Clearing a Path Through the Forest: A Meta - Review of Interorganizational Relationships

Journal of Management, Forthcoming

48 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2011

Date Written: August 8, 2011


Interorganizational relationships (IORs) encompass a broad array of collaborative exchanges, including strategic alliances, joint ventures, buyer-supplier agreements, licensing, co-branding, franchising, cross-sector partnerships, networks, trade associations, and consortia. Scholarly work in this area typically focuses on particular forms, which has made it difficult to build a holistic understanding of why organizations engage in these relationships. This paper summarizes the IOR literature by conducting a meta-review, a review of the reviews that have covered various IOR forms and theories. Through this approach, we highlight similarities and differences among forms and acknowledge perspectives grounded in organizational economics and organization theory. In line with March’s (1991) seminal framework, we identify two pure forms of interorganizational relationships, co-exploration and co-exploitation. Explicating these pure forms enables us to integrate different theories and reconcile the empirical reality that IORs, like firms, combine exploration and exploitation. We conclude by suggesting directions for future work, highlighting areas rich in potential.

Keywords: Cooperative strategy, strategic alliances/JVs, exploration/exploitation, franchising, sourcing strategies, patents and R&D strategies

Suggested Citation

Parmigiani, Anne E. and Rivera-Santos, Miguel, Clearing a Path Through the Forest: A Meta - Review of Interorganizational Relationships (August 8, 2011). Journal of Management, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Anne E. Parmigiani (Contact Author)

University of Oregon ( email )

1280 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

Miguel Rivera-Santos

Babson College ( email )

Babson Park, MA 02157
United States
781-239-5325 (Phone)

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