Because the world is not flat.

Category: Research (Page 1 of 2)

Contact-facilitating group export assistance in supporting SMEs to overcome export barriers in the international markets

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) play a crucial role in national economies. However, due to more limited resources, SMEs often face greater challenges in the international markets compared to larger organizations. Export markets create great growth opportunities for SMEs from which also the home country can gain through increased employment, technological development and higher standards of living. So, it comes as no surprise that the interest towards SME exports, the export barriers they face, and how SMEs can be supported in their exporting efforts have long been in the interest of scholars and governments. While such topics have been rather thoroughly researched, dynamic global markets and changes in institutional environments create a constant need to research these topics in the various contexts they take place in.

In my master’s thesis, I looked at how export assistance can help SMEs overcome barriers in exporting. My research focused on examining a case of a group of Finnish SMEs in the design and lifestyle businesses who took part in a contact-facilitating export assistance project aiming towards the Japanese markets. I approached this topic through examining what export barriers export assistance programs can mitigate, how SMEs experience the effect of export assistance programs, and what export-related resources and capabilities the export assistance programs can especially enhance. The empirical data in this study was mainly collected through interviews with the SMEs’ representatives who had partaken in the export project.

The group export project was organized by an organization that provides export and internationalization support. The main experienced export barriers were directly related to the areas that the export project also targeted. These included language, cultural and business practice differences and lack of knowledge of the target market which in turn make establishing needed connections for successful export operations more difficult. Support was provided through a combination of informational and experiential knowledge measures, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for gaining first-hand experiences to develop export-related resources and capabilities.

The contact-facilitating group export project provided support towards gaining a relevant understanding of the market, cultural and business practice difference, and establishing connections and networks both in the target market and home country. It also functioned as an additional expert opinion and motivation to pursue exporting in the target market. The participants of the export project included SMEs with various export experience levels. However, it was considered that those SMEs whose largest market was domestic but also had experience in systematic exporting were able to gain the most in terms of exporting to Japan. The least experienced benefited more in terms of general knowledge on how to export and an increased motivation to do so.

Based on the empirical data I collected, it can also be stated that while export assistance was not financial by definition there is no denying that the financial support of the project crucially affected the SMEs’ decision and ability to participate as financial resources are scarce and the perceived risk in investing relatively much into one market is rather high.

My research shows that by providing informational and experiential knowledge, export assistance can help SMEs lower and overcome barriers to exporting through increasing export related resources and capabilities. Perhaps the most interesting finding of my research is that the peer group network of the project group was considered to be one of the greatest – though not necessarily intended – benefits of participating in the project. Thus, while receiving or offering export assistance through a group project approach may lead to some compromises, the benefits of an internal network which can act as a source of valuable social capital should also be considered. In order to fully reap the benefits of the phenomenon it would be useful to better understand how peer group as an affiliation can produce social capital especially in the context of exporting and export assistance.

Milja Sorvari

From North-South- experiences of internationalization

In the spring of 2018, I knocked on the door of TSE, department of International Business (IB), with my doctoral research proposal. After approval, I was able to enter the IB community. Embarking on a Ph.D. is unique, and we all take up our own paths towards accomplishments. For me, though, having previously been working on various development cooperation projects, this is where I move from. The work I did involved traveling across continents mostly between the EU and the developing world. But I will narrate a bit more about my experiences and the valuable insights I gained from it. It is from here that I intend to explore further through acquiring scientific knowledge, and IB this the right place to be.
Since 2012, I have been part of international expert teams implementing and doing various development cooperation projects especially in developing countries. As you may know, project is tendered and bid for; thus, it is a game where you either win or lose. My main area of expertise is broadly in Private Sector Development tasks, that is, formulating strategies for economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. Perhaps before I continue narrating, it’s better that I describe in brief about the types of projects. Actually, the essence of development cooperation projects is to render support and complement efforts of developing countries to guarantee the provision of universal social basic needs of their citizens along and fundamental human rights. Development cooperation projects that are not profit-driven, but some try to seek a lower profit.
Perhaps, for now, let me share with you a couple of my experiences and field missions which are synonymous to data collection as in research, but this requires onsite presence. Field missions are performed in academic research or other and consultants, as for me. Normally, before the onset of a field mission, experts are selected to implement a project with timeline. So, about a couple of years ago, we won a tender where I was admitted to an international expert team. I was on a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and UNDP, which was to be implemented in and around communities of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. The primary purpose of the project was to provide a baseline scenario of Lake Tanganyika, livelihoods, socio-economic, and environmental situations. So, our tasks were to examine existing strategies and constraints faced by local communities living around the Lake in pursuit of economic activities for sustaining their livelihood and income opportunities
The journey to the field began early morning in order to cover 800km to Kasama town. It was indeed a long trip, tiresome but exciting as we drove through beautiful landscape, as you can see in the photograph below. I selected this photograph from my album because I find it meaningful. In the sense that our lives, careers, and just like research, are journeys with curiosity and where you can encounter the unknowns on the path to your future. But as we all know, at least I think so, staying focused on the road can guarantee a safe arrival to your destination, similarly for our undertakings. So, we arrived at our destination safely and we straight away went to doing our field activities with our first meeting in one community. While in village residents gathered, and we divided theme into groups by age and gender. As such our questionnaires had an open-ended question, for interactive discussion. Before we began the activities, we first had to pay courtesy to the village chief, for permission. Doing so is a standard protocol to get the right to interview people in the community, you may sort of call as data protection. But we needed to explain the purpose of our visit, study, why it’s needed, and the benefits it will bring to the people. Well, we managed to collect data and successfully prepared our findings with recommendations to be implemented. It was an exciting mission and our finding was that there was significant depletion of natural resources such as forests across the region. But the thing which baffled the most within our findings was that of all the communities we interviewed, about 95% of the people, had not heard about Climate Change, as of 2015. One of the main reasons was the poor outreach to rural areas and weaknesses in the institutions. In brief, our recommendation included strategies that focused on supporting conservation of natural resources, adoption of land management and support to SMEs, young men and women entrepreneurs in the fish value chain.

The Great North Road, Zambia (Photo taken by Ephraim Daka, 2015)

In June 2019, I embarked on a unique field mission to Mogadishu, Somalia , to perform a feasibility study on the Business Incubation ecosystem to be supported by the European Commission (EC) for international development cooperation or Europe-Aid. This was a unique mission because it was my very first time to travel to a country that is on the recovery from decades of civil war. I spent ten days in Mogadishu, and in safe hands. The next day, I was driven to the city of Mogadishu in an armored car with my security guard, to go and conduct my first interviews at an iRise Innovation Hub. Although I was uneasy during the whole mission, I was glad that the whole mission went well. What I find more interesting was that, despite of the global news about Somalia, it was business as usual and life looked normal. In brief, our report proposed capacity building from top to down of all key actors involved in entrepreneurship ecosystem based on the context of the country.
I will conclude with my recent visit to Berlin, where I attended the 18th Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) colloquium, where I presented a conceptual paper. The seminar was hosted by The European School of Management and Technology (ESMT-Berlin), the theme was Business in Society; Measuring and Creating Change. The event was exciting, with good vital speakers and panel discussions. There was a good representation from academia, corporate, and non-governmental organizations. The opening speech and panel discussion included Professor Yury Blagov, St Petersburg school of management, Dr. Ivo Matser, CEO for ABIS, Professor Tamer Boyaci ESMT Berlin, Associate Professor Lin Lerpold, Stockholm School of Economics and Katariina Stenholm, Senior Vice President, Danone Corporation among others. The debates and arguments hovered around the best practices on impact investing and mainly on the trade-off issues of social impact versus market-rate returns. In a nutshell, our homework as researchers is to investigate further how an investor can do good for society while doing well in business.
On this note, I will end here. Such have been my experiences in international business, and with these, that’s the path of my research. As such, most development cooperation programs embed the theory of Change, filling in the gaps of change initiatives.

Ephraim Daka,

Ph.D. Student, International Business

International Research Visits – are they worth it?

Many Post-Doctoral Scholars in Finland dream of being funded by the Academy of Finland. The Academy can provide the luxury of focusing on your research without massive teaching or admin burden. But while you enjoy your freedom of research, you are forced to do a part of it abroad. In brevity, without official invitations from foreign research institutions and clear plans of international mobility, you have zero chance of being funded by the Academy. This can cause challenges for post-docs and their families. In addition, the Academy of Finland’s costs are eventually paid by tax payers. This raises an interesting question to both researchers and tax payers: are international research visits really worth it?

I was priviledged to receive three-year post-doc research funding from the Academy of Finland in 2018. As a part of my research project, I had agreed to visit the University of Auckland Business School in early 2019. This took me an my family (wife and three children) to New Zealand for 2.5 months. While the research visit during the New Zealand summer was a good experience for the whole family, I would particularly emphasize the academic benefits of visiting foreign research institutions.

First, research visits deepen established relations. Typically, you know at least one or two researchers in the university you are going to visit. That was also the case when I visited the University of Auckland. With some I had already co-authored an article, with others I had papers in process or had laughed a lot in conferences. During the visit, we were able not only to continue laughing but finalize a paper that had been waiting for submission for some months before my visit. In addition, I was happy to start new paper projects with old acquintances. I would argue that none of these projects would have otherwise been initiated. When you meet people more often and are present all the time, you just start discussing more, which leads you create new ideas.

Second, research visits allow meeting new faces in the target university. While I knew many researchers In Auckland, there were still people who had similar research interests but whom I had not met before. I was really fortunate to meet these great minds that think alike, and plan for collaboration for years to come. Meeting new people is challenging if you are just staying at your home university. In conferences you can meet some people but typically it is the same people that go to the same conferences. Therefore, it is good to go and visit other universities to see who else is working with your colleagues.

Third, research visits enable serendipity for creating new opportunities. This is something that you cannot by nature plan ahead. For instance, during my visit there were other European scholars visiting the Business School. I was able to meet them and discuss potential collaboration. One of these meetings led to an opportunity to write a chapter in a book published by a highly-ranked publisher. In another occasion, I was able to meet a researcher in another university in Auckland after randomly seeing her doctoral thesis sharing the basic idea of my research project. And this is the beauty of research visits. You never know who you meet in local online forums, bus stops or crafts shops. These encounters can lead to friendships, new business opportunities or research ideas. While you never know what’s there to come, you can be certain that this would not happen by just staying at home.

In the end, I would say that international research visits are worth the researcher’s effort and the public money. I can admit it takes a toll from the family before the visit with the stress about getting everything organized, and the life abroad is not necessarily always smooth. Often, there is also uncertainty whether there is enough money for the visit. It is expensive to travel across the world and live with a family in large (and expensive) university cities. Further, while travelling abroad, scholars still have to cover the costs of keeping the home they are soon returning. Thus, a part of this toll could be diminished by ensuring that researchers and their families are well-funded. In fact, I’d argue that for the funders international research visits cost relatively little compared to the investment that families need to make as well as the benefits of research visits. Spouses taking unpaid time off from work and the children living without friends in a new (sometimes stressful) environment. The money is often not enough to cover the costs of taking the whole family abroad, and for many living several months away from family each year of the multi-year research project is simply not an option. There have been suggestions to raise the funders’ budget for the costs of international research mobility. I support that initiative and consider that, particularly if international research mobility remains mandatory in the future, the money needs to be enough to cover all costs of the visit.

Valtteri Kaartemo

Postdoctoral Researcher

Doctor in spe in spe: Schrödinger’s PhD and 3MT

In January this year, I became painfully aware of the strange limbo existence between finishing research and finishing my PhD. I had a clear vision of my ready thesis in my head, yet I had nothing concrete to show for it. In a way, my PhD seemed at the same time finished and nonexistent – kind of like Schrödinger’s fabled cat.

It is a uniquely stressful stage of the PhD journey, knowing that you are almost done, but at the same time facing possibly the biggest challenge along the way: convincing others that your work is worthwhile. Writing the actual dissertation is a rollercoaster ride on its own. The euphoria of finishing this chapter, that idea, the whole manuscript, is contrasted by the complete panic slowly setting in regarding whether your supervisors will reject your ideas, whether the pre-examiners will dismiss the whole as complete nonsense, and whether you have actually achieved anything in the past four years or so. Luckily for us in IB at TSE, we have an amazing support system. Our supervisors are brilliant, encouraging, and supportive, our colleagues are amazingly helpful, and our fellow doctoral candidates a constant source of peer support. It is the community around us that gives us hope in times of despair and lifts us even higher in times of triumph. And that support, in my experience, has become increasingly important in the final stages of the doctoral journey.

When I had just begun my research, I certainly thought about when I might finish up, when I might have my public defense, and how it might feel. But as these things creep closer, I am constantly finding new things to worry about, new steps along the way. From writing down four years’ worth of learning and ideas to handing the manuscript in, from how to type the manuscript to which printer to choose, the final stage of the doctoral journey is a mix of academia and bureaucracy. It is a blessing, if during that time there is also something else to occupy the excruciating times of waiting to hear the verdict.

For me, an exceptionally useful and pleasurable diversion was the Three Minute Thesis competition. I had thought about entering the year before but struggled to pinpoint what I wanted to tell the audience. And I was right to do so: I believe this exercise is most beneficial when you already have a grasp of what your findings are. During the 3MT coaching sessions I learned many useful tips on how to make your message compelling, be it at a pep rally or an academic conference. I quite like the idea that even as academics attending conferences where people presumably share our ideas and interests, we should aim to provide our viewpoint in a clear, concise, and engaging manner. Moreover, it is likely much easier and takes way less preparation for most academics to speak about their research for an hour than for three minutes. Therefore, I encourage everyone, doctoral candidate or professor, to try to fit your passion into three minutes of speech. I promise you there will be several benefits; really getting to know what the key points in your message are, understanding what you yourself are most excited about, and finding out your own strengths and weaknesses in speaking to large audiences.

I am happy to say that for me, 3MT was a success. In a competition designed to measure your skills in pitching, the audience voted my pitch their favorite. As the whole point of the competition is engaging the audience, I secretly (well, not so secretly anymore) kind of consider this the first prize, whatever the judges have to say. Check out my pitch below and stay tuned to see me sweat at my public defense in the autumn. Could this stage be called Doctor in spe in spe – in the hope of being in the hope of becoming a Doctor?

A news from UTU webpage of the final: Tiina Lehtiniemi voitti 3MT-kilpailun.

Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen

Doctoral Candidate

Finnish Multinational Corporations, global competition and the role of FINNVERA

We recently completed an exploratory study to understand how FINNVERA in particular, and Export Credit Agencies in general, affect the survival and growth of international firms. One major conclusion was that, for some industries, and major Finnish firms, the work of FINNVERA is an essential part to sustain in global competition. FINNVERA’s traditional role is to assume certain risks, such as country risks and commercial risks, to moderate Finnish firms’ internationalization. However, over the past few years the global business environment has changed and to some extent redefined the role of FINNVERA. Here are a few reflections on what has changed that makes FINNVERA, more than ever, strategically important for some Finnish Multinationals:

# A changing world. From the late 1980s to recently – we see diminishing abilities of MNCs in general to: (a) Use institutional ‘deficiencies’ across the globe to their advantage (e.g. transition and developing economies closing institutional gaps; international cooperation to reduce spaces to allow this kind of opportunism, etc.). (b) Utilize arbitration advantages – in a model in which MNCs optimize internal division and integration of work internationally – many previously important location advantages have been changing (e.g. China). For instance, instead of cheap labor we see that now technology is gaining importance. Arguably, in the longer run, when technology takes over to define competitiveness, then costs are likely to fall in general, while labor cost are generally likely to rise when economies grow. That means also that for many production locations the competitiveness might be more critically determined by other factors, e.g. infrastructure, market seeking or resource seeking motivations – shifting bases of location advantages.

# Business models. In many industries, we see post 2008 a change in the business models which generate greater value. Until then it was challenging for local firms (especially in smaller economies) to overcome traditional MNCs’ (a) monopolistic advantages (e.g. in form of immaterial rights, IPR, brands, etc.) and even harder for local firms to develop (b) scale and scope economies to match MNCs in a liberalizing global trade landscape. Comparing the largest firms (by market capitalization as the shared understanding of future promise and growth) 10 years ago and now – the top 10 list of most appreciated firms looks rather different. What do these firms do differently? They shifted the game from economies of scale to network economies. That requires an ecosystem, where firms’ immaterial rights are entered into a larger system of value creation and the more actors enter that ecosystem the higher the potential (and thus the realized) value these ecosystem drivers can produce.

This has started to have implications also for the typical Finnish firm (industrial markets, global tech leaders in their niches). Business models are also shifting for them and for their typical linear value chains. To stay in the lead, firms need to build cooperative networks attracting partners who enter their capacities into a larger pool and these ecosystems might subsequently compete with other networks of firms on global scale. These new business models run under many labels, focusing on slightly different perspectives, including ecosystems, networks, solution business approaches, service innovation approaches, open innovation arrangements, etc. But they have some core items in common that relate to the question of how value is generated, and given the trend to converging industry approaches through technological advance (i.e. the industry 4.0 catch phrase), – it is a cooperative effort within ecosystems of specialized partners who need to bring in their specific capabilities and mechanisms.

# FINNVERA’s role. In many important industries, for Finland, FINNVERA has de-facto been an ecosystem partner. There is no subscription to a membership, it evolves through adaptations to dynamic environments and is largely defined by actions rather than ex-ante designed structures. FV is the partner firm needed to compete in certain global markets. Without their contributions to some ecosystems it would be rather impossible to build high tech (or any) large ships in Finland; it would be difficult to develop and commercialize state of the art power plants for onshore energy generation; difficult to sell 4G, 5G networks  (even to some Western partners); or to build major state of the art pulp mills, to name some examples.

# Concluding. This sheds an interesting light on the issue of international finance and how Export Credit Agencies, like FINNVERA, are performing strategic functions with Finnish MNCs, in some industries. Their function is to help Finnish Multinationals’ customers to manage enormous international risks; they provide the enabling mechanisms by which Finnish firms’ customers and their banks can put together long-term financing, on the back of Finland’s appreciated credit ratings. At the same time, FINNVERA, as a necessary competitive factor to enable international finance of large projects, is in ‘regulated competition’ with other Export Credit Agencies around the world, without which major Finnish firms would have fewer options ‘to play’. For our discipline of International Business, this implies that we need to review our frameworks and models and widen the scope. The ‘international success and failure of the firm’ is not only determined by necessary conditions found inside the firm and based on firms’ choices (e.g. locations and governance), but by a functioning ecosystem, that includes strategic partners like FINNVERA. They enable many major firms to enter into international competition to start with.

[Exploratory impact studies have been undertaken in cooperation with FINNVERA in two stages, between 2016 and 2018. Project members have been Prof. Beth Rose from Leeds University, UK; Prof. Stephané Lhuillery from Université de Lorraine, France, and researchers at the University of Turku, International Business – Mr. Majid Aleem, Dr. Johanna Raitis and Dr. Peter Zettinig]


A link to the study:


Peter Zettinig

University Research Fellow

The relationships between the nation-states and MNCs

For many decades there has been discussion on the power relationships between states and multinational corporations. Claims have been proposed that the power of MNCs is growing, and that states are losing their power in global affairs. Babic, Fischer and Heemskerk (2017) defines this process: “The transnationalisation, or de-nationalisation, of production and finance has created new and growing opportunities for firms to shift production, participate in complex global value chains that are difficult to regulate, and circumvent state attempts to regulate and tax corporate activities”

However, there are possibilities to better understand and improve these relationships.  Rahim (2010) emphasizes that “these relationships are not a zero-sum game but one of ‘complex governance’ where all actors have to be considered to understand the changes in the international system”. And further, “the increasing power of TNSs does not mean the inevitable decline of the power of countries – countries still remain the ones that have to enforce the norms or use the instruments proposed, if not respected by TNCs.”

In today’s world, political development seems to have great impact on the business environment. The current and best known cases are the ‘Brexit and Trump phenomena’. The global warming challenge is basically dependent on political decisions, but creates both risks and also new opportunities for companies.

It seems that the globalization is facing major setbacks and national interests are emphasized in political decisions. In the big picture, major political powers like the US and UK are isolating themselves from global and EU communities. Russia’s decision to annex Crimea to itself and start military operations in the Eastern region of the Ukraine forced the EU and US to establish economic sanctions against it. Gradually, these sanctions and the trade war between the US and China will have a major influence on business activities, and is decreasing global economic growth.

From the companies’ point of view, the political environment is one of the least predictable elements. Makhlouf (2017) writes that: “Current literature does not give sufficient emphasis to the ways to increase the shared interests and contain the conflicts of interest between nation-states and multinational corporations”

Indeed, MNCs can today be considered as quasi-governmental institutions having much power over social and societal life in general. The big challenge for MNCs is that they have to interact with many national governments, which all have their own policies. No doubt, situations arise in which there are real conflicts between MNCs and nation-states. Examples of MNCs actions increasing conflicts of interest are: tax avoidance and tax evasion, profit shifting, endangering workers’ health and safety, disrespecting local cultures. Examples of government policies increasing conflicts of interest are: excessive taxes and fees imposed on foreign-owned businesses, discriminatory government procurement policies, restrictions on repatriation of profits and surplus capital.

These questions are at the core of my new research project aiming to publish a book in the foreseeable future.

Professor Esa Stenberg

The roots of digitalization – and why should an IB scholar care about them?

The theme of the last summer’s AIB World conference was Digitalization, and as a scholar lodged somewhere in the nexus of international business, information systems and futures studies, I was thrilled. Finally a chance to reflect the international business implications of technological advances! Finally a chance to draw from the multidisciplinary heritage of IB to craft insights sorely needed in creating a wider view about the technology driven changes ongoing in the realm of global business!

Well, I did have a number of highly interesting discussions and downright debates about diverse digital phenomena and business implications, and overall enjoyed the  Minneapolis conference immensely. However, I couldn’t evade a nagging feeling that somehow most of the discussions missed something crucial. A passing thought in one of the very interesting Fellow’s Café morning sessions (warmly recommended if you’re planning to attend the AIB 2019 in Copenhagen, very good session concept) became a seed that, nourished by my doctoral research, subsequently blossomed into a metaphor I’ve since used extensively in articulating my specific vantage to the phenomenon labeled digitalization.

In my view, the phenomenon captured by the fuzzy label of digitalization can be understood as a tree. The familiar “things” like Facebook, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, Google, internet-of-things, Amazon, platform economy, to name but a few, constitute the leaves and branches of the tree. Scrutinizing them yields increasing understanding about the diverse representations, however the entity of the tree cannot be understood only through its foliage. The tree has a trunk and roots.

In my dissertation, which I defended in November, I identified three roots of digitalization: datafication, digitizing and connectivity. Each of the roots go back in time, but it is only with the recent technological advances that they have converged in the trunk of digital infrastructures, making it possible for the tree to sprout such growth as we know evidence in its thriving leaves.

Put simply, the root of datafication means that entities with another form are given a data form existence. What started with the innovation of writing has evolved to include the sophisticated sensor technology that enables the datafication of the physical attributes of everything (weight, movement, sound, constitution – the details of the tiniest microbes and the vastests of stars). In addition, datafication includes also the traces of human-machine interaction: when you stop to read a post on Facebook, that mere pause becomes data even when you don’t “like” the post.

The second root of digitizing simply means that the data gleaned from entities of diverse types is made uniform, into binary digits of 0 and 1. In theory this means that any digital data can be processed through any digital device – however in practice we’re not there yet. Combined with the third root of connectivity, dating back to signal fires and homing pigeons, exponentially evolved with the invention of Internet and the advances in communication technologies, this means that again in theory, it could be possible to create a zone of convergence where all that is uniform data can be accessed through one entry point, by one or a number of agents. Currently we are seeing pockets of convergence, more familiarly referred to for example as the Apple or Google ecosystem, where everything that is happening within, is to an extent visible to certain agents orchestrating the ecosystem. In the near future, the battles between the expansions of these (overlapping) pockets of convergence are possibly some of the most prominent features in the realm of business.

But when we look at the trunk of digital infrastructures, it is no longer only the realm of business that is affected by digitalization. Like any infrastructures, the more they develop, the more dependent on them we become, and the more invisible they become. Few of us think that “now I am using a phone”, instead we’re just talking to a friend, checking the news, liking a comment or booking a ride. However, unlike the older infrastructures like electricity or plumbing, we don’t only use the digital infrastructures, but actively contribute to creating them with all our datafied, digitized and connected interactions with the digital devices and sensors. Our intentional and unintentional actions become the building blocks of the subsequent developments of the digital infrastructure – for better or for worse.

Just like the diffusion of electricity, digitalization is not dependent on any singular technological breakthrough – or the fate of any of its leaves or even branches. Once the humanity learned to harness electricity, no obstacles, technological or socio-political, could stand in the way of the development that led us to the electricity-dependent society we now live in. While I do not claim to be a prophet, it is immensely likely that digitalization will follow a similar path.

The nagging sentiment I was struggling with in the summer was that I felt that in IB, we are still seeing only the already grown branches and leaves, but do not yet conceive the depth of the potential changes emerging from the infrastructural level changes driven by datafication, digitizing and connectivity. Of course, the future is more (or less – or else) than a continuance of the past trajectories, and as such, always shrouded in mystery. However, as the possible impact of full convergence has the potential to transform not only our lay existence, or the realm of economics, but the very structures of our society on par with such game changers as the agricultural or industrial revolutions, taking a moment to envision a future where the current trajectories continue might not be a wasted effort even to the IB scholars.


D.Sc. Milla Wirén

Link to Milla’s thesis:

Strategizing in the new normal : implications of digitalization for strategizing and uncertainty : philosophical and managerial considerations

Birds of a feather flock together but rarely produce anything novel

Interdisciplinary co-operation is highlighted in the mission of Turku School of Economics stating: “We produce high-quality intellectual contributions drawing on discipline-based and interdisciplinary scholarship… “ What does it mean in praxis?

Interdisciplinary co-operation can be an eye-opener. I have learned much more about innovation diffusion in an old cemetery in Britain than in all the tens of innovation-related conferences I have been visiting. Best insights into customer journey and customer experience I have gained from doctors and experts in psychology and philosophy. Anthropologists have taught me more about methods than all those method-related articles from my own field.

This is not to undermine my own disciplines. On the contrary, I am very proud of Innovation Management and International Business and feel that they are very suitable for dealing with complex contemporary issues. However, understanding human behaviour entails studying complex networked intertwined dynamical systems. Consequently, research problems become more multifaceted and multidimensional – leading towards more complex research designs. This is where interdisciplinary research settings are required.

However, interdisciplinary projects can be difficult mountains to climb. Disciplines are steeped in decades or centuries old traditions and worldviews. Researchers are experts who have socialised habits that are hard to unlearn. Interdisciplinary communication is demanding and it entails a high risk of misunderstanding. Therefore, partner selection in interdisciplinary projects is extremely important. Good interdisciplinary partners are a scarce resource worth gold.

One of the most important capacities of a researcher is continuous curiosity. Interdisciplinary projects feed the curiosity by opening new worlds and discomfort zones – and that is where the Eureka moments are born. If you want nice, neat and safe progress with well-focused topics, interdisciplinary projects may not be your cup of tea. Then do not expect disruptive ideas either. If you are fine with learning constantly new things and connecting your ideas to even unconventional fields you are lucky; you may not have the clearest career path but I guarantee that you will certainly have much more gratifying moments while wandering along it!

Birgitta Sandberg
University Research Fellow


I write this short blog to share with you a few of my experiences as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, California, USA. My time at Stanford was rather short (3 months), but it was indeed intellectually invigorating! I came here during the summer quarter, which is a much more quiet time of the year in Stanford University just like in Finland. However, as a very large University as Stanford is, the place is always full of different types of seminars, conferences, executive training programs, and other activities. In fact, I seized the opportunity to also participate in some of these activities for free (once I showed my Stanford ID card).

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What should we take for granted?

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”

– Alfred Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911

It is one of the more undisputed facts of human and social sciences that we humans make most of our decisions unwittingly.  First of all, we make decisions we don’t even acknowledge as such – like which foot to put forward first, when walking towards the door. Secondly, even when we do bracket out a moment of our existence and identify ourselves as making a Decision, we are swayed by biases, heuristics, emotions, intuitions to a degree where the instant of deciding is more or less just retrospectively justifying to ourselves the outcome we had already reached. Continue reading

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