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This study considers how decision-makers in smaller firms interpret the means and conditions of internationalization, and how different modes of interpretation are likely to inform action choices in this process. Drawing on 58 qualitative interviews with the leaders of Brazilian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the clothing industry located in the state of Paraná, the results support the contention that different understandings given to the means/conditions of internationalization are associated with different action choices. More specifically, the results indicate that: (a) interpretation changes the criteria and parameters by which rational choices on internationalization are made; (b) a comprehensive explanation of internationalization on the basis of situational characteristics is likely to be inconclusive without taking into account decision-makers' interpretations; (c) particular meanings given to internationalization are likely to inform choice in different ways, (d) managers act on the basis of their inter-subjectively negotiated, shared and sustained reality; and (e) investigative proximity with practitioners is pivotal in order to comprehensively account for their interpretations.
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