Bridging What We Know: The Effect of Cognitive Distance on Knowledge-intensive Business Services Produced Offshore

Michael J. Mol, Kristin Brandl

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The rise of offshoring of knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS), causing a physical separation between clients and service providers in co-created services, is a major trend in practice but challenges existing theories. International business literature has addressed many types of distance that may affect (service) offshoring, such as cultural or geographic distance. However, limited emphasis has been placed on the implications of differing cognitions of individuals that produce a cognitive distance (CD). We address this gap and ask how increased CD through offshoring affects KIBS production processes. This conceptual paper focuses on how CD interacts with the modularity of different process stages in service production and what effect CD has on repeated production processes. In order to do so we first predict what stages of KIBS production processes can be offshored and what implications offshoring has on these services. We contribute to literature by deepening the understanding of CD and providing a process perspective on KIBS offshoring that looks at modularity within services, rather than firms as bundles of modular production, and on the impact repeated production processes have on service characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Business Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)669-677
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Cognitive distance
  • Knowledge-intensive business services
  • Offshoring
  • Service modularity

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