Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Management (Business)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Yadong Luo

Second Committee Member

John M. Mezias

Third Committee Member

Joseph Ganitsky

Fourth Committee Member

Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra


In this dissertation, I studied how emerging economy enterprises upgrade capabilities to lessen their competitive gaps in comparison with global industry leaders. By extending organizational learning theory, I theorized capability upgrading as a distinctive learning process including directional, temporal, and locational dimensions. In Essay One, I provided an overarching theoretical framework with testable propositions to explain how firms upgrade capabilities through a combination of four-I upgrading mechanisms. I then discussed the influences of emerging economy specific contingencies and dynamics in the process. In Essay Two and Essay Three, I extended and tested part of the framework developed in Essay One. Specifically, in Essay Two, I proposed a behavioral learning model to explain how upgrading directions (i.e., capability-deepening and capability-broadening) are determined by different knowledge gap filling needs and mediated by a distinctive learning mechanism (i.e., international benchmarking). The findings from a sample of 278 Chinese manufacturing firms supported related hypotheses. In Essay Three, I proposed an institutional ambidexterity learning model to explain how upgrading speed is affected by the dual effects (i.e., facilitating and hindering) of institutional change in emerging economies. I further explained how firms manage such dual effects by developing institutional ambidexterity capabilities. The findings from a sample of 674 large firms from 25 countries supported related hypotheses.


Capability Upgrading; Organizational Learning; Emerging Economy Enterprises; International Benchmarking; Institutional Change