Rethinking “insider” and “outsider” relationships in disaggregated, customeroriented organisations M.N. Ravishankar and Laurie Cohen Background Field studies in offshore outsourcing firms (Cohen and ElSawad, 2007; Ravishankar and Cohen, 2010; Ravishankar et al., 2011). Differing levels of maturity of qualitative research in Business & Management disciplines? (ex: IB and IS) Reporting of qualitative research in academic journals (ISR, MISQ, AMJ, SMJ, Org. Sci, Org. St, ASQ, JMS). The impact of globalisation on the framing and conduct of qualitative field studies. Insiders and Outsiders Insiders: researchers sharing a number of important characteristics with their informants (nationality, ethnicity, language, cultural frames). Greater practical familiarity with the research setting and context (Marschan-Piekarri and Welch, 2004; Karra and Phillips, 2008). Outsiders: researchers having relatively fewer characteristics in common with their informants. Lesser practical familiarity with the research setting and context. Insiders and Outsiders But we are always ‘outsiders’ when we embark on field studies! The distinctions between the two categories are also not always clear. What’s the big deal about ‘insiders’ anyway? Benefits of being an insider (Karra & Phillips, 2008) Ease of access Reduced resource requirements Establishing trust and rapport Language-based advantages Cultural intelligence Benefit of being an outsider (Jackson, 2006) Objective detachment from research site and informants Insider-Outsider distinctions are largely ignored in qualitative research Templetization of the qualitative methods section has severely obscured our ability to make sense of these distinctions and their consequences. Editors and reviewers favour ‘rigour’ over frankness. Technical descriptions of methods as evidence of authentic scholarship (we used nvivo; semistructured open-ended interviews). Insider-Outsider distinctions are largely ignored in qualitative research Very few report on how their insider-outsider statuses led them to certain types of answers. Our answers to the question ‘what is going on here?’ is often intimately connected to whether we are insiders or outsiders. We must recognise that there are sub-categories of insiders and outsiders (ex: the privileged insider). Globally disaggregated modern organisations Global focus North American and European clients HQ-subsidiary relationships (Frenkel, 2008) Corporate Cultures (Upadhya, 2009) Informants with social and cultural capital (Ravishankar et al., 2010) Globally disaggregated modern organisations Emphasis on English language (Cohen and El-Sawad, 2007) Extreme discourses of customercentricity Cultural homogeneity? Re-thinking insider-outsider perspectives in globally disaggregated firms Access The myth of insiders’ ease of access ‘High status’ outsiders v ‘Low status’ insiders When outsiders look like customers. Differential treatment of outsiders and insiders. The implications for research outcomes (Ex: Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat’; Capelli et al.’s (2010) article ‘The India way: Lessons for the US’). Re-thinking insider-outsider perspectives in globally disaggregated firms Language Neutralisation of insiders’ language advantage Informants refusal to speak in local languages Local languages as symbols of incompetence Re-thinking insider-outsider perspectives in globally disaggregated firms Cultural intelligence • Cultural intelligence can stop the insider from asking delicate and politically sensitive questions. • Limited cultural awareness can be a real blessing for outsiders. Re-thinking insider-outsider perspectives in globally disaggregated firms Trust and Rapport High-status outsiders may be able to strike a good rapport with senior managers, but struggle to ‘hit-it off’ with middle and junior level employees. How does this impact their framing of qualitative research projects? Do cultural explanations start too early? Some implications and questions Need for insiders to design creative strategies to access, collect and manage the qualitative research process in globalised organisations. When access to global firms depends to a great degree on our insider-outsider statuses, can we still hope to follow the important prescriptions of qualitative methodology text books? (for ex: Yin, 2003). The value of mixed teams. Some implications and questions Research methods sections need to reflect about the impact of insideroutsider statuses on the qualitative research processes. Who are low-status outsiders and highstatus insiders?