strateg Manag J 18(7):509–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Townsend P, Cairns L (2003) Developing the global manager using a capability framework. Manag Learn 34(3):313–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Van der Veld, W., Saris, W. E., and Satorra, A. (2009) JRule, Judgement Rule Aid for Structural equation models, vdveld@telfort.nlGoogle Scholar
  92. Voogt, R. (2004) I’m not interested—non-response bias, response bias stimulus effects in election research. Dissertation, University of Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  93. Weick KE (1984) Managerial thought in the context of action. In: Srivastava S (ed) The executive mind. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp 221–242Google Scholar
  94. Welch LS, Luostarinen RK (1993) Inward-outward connections in internationalization. J Int Mark 1(1):44–56Google Scholar
  95. Welch DE, Welch LS (1996) The internationalization process and networks: a strategic management perspective. J Int Mark 4(3):11–28Google Scholar
  96. Wiedersheim-Paul F, Olson HC, Welch LS (1978) Pre-export activity: the first step in internationalization. J Int Bus Stud 9(1):47–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wind YJ, Crook C (2005) The power of impossible thinking, transform the business of your life and the life of your business. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, with R. Gunther (editor)Google Scholar
  98. Yang YS, Leone RP, Alden DL (1992) A market expansion ability approach to identify potential exporters. J Mark 56:84–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Zahra SA, Korri JS, Yu J (2005) Cognition and international entrepreneurship: implication for research on international opportunity recognition and exploitation. Int Bus Rev 14:129–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oyvin Kyvik
    • 1
  • 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

Personalised recommendations