Creating the asset of foreignness: Schrödinger's cat and lessons from the Nissan revival

Jusuke J.J. Ikegami*, Martha Maznevski, Masataka Ota

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - This paper challenges the assumption in cross-cultural research of liability of foreignness (LOF). The literature review demonstrates that LOF comes from pressures for isomorphism, while asset of foreignness (AOF) can derive from the active process of breaking norms. The purpose of this paper is to explore how leaders can initiate and sustain AOF. Design/methodology/approach - The paper analyzes the case of the Nissan revival led by Carlos Ghosn and the impact in the years after. The analysis is based on the authors' interviews and discussions with Ghosn and senior leaders at Nissan and Renault, complemented with published interviews and assessments. Findings - Analysis confirmed the potential for AOF, and further uncovered four patterns of behavior that created AOF virtuous cycles among Nissan leaders: initiating trust, shaping identity, anchoring and transcending common language, and acting positively on ignorance. The virtuous cycles were sustainable and transformed into new global strategic perspectives. Research limitations/implications - The paper proposes a research model identifying moderators between foreignness and performance. Generalizability is limited by the focus on a single case study. Practical implications - The four sets of behaviors can serve as guides to action for leaders when working in foreign contexts. Originality/value - This research goes beneath the surface of a famous example to analyze leadership dynamics over time, and provides insight on positive aspects of foreignness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-77
Number of pages23
JournalCross Cultural and Strategic Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Asset of foreignness
  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Cross-cultural management
  • Global leadership
  • Inter-personal trust
  • Liability of foreignness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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