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The 24th EGOS Colloquium 2008  

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Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

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Roland Calori Prize

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Sub-theme 18:

Shocked by Alliances: How Interorganizational Collaboration Causes Disturbance at the Individual, Organization, Industry and Institutional Level



Paul W.L. Vlaar
Vrije University Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Dries Faems
KU Leuven (Belgium)

Maura Soekijad
Vrije University Amsterdam, Business Administration (The Netherlands)

Henk W. Volberda
RSM Erasmus University (The Netherlands)

Call for papers

Studies on alliances have been burgeoning for more than two decades. Most of these inquiries have focused primarily on the formation, structuring and performance of alliances, and their advantages, functions and positive consequences. However, alliances may also ‘shock’, ‘disturb’, or ‘unsettle’ individuals, organizations, industries and institutions. After all, they entail strong emotions, uncertainty, secrecy and discontinuity (De Rond & Bouchikhi, 2004), and they can have large effects on existing competitive landscapes (Van Haverbeke & Noorderhaven, 2001). Disturbing effects of alliances could, amongst others, be explained by adopting co-evolutionary theory, institutional theory, theories on learning, change and strategic renewal, and social exchange and psychology perspectives.

In this track, we focus on the disturbing effects of alliances on different levels of analysis. At the individual level, post-formation processes in alliances require closer examination. During these processes, professionals and knowledge workers are confronted with unclear expectations by others, potential threats to future career plans, and uncertainty regarding hierarchy, responsibilities and resources. Furthermore, they face the dilemma as to whether knowledge should be shared with alliance partners, and to what extent. Participants have to deal with issues of trust, openness, learning, discrepant motives, incompatible cultures, resistance to cooperation and undesired behaviour that may manifest itself during collaboration (Gray, 2004; Muthusamy and Whyte, 2005).

At the organizational level, existing structures, technologies, strategies, routines, and cultures may have to be adapted or abandoned to enable fruitful collaboration. This can lead to internal tensions, unproductive instabilities and collisions in alliances (Das & Teng, 2000). Small high-tech firms cooperating with large established companies, for instance, may be forced to shift from explorative to exploitative activities (Doz, 1988). Moreover, behavioural uncertainty associated with alliances can lead to serious disturbances in firm activities and suddenly vanishing opportunities for value appropriation. An example concerns the relationship between Microsoft and Sendo, which Sendo ended unilaterally just a few days before the planned delivery date of mobile phone handsets to six network operators (Suen, 2005).

At the industry level, alliances and the constellations in which they are embedded can change competitive landscapes (Van Haverbeke Noorderhaven, 2001). Cross-industry alliances may modify competitive games or even create new playing fields. Think of the alliance between Nike and Apple bringing the worlds of sports and music together, the alliance between Philips and Sara Lee in which forces have been joined forces to develop and market a new coffee system, or the alliance between UK supermarket chain Tesco's and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which led to blurring boundaries between financial services and retail sectors.

At the institutional level, national governments and legislators need to develop new regulations and practices to cope with novel and hybrid forms of organization. European governments, for instance, are increasingly implementing innovative programs to stimulate collaboration amongst universities, research centres and private companies. The 'Centrecontract-scheme' in Denmark, the 'IGT-Promotion of Joint Industrial Research Program' in Germany and the 'REGINN Program' in Norway offer a few examples.

Finally, an additional challenge is to combine the insights formed at several levels. Such a multilevel approach can provide us with a better understanding of the functioning and dynamics of alliances (Marchington & Vincent, 2004).

Research questions and topics, though not exclusively, include the following:

  • What are the disturbing effects of engaging in alliances for each of the levels of analysis distinguished (individual, organizational, industry, institutional)?
  • How do disturbances at different levels of analysis influence each other?
  • How do actors cope with these disturbing effects over time? What is the role of time (e.g., alliance capabilities, learning potential, absorptive capacity, evolution, and path dependency)?
  • Which methodological challenges are involved with research on the disturbing effects of alliances at different levels of analysis?
  • Which [combinations of] theoretical perspectives are most effective in explaining the disturbing effects of alliances?

We invite authors to submit empirical, methodological and conceptual contributions of high quality that delve into these research questions or explore related topics. Abstracts should provide a clear reflection of the outline and contribution of the full papers.

Key readings

Das, T.K. & B. Teng (2000): Instabilities of Strategic Alliances: An Internal Tensions Perspective. Organization Science, 11 (1), 77-101.

De Rond, M. & H. Bouchikhi (2004): On the Dialectics of Strategic Alliances. Organization Science, 15 (1): 56-69.

Doz, Y.L. (1988): Technology Partnerships between Larger and Smaller Firms: Some Critical Issues. In F.J. Contractor & P. Lorange (eds.): Cooperative Strategies in International Business. New York: Lexington Books.

Gray, B. (2004): Strong Opposition: Frame-based Resistance to Collaboration. Journal of Community and Applied Psychology, 14 (3): 166-176.

Marchington, M. & S. Vincent (2004): Analyzing the Influence of Institutional, Organizational and Interpersonal Forces in Shaping Inter-organizational Relations. Journal of Management Studies, 41 (6): 1029-1056.

Muthusamy, S.K. & M.A. Whyte (2005): Learning and Knowledge Transfer in Strategic Alliances: A Social Exchange View. Organization Studies, 26 (3): 415-441.

Suen, W.W. (2005): Non-cooperation: The Dark Side of Strategic Alliances. New York: Palgrave.

Van Haverbeke, W. & N.G. Noorderhaven (2001): Competition between Alliance Blocks: The Case of the RISC Microprocessor Technology. Organization Studies, 22: 1-32.

About the convenors

Paul W.L. Vlaar is Assistant Professor at VU University Amsterdam. His current research interests include intra- and interorganizational governance structures, management of interorganizational relationships, inter-firm contracting practices, and alliance capabilities. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in books published by Elsevier and Palgrave, and in journals such as Group and Organization Management and Organization Studies.

Dries Faems is a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Centre of Organisation Studies (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven). He became Doctor in Applied Economics (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) in 2006 with a thesis titled: 'Collaboration for Innovation: Processes of Governance and Learning in R&D Alliances'. He has published papers in journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Small Business Economics and International Journal of Human Resource Management. His current research focuses on governance processes in R&D alliances and performance implications of alliance portfolios.

Maura Soekijad is an Assistant Professor knowledge and organization in Business Administration at VU University Amsterdam. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on knowledge sharing professionals in coopetitive multiparty alliances and she is currently involved in research on innovation networks in the construction industry. Her publications include papers in Knowledge & Process Management and European Management Journal, and a book-chapter on coopetition in an edited volume by Routledge.

Henk W. Volberda is professor of Strategic Management & Business Policy, Chair of the Department of Strategic Management, and Vice Dean of the RSM Erasmus University. He is also director of the Erasmus Strategic Renewal Center and senior editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Business Studies and Long Range Planning, and member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Management Studies and Organization Science. His research on strategic renewal, strategic flexibility, co-evolution, knowledge flows and innovation has been published in, amongst others, Academy of Management Journal, Management Science, Journal of Management Studies, Long Range Planning, Organization Studies and Organization Science.