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How commercial diplomats work : a qualitative study to gain insight into the way commercial diplomats shape their roles

Visser, Robin (2011) How commercial diplomats work : a qualitative study to gain insight into the way commercial diplomats shape their roles.

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Abstract:The field of commercial diplomacy is a promising one which provides numerous opportunities for further research. One strand that particularly stands out is the role of the commercial diplomat in the host country. The objective of this research is to expand the current body of knowledge on commercial diplomacy by empirically examining the role of the commercial diplomat in the host country as that is one of the theory’s core aspects. The following research question functions as the basis for this research: How do commercial diplomats providing support and facilitation to international business and entrepreneurship shape their roles as business promoters, civil servants and generalists? An inductive research model is developed which centers around Kostecki & Naray’s (2007) and Naray’s (2008) division of the commercial diplomat into business promoters, civil servants and generalists, indicating how elements of informal institutionalism and corporate entrepreneurship might shape the way a commercial diplomat adopts his/her role. By means of twenty-three semi-structured interviews with participants selected by non-probability self-selection of most-similar cases to increase the likelihood that the emergent theory of commercial diplomacy is enhanced, as well as an observational study to provide a background for the interviews, the following results are obtained: • Business promoters regard proactivity as the more important element of their job and employ methods such as representation at fairs and events, collaboration and contact with host country institutions and close contact with host country businesses to stay aware of opportunities for home country businesses. Due to an education in and a long history of experience with business, they place heavy emphasis on practical business skills rather than theoretical ones, the psychological component (knowing the people) being the most crucial one. Small though cultural differences between home and host countries may be, business promoters relate them to the importance of the existence of trade offices, their communication of these differences to home country businesses and the way they deal with host country businesses. • Civil servants are involved in commercial issues on a higher level than business promoters and recognize the importance of proactive behavior which is most commonly displayed on the institutional level, i.e. with ministries, trade unions and the like rather than the business level. Having varying educational backgrounds, civil servants are keen to mention practical skills over ones gained during education, though do not negate the importance of the latter. The civil servant sees cultural differences as being of utmost importance to his/her own adaptation to and functioning in the host country and in the locally employed team. • Generalists rarely deal with deal with commercial issues due to entering the field of career diplomacy at an early age and proactive efforts, when they do occur, can be identified to pertain to nation branding. Comparing these findings with the research model, the influence that elements that pertain to institutionalism have increases for higher levels of activity in the commercial sense, background being the most influential element. However, whether the elements found pertain to informal institutions remains uncertain. The commercial diplomat’s relationship with proactivity can be described along the lines of the influence that these informal institutions exert. In the research model, the ‘proactivity’ element pertains to commercial diplomats undertaking proactive efforts on the institutional level and the business level to increasing levels of involvement, both in a quantitative sense (meaning the actual time they spend pursuing said activities) and in a qualitative sense (meaning their view on its importance and their commitment to the cause). A review of the results’ impact on the three-style framework developed by Kostecki & Naray (2007) and Naray (2008) shows that the division into three styles holds. However, the outcome of this research suggests that the approach toward proactivity is the main determinant of the commercial diplomat’s role as it encompasses the aforementioned authors’ elements and provides deeper insight into a commercial diplomat’s role. Furthermore, elements such as the importance accredited to proactivity, the level at which it is pursued and the intensity with which it is pursued are more narrowly defined, and hence more measurable than the three styles as determined by Kostecki & Naray (2007) and Naray (2008). Several recommendations for further research are presented based on the results and their implications for the theory of commercial diplomacy. To strengthen the generalizations made in the conclusion, the same research is recommended to be carried out in other Western nations and in non-Western nations in order to see whether or not the conclusions hold in similar and dissimilar institutional environments. Furthermore, it is recommended that deductive research be executed to assess the link between informal institutionalism and commercial diplomacy as proposed in this research and to assess the success gained by businesses from proactive efforts. Several propositions are developed to guide future deductive research in this area.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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