Interfirm network structure and firm resources: Towards a unifying concept
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PURPOSE: The objective of this paper is to propose a concept of network resource distribution that systematically unifies the resource-based and network-based perspectives on interfirm networks and enables integrated analysis of how firm resources and network structure interact to affect firm performance. METHODOLOGY: This conceptual paper first reviews the extant literature on interfirm networks and then develops the unifying concept of network resource distribution. FINDINGS: The literature review indicates that strategy scholars have long sought to integrate the resource-based view and the social network explanations of firm performance but, thus far, only a partial integration has been achieved. In particular, studies on the resource-level heterogeneity of interfirm networks have largely been limited to the analysis of firm dyads. How firm resources and network structure beyond the immediate network partners interact to affect firm performance has not yet been adequately addressed. The proposed unified concept of network resource distribution systematizes prior research and illuminates how network structure and firm resources interact to affect firm performance beyond the immediate network partners. IMPLICATIONS FOR THEORY AND PRACTICE: For theory, this paper highlights gaps in the extant literature on interfirm networks and proposes a unifying concept that can be utilized to address these gaps and to develop further theory in the area. For practice, this paper encourages managers not to limit their analyses of strategic alliances to immediate partnerships; it is also crucial to consider the partners and their resources, and reflect on how they are related to one another outside of the immediate partnership portfolio. ORIGINALITY AND VALUE: Network resource distribution is a novel concept that ties together and systematizes various strands of research on interfirm networks, thus providing a foundation for future research in the area. The concept is also amenable to detailed operationalization, facilitating subsequent quantitative testing of theoretical arguments combining firm resources and the structure of a network.
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