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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details

Tsinopoulos, C., Lages, L.F. & Sousa, C.M.P. (2014). Export experience counts: Exploring its effect on product design change. R&D Management 44(5): 450-465.

Author(s) from Durham


In this paper, we explore how managers' export experience can affect the change in product design following changes in perceived past performance. Using data from 519 Portuguese exporters, we find that performance improvement will encourage safe decision making in which firms either will not change the product design or will change it in a way that makes it more similar across the product range. However, when managers' export experience is greater, they encourage change in ways that could support product differentiation. The abilities of experienced managers to read the market, i.e. to interpret changes in performance and translate them into product specifications, help explain these findings. We contribute to the literature in two ways. First, we explore the relationship among past export performance change, product design, and managers' export experience. Second, we identify specific kinds of design changes that firms adopt in response to changes in different dimensions of organizational performance. Based on our findings, we would recommend to new product development managers to consider both managers' export experience and the dimension used to measure performance when evaluating calls for standardizing the design by export managers. Our findings suggest that such calls could be driven by short-term gains in export performance. Furthermore, we would also emphasize the need to routinely capture information from experienced export managers to ensure that it is considered in future decisions about design changes.