Photo of a speaking Masaaki Kotabe superimposed over a globe graphic
Masaaki Kotabe, Ph.D. brings international business perspective, expertise to Bryant
Dec 01, 2021, by Sarah Garnsey
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Masaaki ‘Mike’ Kotabe, Ph.D., was at Bryant University October 31 – November 2 as the most recent Grant Thornton Visiting Executive, speaking to students and meeting with Bryant faculty and leadership representatives.

Kotabe is recognized internationally as one of the most prolific and influential researchers in international business, marketing and strategic management today. He served as President to the Academy of International Business (AIB), Fellow of AIB, Advisor to United Nations, WTO Executive Forum on International Export Strategies. Kotabe also served editorial position and editorial boards for premier International Business and Marketing Journals. His keynote was titled “Stark Contrasts in US-Japan Global Supply Chain Management During the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

His Monday November 1 plenary session highlighted the significant differences between the US and Japanese philosophies and approaches to business, framed in the context of both the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020-21.

To a full-capacity audience of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, administration and staff, he cited vivid and specific examples of the differences in how U.S. and Japanese companies set their priorities.

“What a privilege to welcome such an esteemed scholar to Bryant University,” said Crystal Jiang, Bryant University Professor of Management, who worked under Dr. Kotabe's supervision for her doctoral program, and co-authored manuscripts with him. “We’re very fortunate to have him mentor our faculty about how to publish in top tier journals and share global perspective and insight with our students.”

By sharing several examples, Kotabe illustrated how American firms tend to focus more narrowly on what he called “efficiency,” with a concentration on shareholders’ value creation, and Japanese firms being more concerned with “effectiveness,” by meeting their explicit and implicit obligations to a broader set of stakeholders, including customers, employees, and the societies in which they operate.

Not surprisingly, U.S. companies, he related, have performed better financially over time. He declined to make a judgment about which was the “better” approach, but quipped, “If you’re an investor, buy American stocks; if you’re a customer, buy Japanese products.”

He spent time at Bryant with faculty members, including a round table discussion about how to publish in top tier IB journals and a presentation about how to build a research career in international business.

The traditional view of IB research, he said, is examining an international dimension of a functional area of business: accounting, marketing, law, operational management and more. The emerging view centers around “issue-oriented” research that transcends national boundaries. Using the metaphor of a kaleidoscope, Kotabe recommended that shifting the lens slightly when looking at a topic can often yield an entirely new view that is worth exploring through research.

In his own case, Kotabe said, it was a talk given by the late CEO of General Motors Lee Iacocca that inspired his own Ph.D. dissertation. Iacocca talked about “sourcing,” a term that didn’t have a generally accepted academic definition at the time. Kotabe set about researching the subject, and – thousands of magazine and newspaper articles later – began to organize the vague concept around a framework: Global sourcing described the management of the interfaces between manufacturing, marketing, R&D, and other business functions. He shared criteria for good research and strategies to expand the product life cycle of research with vivid examples. His advice on building visibility in the broader community was well received by faculty.

The Visiting Executive Program at Bryant is sponsored by leading independent tax, audit and advisory firm Grant Thornton. Jason Eddy ’02, who is Managing Director of the National Employee Benefit Plan Practice there, introduced Kotabe’s keynote.

“Grant Thornton is dedicated to helping communities and people to grow, develop, and unlock their potential,” Eddy later said of the program. “We appreciate being able to help members of the Bryant community connect with diverse new perspectives and deep expertise such as those offered by Dr. Kotabe.

About Masaake Kotabe, Ph.D.

Kotabe holds a joint appointment at School of Commerce, Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan and at the Shidler College of Business at University of Hawaii at Manoa in the United States.  Previously, he held the Washburn Chair Professorship at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in 1998-2021, and the Ambassador Edward Clark Centennial Endowed Fellow and Professorship in Marketing and International Business at the University of Texas at Austin in 1990-98. Dr. Kotabe also served as President of the Academy of International Business in 2016-17.

He received his Ph.D. in Marketing and International Business at Michigan State University. He has taught international marketing and global sourcing strategy at the undergraduate and MBA levels, and theories of international business at the Ph.D. level, among others. Kotabe has lectured widely at business schools in more than 20 countries.

For his research, Kotabe has worked closely with leading companies such as AT&T, Kohler, NEC, Nissan, Philips, Sony, and others, and has served as advisor to the United Nations’ and World Trade Organization’s Executive Forum on National Export Strategies. With more than 150 books and scholarly publications, he has well over 20,000 Google Scholar citations, and has held editorial and editorial board posts at several different industry publications.

Kotabe was elected a Fellow of the Academy of International Business in 1998 and a Fellow of the Japan Academy of International Business Studies in 2017. He was the recipient of the 2002 Musser Award for Excellence in Research at Temple University, and most recently, he received a Gold Medalist award from the Academy of International Business as one of the most published researchers in the world over the past 50 years in the Journal of International Business Studies in 2019.

About the GTVE at Bryant

A Visiting Executive is a senior-level executive or consultant whose experience, knowledge and skills – through a strategic set of engagement opportunities over a two-day campus visit – significantly contributes to the expansion of knowledge and success of key stakeholders at the University’s College of Business. The program is sponsored by accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton, which has a longstanding partnership with Bryant University.

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