Practical Implications, Limitations, and Further Research Potential
The findings of this study have practical implications. The findings illustrate how each of three modes of global talent flow contributes to innovation performance development. They also shed light on how China, as an example of an emerging economy, has been able to benefit from the different forms of global talent flow by applying a systematic approach over a relatively short period and by utilising knowledge and technology exploitation. Although China has never suffered from the traditional form of brain drain (migration of educated talent), it has actively implemented political measures to boost brain gain and reverse brain drain. This understanding is significant for the policymakers of countries who would like to follow the example of China, as well as that of Japan on stable political will and long-term planning (see Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). An understanding of the positive aspects of brain drain could provide practical tools for other emerging economies struggling with the negative aspects of global talent flow. The findings similarly highlight a need for cross-border cooperation on innovations among smaller countries, in order to compete against those with a wealth of talent and bountiful financial resources.
The findings of this study also allowed us to assess the development aspects of the innovation performance of China and offer some explanations for the rapid transformation of a single nation. These observations provide practical examples for policymakers of the benefits of long-term planning and political will. The study also sheds light on the cultural hurdles one country can face on its way towards the era of revolution.
This aspect suggests scholars might need to re-evaluate the managerial and pedagogical practices employed in their countries.
The current research also has practical implications for MNCs considering business opportunities and joint ventures in emerging countries. The findings highlight how, in line with the suggestions of Oorschot, Solli-Ssther, and Karlsen (2014), such organisations might face difficult trade-offs involved in collaborating with local organisations. Any collaboration involving technology and knowledge sharing could trigger knowledge leakage and espionage resulting in systematic knowledge and innovation exploitation by the local organisation. The risk appears to be particularly high in emerging markets with limited IPR protection legislation, as literature suggests (van Oorschot et al., 2014).
From the HRM perspective, literature of global talent flow has mostly focused on the expatriation, adaptation, and repatriation of organisation sent expatriates, which presents challenges both for the individuals and for the organisations (Nery-Kjerfve & McLean, 2012). However, there is little empirical evidence on how organisations could take advantage of the reverse brain drain of SIEs (Suutari & Brewster, 2000), for example. The mobility of such individuals might provide an alternative source of staffing with accordant substantial opportunities for contextual knowledge transfer. Studies over the career trajectories of SIEs in China (see e.g. Makkonen, 2015, 2016) indicate that the group could also provide a talent pool for local organisations looking for knowledge and skills in short supply locally.
The limitations of this study include that it focused on the different modes of global talent flow and how those appear during the different innovation phases in China from the western perspective. This monodimensional (focus on western perceptions and experiences) approach to research questions and findings is hence subjective, value-based and context-related, and thus offers only one aspect of the reality. Further empirical research on the topic in other contexts and perspectives would be welcome. Such empirical research could offer a more comprehensive understanding of the different forms of global talent flow and how those appear and why. For example, the perceptions of locals in China or in other emerging countries would no doubt offer a more complete picture of the issue and provide avenues for further research. Subjective experi?ences are also subject to biased opinions and therefore the findings cannot be generalised as such.
These subjective Western perceptions and interpretations of the outcomes of global talent flow phenomena do however signal potential reluctance for the future cooperative innovation performance development opportunities and could hence prevent or seriously hinder opportunities to achieve the ambitious innovation performance targets of China. This understanding together with existing literature provides some alternative explanations for the delayed appearance of an innovation revolution in China. Further empirical studies focused on that particular aspect would be welcome.