Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coopetition as a Paradox: Integrative Approaches in a Multi-Company, Cross-Sector Partnership

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Organization Studies (forthcoming)

Coopetition is paradoxical in that the simultaneous cooperation and competition can give rise to important synergies as well as tensions. To circumvent these tensions, scholars primarily suggest structural, separation-centred strategies. Such strategies are helpful, but incomplete, as total separation would not allow exploitation of the synergies that coopetition may offer. Based on an in-depth case study of a pioneering multi-company, cross-sector partnership, we explore how employees cope with the remaining tensions.

Illustrating employees’ sense-making processes, the autghors show how they build on the organisational and the boundary-spanning task contexts and develop paradoxical frames. Juxtaposing the competitive and collaborative logics, these frames shape the employees’ understanding of who they are (i.e. a nested identity) and what they should do (i.e. contextual segmentation). This juxtaposition allows the employees to navigate emerging tensions by adopting both logics (i.e. integrating behaviour) and by contextually prioritising one logic without ignoring the other (i.e. demarcating behaviour). These insights complement structural strategies with integrative, employee-centred ones and highlight contextual factors that promote such an integrative approach.