Navigating complex frontiers: International business travellers as global boundary spanners in MNEs

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Conroy, Kieran Michael
McDonnell, Anthony
Jooss, Stefan
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Academy of Management
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This paper explores how international business travellers (IBTs) enact global boundary spanning roles within multinational enterprises (MNEs). Incorporating a boundary spanning lens, and drawing on recent insights on the evolving nature of global mobility, we argue that IBTs represent distinctive yet valuable forms of hyper-mobility that current studies in international management have largely overlooked. We undertake a qualitative case study design and our findings demonstrate how, in acting as global boundary spanners, IBTs are confronted with unique challenges to other more traditional forms of global mobility. Specifically, we develop a framework that details how IBTs manage complexity across three interrelated boundaries - relational, knowledge and cultural. We find that in effectively navigating across these complex frontiers, IBTs are proactive in continuously developing and weaving new connections, tapping into and sharing diverse knowledge, and as well as confronting and overcoming recurrent cultural challenges. Our study addresses recent calls for greater cross-fertilisation of ideas between global strategy and global mobility and in doing so we argue that MNEs need to recognise and leverage IBTs as strategically valuable boundary spanners.
International business travellers , IBTs , Global boundary spanning , Multinational enterprises , MNEs
Conroy, K. M., McDonnell, A. and Jooss, S. (2020) 'Navigating complex frontiers: International business travellers as global boundary spanners in MNEs', Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2020, 7-11 August. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2020(1). doi: 10.5465/AMBPP.2020.52
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