The world of International Business scholars received the sad news over the weekend of the passing of one of our most respected elders – Professor John Dunning.
It is no understatement to say the John Dunning’s work lies at the very core of IB theorising and investigating. He was one of the first to explore the extent and influence of foreign direct investment (and thus multinational firms). Over decades he weaved together a coherent and insightful way of thinking about this FDI and the motivations of firms expanding in such a fashion.
These ideas have been labelled as the eclectic or OLI paradigm:
L – for Location (whereby differences between countries might making leveraging more or less valuable, or generate differing motivations for expansion)
I – for Internalisation (whereby firms find hierarchical governance of international operations more efficient than market mechanisms)
It is pretty uncommon for an academic article in the IB area to not cite at least one Dunning article.
John Dunning’s influence extended far beyond putting good ideas down on paper. He was an incredibly active public intellectual. In the 1970s he created one of the strongest and most influential IB departments in the world (at Reading University). He was a key player in encouraging and guiding United Nations research into international business. He simultaneously held academic positions on two continents. He was awarded honorary doctorates from numerous institutions, and in 2008 awarded an OBE, a very rare honour for an academic in the business domain. There is a recently released autobiography that was explicitly an attempt to inspire young IB scholars which will feature in my Book Club down the track I’m sure.
Most importantly, he was a global colleague for thousands of IB scholars. He was friendly and encouraging to experienced researchers and PhD students alike. He attended conferences into his 80s and was engaged and engaging throughout. I had the immense privilege to attend what was (sadly) his last presentation to the Academy of International Business in Milan last year. As always he was jovial, challenging and humble in presenting his ideas. He will be truly missed.
Much more eloquent and touching obituaries and reflections on Professor Dunning’s life will appear over the coming days and weeks. I will break with blogging protocol and use this post as a page to gather links to those that I think give a more rounded perspective on his life and influence. So please come back to read more: