Interfirm Networks: Theory, Strategy, and Behavior: Volume 17


Table of contents

(10 chapters)

No firm is an island. Decisions, actions, and outcomes of a firm are embedded in their relationships with suppliers, customers, competitors, downstream, and upstream firms. The formation and management of strategic alliances among firms within an interfirm network of firms inform awareness that a firm needs to develop a strategic stance explicitly of its contributions and the resulting outcomes of all participants within an interfirm network of firms.

The study here examines how business actors adapt to changes in networks by analyzing their perceptions or their network pictures. The study is exploratory or iterative in the sense that revisions occur to the research question, method, theory, and context as an integral part of the research process.

Changes within networks receive less research attention, although considerable research exists on explaining business network structures in different research traditions. This study analyzes changes in networks in terms of the industrial network approach. This approach sees networks as connected relationships between actors, where interdependent companies interact based on their sensemaking of their relevant network environment. The study develops a concept of network change as well as an operationalization for comparing perceptions of change, where the study introduces a template model of dottograms to systematically analyze differences in perceptions. The study then applies the model to analyze findings from a case study of Norwegian/Japanese seafood distribution, and the chapter provides a rich description of a complex system facing considerable pressure to change. In-depth personal interviews and cognitive mapping techniques are the main research tools applied, in addition to tracer studies and personal observation.

The dottogram method represents a valuable contribution to case study research as it enables systematic within-case and across-case analyses. A further theoretical contribution of the study is the suggestion that network change is about actors seeking to change their network position to gain access to resources. Thereby, the study also implies a close relationship between the concepts network position and the network change that has not been discussed within the network approach in great detail.

Another major contribution of the study is the analysis of the role that network pictures play in actors' efforts to change their network position. The study develops seven propositions in an attempt to describe the role of network pictures in network change. So far, the relevant literature discusses network pictures mainly as a theoretical concept. Finally, the chapter concludes with important implications for management practice.

The study this chapter reports focuses on how network theory contributes to the understanding of the internationalization process of SMEs and measures the effect of network capability on performance in international trade and has three research objectives.

The first objective of the study relates to providing new insights into the international market development activities through the application of a network perspective. The chapter reviews the international business literature to ascertain the development of thought, the research gaps, and the shortcomings. This review shows that the network perspective is a useful and popular theoretical domain that researchers can use to understand international activities, particularly of small, high technology, resource-constrained firms.

The second research objective is to gain a deeper understanding of network capability. This chapter presents a model for the impact of network capability on international performance by building on the emerging literature on the dynamic capabilities view of the firm. The model conceptualizes network capability in terms of network characteristics, network operation, and network resources. Network characteristics comprise strong and weak ties (operationalized as foreign-market entry modes), relational capability, and the level of trust between partners. Network operation focuses on network initiation, network coordination, and network learning capabilities. Network resources comprise network human-capital resources, synergy-sensitive resources (resource combinations within the network), and information sharing within the network.

The third research objective is to determine the impact of networking capability on the international performance of SMEs. The study analyzes 11 hypotheses through structural equations modeling using LISREL. The hypotheses relate to strong and weak ties, the relative strength of strong ties over weak ties, and each of the eight remaining constructs of networking capability in the study. The research conducts a cross-sectional study by using a sample of SMEs drawn from the telecommunications industry in Ireland.

The study supports the hypothesis that strong ties are more influential on international performance than weak ties. Similarly, network coordination and human-capital resources have a positive and significant association with international performance. Strong ties, weak ties, trust, network initiation, synergy-sensitive resources, relational capability, network learning, and information sharing do not have a significant association with international performance. The results of this study are strong (R2=0.63 for performance as the outcome) and provide a number of interesting insights into the relations between collaboration or networking capability and performance.

This study provides managers and policy makers with an improved understanding of the contingent effects of networks to highlight situations where networks might have limited, zero, or even negative effects on business outcomes. The study cautions against the tendency to interpret networks as universally beneficial to business development and performance outcomes.

Researchers continue to seek understanding of industrialization as a state managed process. How to create and implement new industries based on advanced knowledge is on the policy agenda of many advanced nations. Measures that promote these developments include national capacity building in science and technology, the formation of technology transfer systems, and the establishment of industrial clusters. What these templates often overlook is an analysis of use. This chapter aims to increase the understanding of the processes that embed new solutions in structures from an industrial network perspective. The chapter describes an empirical study of high-technology industrialization in Taiwan that the researcher conducts to this end. The study shows that the Taiwanese industrial model is oversimplified and omits several important factors in the development of new industries. This study bases its findings on the notions that resource combination occurs in different time and space, the new always builds on existing resource structures, and the users are important as active participants in development processes.

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Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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