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Investigating the role of knowledge in alliance performance

Michael J. Gravier (Bryant University, Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA)
Wesley S. Randall (Auburn University College of Business, Auburn, Alhabama, USA)
David Strutton (University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to show that following from the premise that knowledge comprises the fundamental source of competitive advantage, this study provides results of a meta‐analysis that examines whether and how alliance performance is influenced by the role knowledge plays in a strategic alliance.


Meta‐analysis is employed as the driving methodology in this study. The meta‐analysis approach permits the literature on interfirm knowledge management to be reviewed and synthesized such that the role of knowledge in the alliance, environmental risk, and alliance performance can be thoroughly and validly investigated.


The findings suggest that the level of risk associated with the environment in which the alliance partners join forces does not moderate the relationship between the various “roles” of knowledge and alliance performance, whereas the magnitude and type of interfirm cohesiveness enjoyed or endured by the alliance participants does materially impact alliance performance. These performance differences suggest that – when the subject is alliance performance – knowledge management strategies matter more than environmental factors.

Research implications/limitations

The environmental uncertainty construct proved the biggest surprise, given conventional views that alliances should prove more effective in turbulent environments. However, implications are limited by observations that suggest the current alliance literature lacks well‐developed and corroborated knowledge and performance constructs. This, in turn, implies researchers should systematically assess the validity of extant knowledge and performance measures.

Practical implications

The observed positive relationship between increased levels of knowledge interchange, alliance cohesion, and alliance performance is a materially practical implication. This was especially true within industries that are inherently more dependent on vertical supplier or buyer relationships, such as manufacturing and services. Active interfirm knowledge management appears to contribute more to alliance performance than environmental factors.


This paper describes the first study to meta‐analyze the role and influence of knowledge constructs within the alliance literature. As such, the results empirically confirm some presumed conventional wisdoms while calling others into question.



Gravier, M.J., Randall, W.S. and Strutton, D. (2008), "Investigating the role of knowledge in alliance performance", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 117-130.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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