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Drivers of performance in a complex environment: Holonic approach and Italian business network contracts

Gianpaolo Basile (Department of Tourism Science, Universitas Mercatorum, Rome, Italy)
M. Simona Andreano (Universitas Mercatorum, Rome, Italy)
Laura Martiniello (Department of Tourism Science, Universitas Mercatorum, Rome, Italy)
Andrea Mazzitelli (Universitas Mercatorum, Rome, Italy)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 15 June 2019

Issue publication date: 13 July 2021




Paper aim is to analyse and consider the business network contract (BNC) as a model of voluntary holarchy in which the holons are isomorphically linked between them by means managerial chooses and laws to reach a communal and individual survival condition.


The Italian SME manufacturing firms signing a BNC are seen as holonic elements in an adaptive system. Data drawn from the Italian business register are analyzed to understand the driving factors of the firms’ adaptation and survival, by using descriptive, causality and analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistical techniques.


The main findings of the paper support the holonic approach by demonstrating that BNC are alliances based on strategic relations able to create synergies and increase performance. Empirical results suggest that “internal and external efficiency,” given by knowledge sharing practices and firms’ geographical proximity will positively influence BN firms’ productivity, although without resorting to investments (tangible or intangible).

Practical implications

BNC is an instrument able to introduce common rules and finalized isomorphic behaviors making firms acting as a holon with positive effects on performance.


This work enriches the existing literature by joining the systemic approach with the network theories and providing evidence of the suitability of the “holon” construct as the basis for a multi-level framework for the study of organizational networking.



Basile, G., Andreano, M.S., Martiniello, L. and Mazzitelli, A. (2021), "Drivers of performance in a complex environment: Holonic approach and Italian business network contracts", Kybernetes, Vol. 50 No. 7, pp. 2042-2059.



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