Trigger Strategies for Standard Diffusion in Interorganizational Networks: A Conceptual Model and Simulation

Trigger Strategies for Standard Diffusion in Interorganizational Networks: A Conceptual Model and Simulation

Daniel Fürstenau (Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany), Catherine Cleophas (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany) and Natalia Kliewer (Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/IJSR.2018070103


When establishing a new technological standard, multiple actors often have to build coalitions to overcome the inertia of the emergent collaboration network and to mobilize decisive levels of support. The authors suggest that the emergence of a standard in a networked field can be strategically influenced by focusing only on a subset of all actors. The study defined the choice of a specific set of standard-initializing organizations as the trigger strategy. A conceptual model was developed from interorganizational collaboration as a network comprised of a set of heterogeneous, interconnected nodes, qualified by their group membership and size. The authors employed network simulations identifying the value of different trigger strategies. Data on a network of airline collaboration was used to illustrate the model. Under most conditions considered, the study found a strong triggering potential of interrelated core cliques in comparison to other trigger strategies. The results suggest that this strategy should receive more attention in the future.
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Multiple actors are often involved in collective action when establishing a new standard1 (Hargrave and van de Ven, 2006). Collective action means that different actors come together to influence a standardization process in such a way that the result is in their interest. This is often the only option in interorganizational networks where hierarchical intervention is not possible (Powell, 1990; Provan, Fish, & Sydow, 2007). Collective action thus forms an intermediate level between the decisions of individual actors, in our study, organizations, which can or cannot adopt the standard, and the overall systemic level, in our study, the interorganizational network, at which the diffusion of the standard is reflected. When collective action stands at the beginning of a standardization process, it can be an initial impulse or trigger that sets a self-reinforcing process in motion (Arthur, 1989; Meyer & Schubert, 2007; Sydow, Windeler, Müller-Seitz, & Lange, 2012). For interorganizational networks, we conceive this process as a contagion process in which the new standard will spread in the network characterized by existing partnerships between organizations. Due to the heterogeneity of the actors and the diversity of their interests, it must be assumed that the spread of the standard from one partner to another has different thresholds.

Against this background, it is important to understand how collective action can be made as efficient as possible, so that a small or powerful group can help the standard to achieve scaling on a broad scale. Although a broad literature from economics and organizational theory deals with collective action problems, the strategic influencing of standardization processes is not yet fully understood. There is consensus that joint action may allow to “mobilize a collective despite resistance and inertia” (Garud and Karnøe 2001: 6). Furthermore, a large body of literature also stresses the importance of networks in the pursuit of collaborative interests (Gulati, Nohria, & Zaheer, 2000; Powell, 1990; Powell, Koput, & Smith-Doerr, 1996; Provan et al., 2007). Examples are strategic alliances (Dyer, Kale, & Singh, 2004; Reuer, 2004), partnerships for marketing (Gerlach, Cleophas, & Kliewer, 2013; Hu, Caldentey, & Vulcano, 2013), or new product development (Pavlou & El Sawy, 2011), as well as other forms of horizontal or vertical collaboration (Sydow, Windeler, Schubert, & Möllering, 2012). These interorganizational network structures not only open up but also foreclose viable development paths on the network level (Burger & Sydow, 2014; Schmidt & Braun, 2015). In particular, existing network structures are “pipes and prisms” (Podolny, 2001). They act as conduits to disseminate ideas and innovations (Galaskiewicz & Wasserman, 1989), but at the same time they reflect existing dependencies (Sundararaja, Provost, Oestreicher-Singer, & Aral, 2014). Thus, new standards must overcome the inertia and resistance of existing relationships so that collective activities can eventually succeed.

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