Learning from age difference: Interorganizational learning and survival in Japanese foreign subsidiaries

Young Choon Kim, Jane W. Lu, Mooweon Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


This paper extends research on experiential learning of foreign subsidiaries by exploring the temporal conditions under which a foreign subsidiary can benefit from the experience of its sister subsidiaries. Building upon organizational evolution and learning literature, we propose that differences in entry timing among sister subsidiaries provide structural conditions that bound the opportunities for inter-subsidiary learning. We argue that different entry cohorts of sister subsidiaries are beneficial to a focal subsidiary, as they provide non-redundant, complementary experience from their different operational stages, and ignite the motivation to learn. Our empirical analysis of Japanese foreign subsidiaries provides strong evidence that survival is enhanced by the experience of different entry cohorts of sister subsidiaries, but not by that of similar cohorts. Qualitative evidence also shows that multiple channels of experience exchange across sister subsidiaries lead to actual learning. We further show that the survival benefit derived from different cohorts is contingent on the level of environmental change, as well as on the level of experience of the focal subsidiary and its parent firm. Our research highlights the importance of temporal heterogeneity in the internationalization process, and offers implications for the temporal strategy of multinational companies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-745
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ulf Andersson and three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback. We truly appreciate the cooperation of senior managers who shared their experience in our field interviews. We are also grateful to Jun Ito, Toshimitsu Ueta, Hu Tianyou, Gregory Dunn and Mary Ryan for their research assistance. This research was supported by the National University of Singapore Research Grants R-313-000-074-112/133 to Young-Choon Kim and R-313-000-088-112 to Jane W. Lu, and the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2010–330-B00100) to Mooweon Rhee.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning from age difference: Interorganizational learning and survival in Japanese foreign subsidiaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this