Export Decision-making Orientation: An Exploratory Study

Ekaterina Nemkova, Anne L. Souchon, Paul Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine two predominant export decision-making orientations emanating from normative and descriptive decision theory, namely planning and improvisation and their coexistence within exporting firms. In addition, contingencies under which one may be more appropriate than the other for optimal performance consequences are identified. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative study was conducted with UK exporters by way of in-depth interviews. The results were analyzed using within- and cross-case displays of in-vivo and literature-based codes, based on Miles and Huberman's recommendations. Findings: The study reveals widespread use of improvisation in export functions, and its co-existence with export planning for enhanced decision-making. In addition, resource- and capabilities-based moderators are identified that may affect the ways in which planning and improvisation are related to export performance. Research limitations/implications: This is a preliminary study which addresses the two export decision-making orientations together for the first time. Further quantitative research is needed to formally test the conceptual model developed. Practical implications: Export decision-makers often feel guilty about improvising, believing that planning is the accepted norm. Avoidance and covert use of improvisation, however, are not necessary. Indeed, export improvisation can have many positive consequences for the export function, especially when combined with export planning. Originality/value: Research on export decision-making has tended to focus on normative decision theory (from which planning emerges), largely overlooking descriptive approaches which identify improvisation as a valid decision-making orientation. However, in today's global and competitive environment, better performance consequences are increasingly to be found in the faster and more creative export decisions that improvisation can afford. This study addresses for the first time how benefits can be drawn from employing a combination of export planning and improvisation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Marketing Review
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)349-378
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Exports
  • Decision making
  • United Kingdom

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