Relational Contracts and Organizational Capabilities
Organization Science, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2012 Last revised: 10 Aug 2012
Date Written: July 18, 2011
A large literature identifies unique organizational capabilities as a potent source of competitive advantage, yet our knowledge of why capabilities fail to diffuse more rapidly — particularly in situations in which competitors apparently have strong incentives to adopt them and a well developed understanding of how they work — remains incomplete. In this paper we suggest that competitively significant capabilities often rest on managerial practices that in turn rely on relational contracts (i.e., informal agreements sustained by the shadow of the future). We argue that one of the reasons these practices may be difficult to copy is that effective relational contracts must solve the twin problems of credibility and clarity, and that while credibility might in principle be instantly acquired, clarity may take time to develop and may interact with credibility in complex ways, so that relational contracts may often be difficult to build.
Keywords: Relational contracts, Organizational Capabiliy
JEL Classification: D2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation