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Alliances as a strategy in volatile environments – also for MBA business models?

Competence Building and Leveraging in Interorganizational Relations

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1466-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-521-5

Publication date: 2 April 2008


The first part of this paper discusses why and how organizations join collaborative arrangements in transforming business sectors. In order to address this research question from an organization–environment co-evolution perspective, the authors begin with working out a respective framework for analysis founded on competence-based theory under the umbrella of market process theory. The starting of point of the investigation are results from comprehensive qualitative research conducted within the currently highly turbulent German healthcare sector. Embedded into an interactive research design, the fieldwork reveals a taxonomy of three reasons to cooperate in volatile environments: (1) closing resource and competence gaps in so-called “gap-closing alliances,” (2) preparing for unexpected developments in so-called “option networks,” and (3) intending to exert influence on the relevant business environment in so-called “steering alliances.” Detailed findings and particularities for the field of competence research are briefly summarized. They emanate especially from an evolutionary angle and include timing (reacting adequately to strategic windows in the market), historicity, path dependencies (on both the firm and market/industry level), and an evolutionary interpretation of resource/competence specificity.

The central research question in the second part of the paper is whether and how competence-based management of alliances is applicable to the education sector and for deriving respective management implications. For this reason, an exploratory case study is conducted of the German MBA program “Net Economy,” featuring innovative teaching methods like blended learning arrangements, multimedia case studies, and transnational learning processes in an international learning network.


Freiling, J., Gersch, M., Goeke, C. and Weber, P. (2008), "Alliances as a strategy in volatile environments – also for MBA business models?", Martens, R., Heene, A. and Sanchez, R. (Ed.) Competence Building and Leveraging in Interorganizational Relations (Advances in Applied Business Strategy, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-62.



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