Dynamics of Strategic Alliance Networks in the Global Information Sector, 1989-2000. (David Knoke, et al. University of Minnesota) (2002)



Researchers have extensively documented dramatic increases in the formation of strategic alliances among corporations to achieve a variety of purposes: to conduct ‘Research and Design’ projects, integrate products, penetrate new markets, formulate industry standards, undertake collective political actions. A complex macro-level structure emerging from their micro-level collaborations is the strategic alliance network, comprising subsets of firms within an organizational field that are interconnected by their repeated and overlapping partnerships through time. A strategic alliance network constitutes an opportunity structure that simultaneously facilitates and constrains the possibilities for field members to form new collaborative combinations. Network configurations also shape the outcomes of both alliances and their partnering organizations. As an organizational field evolves and institutionalizes, it develops stable positions, identified by clusters of firms that exhibit specially dense collaborative ties to one another, but sparser or nonexistent alliances with other organizational positions.


Our objective is to investigate dynamic structural changes in the strategic alliance networks of the global information sector (GIS) from 1989 to 2000, a period when this organizational field experience major transformations in technology and economic competition. This multi-industry sector encompasses the 145 largest North American, European, and Asian firms that either manufacture equipment (semiconductors; computers; peripheral devices) or create, distribute, and provide access to diverse informational content (satellite, wire, cellular, and pager telecommunications; software and database publishing; newspaper and magazine publishing; motion pictures, video and sound recording; radio, television, and cable-casting). Analyzing data on 3,571 strategic alliance announcements, we examine changes occurring at both macro- and micro-levels over the twelve years.


Time trends reveal that accelerating rates of alliance formation resulted in increasing numbers of new alliances across the twelve years, with mean organizational centralization peaking in the mid-1990s. Among the 30 most-active firms, structural differentiation increased across three years spanning the 1990s, with smaller, more specialized clusters emerging. By 2000, the Japanese companies had substantially concentrated their new alliance agreements among themselves, contradicting the globalization hypothesis that information organizations would create a stable alliance network structure consisting of a core block occupied by corporations from different nations. Our dynamic models of network evolution across the three years revealed that the 30 core companies chose alliance partners that increased two structural properties. Organizations sought new connections with organizations that had direct and indirect ties resembling their own alliance propensities. At the macro-level, these changing ties among the core global information sector firms generated a more differentiated strategic alliance network, one exhibiting greater structural balance and extensive.




Q1: What are the key hypotheses?


Q2: What are the problem(s)/questions being posed?


Q3: In what way do the researchers answers agree with or contradict the starting hypotheses?


Q4: How might the results challenge Marx’s theses about tendencies of capitalism towards monopoly?


Q5: What implications might their conclusions have for developing a theory of power?