Cross-function and same-function alliances: How does alliance structure affect the behavior of partnering firms?
Firms collaborate to develop and deliver new products. These collaborations vary in terms of the similarity of the competencies that partnering firms bring to the alliance. In same-function alliances, partnering firms have similar competencies, whereas in cross-function alliances, partners have very different competencies. On examining managerś view of these alliances, we find that, on average, same-function alliances are expected to perform better than cross-function alliances, holding fixed the level of inputs. A game-theoretic analysis shows that this apprehension about cross-function alliances is consistent with a Pareto-inferior equilibrium. A Pareto-superior equilibrium, however, suggests that partners in cross-function alliances may invest more in their alliances than those in same-function alliances. It is also often believed that increasing the number of partnering firms is not conducive for collaborative effort. Our analysis shows that this belief is correct for same-function alliances, but not for cross-function alliances. We test these equilibrium predictions in an experiment where we exogenously vary the type of alliance and the number of partnering firms. The experimental results lend support for the Pareto-superior equilibrium. Partners in cross-function alliances invested more than their counterparts in same-function alliances, and this difference in investment levels increased with the number of partnering firms. We extend our model to consider alliances where firms have an opportunity to learn from their partners and later leverage this knowledge outside the scope of their alliance. Though such learning increases the resources committed by alliance partners in the learning phase, it decreases investment in the subsequent competition and also dampens the overall investment across the two stages. In addition, an increase in inter-alliance competition decreases investments in the focal alliance but increases investment in the competition outside the scope of the alliance. © 2010 INFORMS.
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