Multinationals are Multicultural Units: Some Indications from a Cross-Cultural Study

Nantawan Noi Kwanjai & Friso den Hertog


This paper makes a case for the value of looking at culture and multinationals from a management and organizational perspective because it is one which could direct greater attention towards culture as a significant factor in future investigation on multinational corporations. We attempt to illustrate that multinationals are fundamentally multicultural units in more ways than one. This paper is based on selected materials from a qualitative study of culture and learning in organizations and management. The study investigated four selected Dutch firms in Thailand using evidences collected through observations and open-ended interviews. All evidences were analysed under grounded theory procedure. Parts of the evidences and theorization from the study are presented in this paper, which begins with two cultural riddles from one of the cases as a backdrop for subsequent discussions. Following the riddles is an abridge version of the key finding of the study-a grounded theory of cross-cultural intelligence. Then the two riddles are revisited, this time to illustrate how the proposed theory could illuminate an understanding of their covert meanings vis-a-vis culture and learning in multinationals. Last, we reinstate how our study and its theoretical and empirical findings can elucidate the central thesis that multinationals are essentially multicultural units.

Keywords: case study, culture, cultural intelligence, multinationals, Netherlands, Thailand

JEL codes: F23, M16

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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