Access the publisher's website Journal of International Business Studies 46, 5 (2015) 505-527
Multinational corporations (MNCs) frequently use their foreign subsidiaries to identify new opportunities to access external knowledge. This article builds on the attention-based view to examine how selective attention – the focus on certain issues or answers at the exclusion of others – works in the global knowledge-sourcing process in MNCs. The results reveal an intriguing paradox: while MNCs may establish foreign subsidiaries far from headquarters to identify diverse, novel knowledge, and overcome local search, headquarters’ decision makers tend to favor opportunities that are market proven and simply confirm what the MNC already knows. Subsidiary managers’ pre-selling and selling efforts, however, can play a pivotal role in overcoming that bias. This study combines detailed qualitative data with access to a proprietary database on 137 external knowledge-sourcing opportunities in one of the world’s largest MNCs in the telecommunications sector.