This paper identifies two main dimensions – institutional diversity and dynamism – in the research stream that has substantively engaged with the important contribution of Jackson and Deeg (J Int Bus Stud 39(4):540–561, 2008). Taking into account their core criticism that institutional analysis in international business research is often de-contextualized, and building on these two dimensions, we present two possible paths for institutional analysis that are sensitive to context. The first is a methodological shift towards configurational analyses, and specifically the analysis of counterfactual scenarios that could reveal new information about decision alternatives. The second is a shift away from a focus on costs, and towards the possibility of MNEs building capabilities in an exploratory manner when confronted with institutional diversity. Both approaches build on an understanding of MNEs as strategic actors that co-evolve with their environments.