| 21.03.2024

Mastering improvisation is key for international expansion

Man and woman shaking hands in a meeting room
Firms with strong improvisational abilities are more likely to learn and succeed when entering new markets, a new study from Hanken School of Economics shows.

“Market disruptions, such as pandemics, energy crises, geopolitical tensions, inflations and supply chain shortages are creating obstacles for firms to enter new markets. Our study suggests that early internationalizing firms, equipped with dynamic improvisation capabilities, can learn and adapt more quickly than other start-up firms”, says Mika Gabrielsson, professor in marketing at Hanken School of Economics.

Mika Gabrielsson i en solig korridor med grönväxter
Professor Mika Gabrielsson

The study was conducted by Mika Gabrielsson, Sylvie Chetty (Uppsala University and University of Eastern Finland) and Peter Gabrielsson (University of Vaasa) and has been published in the Journal of World Business. It investigated nine firms from Finland and New Zealand and their five foreign market entries, totaling 45 market entries altogether. 

In the analysis, three dynamic improvisation capabilities were identified: to build, modify and extend operational improvisation capabilities. While the three most important operational improvisation capabilities were spontaneous, creative, and script.

Spontaneous operational improvisation involves out-of-the-box thinking, quick reactions to unexpected opportunities, and acting with little forethought. Creative operational improvisation entails the ability to develop innovative solutions, which requires openness to new market developments and the application of a practical approach, such as combining information with intuition. Lastly, script operational improvisation involves acting with purpose and determination, maintaining thoughtful focus, conducting analyses, and setting goals.

“Firms that succeed in building, modifying and extending the operational improvisation capabilities are the ones more likely to internationalize early”, Mika Gabrielsson concludes.

Link to the publication:
Chetty, S.; Gabrielsson, P.; Gabrielsson, M. (2024). “Dynamic improvisation capabilities as a learning mechanism in early internationalizing firms”, Journal of World Business, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2024.101531