Public Release: 

Planning and improvisation actually play well together in export markets

American Marketing Association

Exporting is a popular way to enter an international market. But just how are export decisions made? In a rapidly changing economic environment, can exporting companies rely on improvisation? Or should they commit to carefully thought out and executed plans? According to a new study in the Journal of Marketing Research, companies need to do both, to plan as well as improvise, as there is no one "best way" for export managers to make decisions.

"That both planning and improvisation are needed may come as a surprise. Historically, observers have viewed planning and improvisation as opposite ends of a spectrum. What we show is that the two can be used together in export decision making to great effect," write the authors of the study, Ekaterina Nemkova (University of Nottingham), Anne L. Souchon (Longborough University), Paul Hughes (Durham University), and Milena Micevski (Longborough University).

To reach that conclusion, the authors conducted a preliminary study in which they interviewed eleven export decision-makers in UK firms. They then developed a conceptual model that yielded eleven hypotheses and tested those hypotheses with data from the British Exporters database. Finally, they conducted another round of interviews, this time interviewing export managers, who were asked to draw on their real-world business experience and comment on the authors' findings.

The authors found, among other things, that improvisation is very much relevant to exporting and is a prevalent method of decision-making. Even so, there is no one "best way" to make effective export decisions, as export planning and some facets of export improvisation can improve performance, but also detract from it.

"To maximize performance and any potential competitive advantages, export managers need to develop a balanced approach that lies somewhere between planning and improvised decision-making." Nemkova, Souchon, Hughes, and Micevski write.


Ekaterina Nemkova, Anne L. Souchon, Paul Hughes, and Milena Micevski. "Does Improvisation Help or Hinder Planning in Determining Export Success? Decision Theory Applied to Exporting." Forthcoming in the Journal of International Marketing. For more information, contact Ekaterina Nemkova or Mary-Ann Twist.

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