Social capital plays an important role in transforming knowledge within and across inter-firm business networks in industries. The purpose of this paper is to explore different kinds of transfer mechanism such as “bonding,” “bridging,” and “protecting” within a case network of the Danish offshore windmill industry. Its aim is to describe how these mechanisms interactively support value co-creation among the involved enterprises and how social capital, residing in the relationships between actors from the firms, is influenced by the different transfer mechanisms.
Based upon a single case study, the paper demonstrates “bonding,” “bridging,” and “protecting” as distinct, yet related, mechanisms for inter-firm business networking. The sample used covers selected key actors from the network as well as third-party experts from the Danish windmill industry, which together represent the most important knowledge-offering and knowledge-demanding domains.
Activities associated with “bridging” and “bonding” clearly matter for creating value for the business network and the industry alike, as they are supportive of strategic capability development (for instance, high-skilled work). While producers and supply companies apply such “bridging,” “bonding,” and additional “protecting” mechanisms based upon their predominant position, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), however, need to shape teams to do so. A major finding of the study is, thus, that team-based interrelationships among SMEs activate “bridging,” “bonding.” and “protecting” initiatives which are particularly supportive of capability improvement and industry growth. They enable the transfer of relevant capabilities between different projects where actors within SMEs organizations learn to activate and use such knowledge transfer mechanisms. Moreover, asymmetrical dependency-relationships can be partly overcome by shaping and using the mechanisms on the part of SMEs in the network.
To date, brokerage is still an under-explored topic with regard to inter-firm business networks. This case study contributes to the research by illustrating important and distinct qualitative aspects of brokerage, which are conceptualized as “bonding,” “bridging,” and “protecting” initiatives on the part of brokers. The study highlights that not only strong actors with central positions can step into the role as a broker. Even less resourceful actors within asymmetrical relations can act as broker and compensate a lack of resources or strengthen their position within the industry network. Consequently, value co-creating processes within industry networks can also be boosted by brokerage initiated by small companies.
Gretzinger, S. and Leick, B. (2017), "Brokerage-based value creation: the case of a Danish offshore business network", IMP Journal, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 353-375. https://doi.org/10.1108/IMP-02-2016-0004Download as .RIS
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