Relational Ambidexterity and the Search for New Partners

Project: Research

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Firms often form alliances with new partners to maintain organizational viability. However, such endeavor is often constrained by its existing network relationships. This dilemma leads to the following question: How can firms offset the network constraints on new partner addition given that they are embedded in their current alliance networks? This study reconciles this dilemma from the perspective of relationship configuration at the alliance portfolio level. We propose a new concept of relational ambidexterity, defined as a balance between the number of rivals and collaborators in a firm’s alliance portfolio, and further draw on network pluralism literature to contend that relational ambidexterity helps firms offset network constraints, and encourages the addition of new partners. We also argue that the positive effect of relational ambidexterity on new partner addition is attenuated by firm-specific uncertainty, but amplified by market uncertainty. We plan to examine the above hypotheses using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative approach will help us better understand managers’ considerations behind the configuration of both rivals and collaborators in a firm’s alliance portfolio and the implications arising from it, while quantitative analyses in US. biopharmaceutical industry during 1990 and 2016 will help us examine our hypotheses in a large scale of representative sample firms. Our study will contribute to the literature on network constraint, network expansion, the interplay between cooperation and competition, as well as alliance portfolio management. Findings from this project will help firm managers to strategically configure their alliance portfolio for new partner addition and exploratory innovation.


Project number9043070
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/21 → …