Revisit: Capabilities, Relationships, Networks


Business Capabilities, Relationships and Networks, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Oct 2015



Call for Papers

“Business Capabilities, Relationships and Networks”

Rationale and aims:

This special issue explores perspectives on organizational capabilities aimed at handling business relationships and the wider business network. As such, it focuses on intra-organizational structures relating to inter-organizational aspects of embeddedness. While existing business research widely accepts collaborative relationships as a lever for company performance, understanding focal company resource configurations and resulting behaviors in business networks has been somewhat under-researched and mainly covered via descriptive case studies. A limited focus in these studies is on concrete routines and processes that enable companies to maneuver within inter-company relationships. The link between intra-organizational processes and inter-organizational phenomena remains therefore an important avenue for further research on business relationships and networks. Management research has highlighted the dynamic capabilities view (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997) as an effective approach to benefit from business relationships and networks (Kale, Dyer, & Singh, 2002; Kale & Singh, 2007; McGrath & O’Toole, 2013; Mitrega, Forkmann, Ramos, & Henneberg, 2012; Möller & Svahn, 2003; Ritter, Wilkinson, & Johnston, 2002; Walter, Auer, & Ritter, 2006). However, this growing body of research is fragmented, thus, there exists space for further research providing insights about network- and relationship-related capabilities of firms.

For the purposes of this special issue, and in line with Eisenhardt & Martin (2000), we define ‘capabilities’ as the organizational and strategic processes by which managers alter their resource base in order to seek new sources of competitive advantage. Thus, company capabilities may be oriented at various competitive objectives such as: new product development, superior manufacturing technology, lean and agile supply management, effective internationalization, etc. Inter-firm partnering may be helpful in achieving all of these competitive objectives through resource transfers and inter-company synergies (Dyer & Hatch, 2006; Dyer & Singh, 1998), however, it is not clear what kind of micro and macro organizational routines should be designed and implemented by managers to orient their companies to systematically and fully exploit inter-company relationships as well as networks as the lever to achieving these competitive advantages. Therefore, we call for both conceptual and empirical studies covering this phenomenon. Papers may include exploratory and confirmatory approaches and apply qualitative and/or quantitative methods. All submitted papers must be rigorous in methodological terms and address the current body of knowledge on the phenomena under investigation.

Relevant topics for the special issue include, but are not limited to:

    Macro and micro building blocks of organizational capabilities devoted to inter-company partnering. Prior research in this area provided a general picture of company routines devoted to alliances and business networks (Mitrega, Forkmann, Ramos, & Henneberg, 2012; Walter, Auer, & Ritter, 2006). However, more detail in this area is needed as existing research does not suggest concrete processes and routines. Submitted papers may examine the nature of such concrete processes, different performance-related results of these processes and the interplay between them.

    The role and position of alliance manager/alliance department within the company and within external relationships. Prior research illustrated that dedicating a position to coordinate all alliance- and relationship-related activities within the firm may be helpful in business partnering (Kale & Singh, 2007; Lichtenthaler & Lichtenthaler, 2004), but our knowledge about the multiple roles performed by such relationship managers and their relations with other departments is very limited. We call for papers that will provide insights into the role and position of alliance and relationship managers/departments within the structure of the focal company and in relationships with external partners (e.g. suppliers, channel partners and key customers).

    Organizational capabilities devoted to manage instabilities and ambiguity in business relationships and networks. Business relationships and networks are rather turbulent phenomena and cannot be fully controlled by a focal company (Ford, Gadde, Hakansson, & Snehota, 2003). Recently, the management literature began addressing this issue from different angles such us: ending competence (Havila & Medlin, 2012; Ritter & Geersbro, 2011), developing partners (Wagner, 2006) and dynamic networking capabilities (Mitrega, et al., 2012). Submitted papers may explore company capabilities that deal with the changing nature of inter-company relationships, especially managing relationship problems including conflicts and misalignments, relationship opportunity costs and fading relational rents.

    Relationship-dedicated vs. network-dedicated capabilities. From the theoretical and practical perspective, capabilities devoted to B2B partnering may be implemented in various ways. For example, such capabilities may be dedicated to single strategic alliances and help the focal company to exploit this alliance, including mitigating disturbances. However, such capabilities may be also be devoted to the overall relationship portfolio management to diversify relationship benefits and risks among direct relationships of the focal company (Capaldo, 2007; Lavie, 2007; Mitrega, et al., 2012). Furthermore, a company may develop and implement practices and representations (i.e. cognitive tools such as network pictures) to strategize within the whole industrial network that surrounds it, including both direct and indirect partners (Hakansson & Ford, 2002; Henneberg, Mouzas, & Naudé, 2006; Thornton, Henneberg, & Naudé, 2014). Submitted papers may address how different capabilities aimed at different relationships interact and what their relative importance from the perspective of the focal company is.

    Context-specific relational and network capabilities. From a contingency perspective the network management tasks differ with regard to the network type in which a company is embedded (Järvensivu & Möller, 2009). Our knowledge is weak with regard to institutional influences (e.g. national cultures or regulatory systems) on the nature of companies’ relational capabilities. Prior studies of national culture clusters (e. g. House & Leadership, 2004) suggest that in certain cultures such capabilities tend to have rather personal character, e.g. ‘guanxi’ in China and ‘blat’ in Russia (Gu, Hung, & Tse, 2008; Michailova & Worm, 2003). Therefore, this special issue invites studies exploring relational capabilities adapted to specific company, country or industry features.

Editorial team:

      Maciej Mitr?ga, Associate Professor, Department of Marketing and Market Research, University of Economics in Katowice, Poland []

      Sebastian Forkmann, Assistant Professor, Business Ecosystems Research Group, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, UK []

      Stephan Henneberg, Chair Professor of Marketing and Strategy, Director Business Ecosystems Research Group, School of Business and Management | Queen Mary University of London []

Important dates:

The deadline for special issue papers submission is October 1, 2015.

To instigate interest in the topic, we will organize a special session/track at the 7th International Conference on Business Market Management (BMM 2015) devoted to Capabilities, Relationships and Networks in August 2015 in London (at Queen Mary University of London). We also plan to organize a special session devoted to this topic as part of the annual IMP conference in September 2015. The best papers presented at these sessions will be invited for the special issue submission, and will complement the general submissions based on the CFP.

Submission procedure

All submissions will be through the journal’s editorial web site:  Please go to the site, register as an author and submit the paper as the site will instruct you. During the submission process you will be asked to indicate of this is a regular submission or for a special issue.  Indicate special issue and a drop down menu will enable you to select “Business Capabilities, Relationships and Networks” as the appropriate special issue.



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Michailova, S., & Worm, V. (2003). Personal Networking in Russia and China::: Blat and Guanxi. European management journal, 21(4), 509-519.

Mitrega, M., Forkmann, S., Ramos, C., & Henneberg, S. C. (2012). Networking capability in business relationships—Concept and scale development. Industrial Marketing Management, 41(5), 739-751.

Möller, K., & Svahn, S. (2003). Managing strategic nets: A capability perspective. Marketing Theory, 3(2), 201-226.

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Ritter, T., Wilkinson, I. F., & Johnston, W. J. (2002). Measuring network competence: some international evidence. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 17(2/3), 119-138.

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Thornton, S. C., Henneberg, S. C., & Naudé, P. (2014). Conceptualizing and validating organizational networking as a second-order formative construct. Industrial Marketing Management, in press.

Wagner, S. M. (2006). A firm’s responses to deficient suppliers and competitive advantage. Journal of Business Research, 59(6), 686.

Walter, A., Auer, M., & Ritter, T. (2006). The impact of network capabilities and entrepreneurial orientation on university spin-off performance. Journal of Business Venturing, 21(4), 541-567.