HOW TO INNOVATE WITH A COMPETITOR?

HOW TO INNOVATE WITH A COMPETITOR?
THE ROLE OF AMBIDEXTERITY AS A STRATEGIC DYNAMIC CAPABILITY
Anne-Sophie FERNANDEZ*, Saïd YAMI** & Fiona JI***
*MRM-ERFI, University of Montpellier 1
Espace Richter, Rue Vendémiaire, Bât. B, CS 19519 – 34960 Montpellier Cedex – France
[email protected]
***MRM-ERFI, University of Montpellier 1 and EUROMED Management
Espace Richter, Rue Vendémiaire, Bât. B, CS 19519 – 34960 Montpellier Cedex – France
[email protected]
** Ohio University
Department of Management, College of Business, Athens, OH 45701 – USA
[email protected]
Abstract
Previous research acknowledges the benefits of coopetition for innovation processes.
However, the question of how to implement coopetitive strategies remains unexplored. In
particular, tensions from coopetition need to be effectively managed since they constitute a
high risk for the innovation process. Upon the concepts of coopetition and ambidexterity, we
propose a theoretical framework in order to understand how coopetition programs can achieve
innovation performance. Through a multi-level qualitative study, we investigate two
European space innovation programs conducted by two main competitors: Astrium (EADS
group) and Thales Alenia Space (Thales group).
Our results show that innovation performance requests the development of ambidextrous
capabilities at the organizational level to achieve a balance of exploration and exploitation
processes. At the team level, project managers develop such capabilities while team members
focus on exploration or exploitation.
Key words: dynamic capabilities, innovation, ambidexterity, coopetition
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HOW TO INNOVATE WITH A COMPETITOR?
THE ROLE OF AMBIDEXTERITY AS A STRATEGIC DYNAMIC CAPABILITY
Introduction
Coopetition strategies1 are becoming strategic standards in complex and dynamic
environments in which knowledge constitutes the core of competitiveness (Carayannis &
Alexander, 1999) such as in high-tech industries (Gnyawali et al., 2008). Gnyawali and Park
(2009) explain the spread of coopetition strategies by specific characteristics of high-tech
industries: product life cycle shortening, technological convergence and the intensity of R&D
costs. First, the success of launching new products depends on speed to market (Lynn &
Arkgün, 1998). Thanks to coopetition, firms have quick access to the essential information
and technologies for new product development. Coopetition helps firms to increase the speed
to market of their new technologies (Gnyawali et al., 2006). Second, the technological
convergence, defined as “the presence of a vast array of different types of technologies to
perform similar tasks and the trend of technologies to merge into new technologies that bring
together a myriad of media” (Gnyawali & Park, 2009, p. 315), creates opportunities to set up
technological standards within the industry (Gomes-Casseres, 1994; Shapiro & Varian, 1999).
Finally, coopetition allows firms to reduce their R&D expenses. Both radical and incremental
innovations in high-tech industries are costly. Through coopetition, focal paired firms pool
financial and other resources in order to benefit from partner’s expertise to develop more
ambitious innovation programs. Therefore, current development of such strategies in hightech industries challenges the traditional understanding on complementary partnerships of
cooperative relationships.
By combining the advantages of the two opposite dimensions –i.e. collaboration and
competition–, firms are more likely to reach a better level of performance than in a single
dimension (collaboration or competition). The adoption and the implementation of a
coopetition strategy is a source of a better long-term performance as stated by Czakon (2007,
p. 2): “coopetition as a strategy designed and implemented to achieve a better performance
levels and ultimately above average profitability in the long term through cooperation with a
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While Brandenburger and Nalebuff (1996) adopt a broad definition of the concept, other scholars (e.g.
Gnyawali & Park, 2011, Bengtsson & Kock, 2000) define coopetition more narrowly with a focus on dyadic
interplay between two firms that compete and cooperate with each other simultaneously. For a deeper
understanding of the phenomenon, we adopt in this reflection a narrow approach of coopetition which is “a
simultaneous pursuit of collaboration and competition between a pair of firms” (Gnyawali & Park, 2011, p. 51).
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firm’s competitors”. Thus, coopetition appears as a source of value creation (Brandenburger
& Nalebuff, 1996), encourages organizational learning (Bengtsson & Solvell, 2004) and
enhances innovation processes (Gnyawali et al., 2008; Ritala et al., 2009). Studies also show
the positive relationship between coopetition and firm performance (Grangsjo, 2003; Ritala &
Humerlina-Laukkanen, 2009). However, both conceptual and empirical studies are still
lacking regarding the impact of coopetition on innovation performance. Therefore, our
objective here is to propose a theoretical framework for further empirical testing. We argue
that a better understanding is required on mechanism under which coopetition leads to
innovation performance.
Due to the combination of two opposites (Gnyawali et al, 2008; Gnyawali & Park, 2011;
Bengtsson & Kock, 2000), coopetition is a relationship filled with tensions. It entails multiple
opposing elements and dualities (Clarke-Hill, Li & Davies, 2003). The existence of multiple
tensions partly explains the instability of alliances (Das & Teng, 2000) and can thus inhibit
innovation performance. Coopetitive tensions need to be managed in order to ensure the
success of the implementation of the relationship (Child & Faulkner, 1998). Coopetitive
tensions are multilevel and multidimensional (Padula & Dagnino, 2007). When the purpose of
coopetition is a common innovation, organizational tensions are critical. During the
implementation of coopetition, several dilemmas appear. A first dilemma between sharing
and protecting strategic resources results from coopetition (Oliver, 2004). Firms need to pool
their key resources in order to create new ones while protecting their idiosyncrasy from their
main competitor. In the following section, we focus on the tension derived from a balance of
exploitation and exploration, which leads to innovation performance.
Our study questions how two competitors can manage tensions in coopetitive innovation
programs. A theoretical framework based on the concept of ambidexterity, viewed as a
dynamic capability (Teece et al., 1997; Helfat et al, 2007; Teece, 2007), is developed in order
to investigate the mechanisms under which coopetition can lead to innovation performance.
Two innovative programs, initiated by the two main competitors Astrium (EADS group) and
Thales Alenia Space (Thales group) are in-depth studied.
The results show that innovation performance requests to manage exploration and
exploitation between competitors, through an ambidextrous capability, defined as firms’
capabilities to simultaneous pursue exploitation and exploration of knowledge, competencies
and technologies (Gupta, Smith & Shalley, 2006; March, 1991; Lavie, Stettner & Tushman,
2010). To build such ambidextrous capability, the partners invest in constructing duality
management and learning dynamics to effectively manage tensions.
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We present in a first section our theoretical framework which we articulate around three main
points dealing, on the one hand, with the tension derived from the exploration / exploitation
dilemma; secondly, the management of the exploration / exploitation tension through dynamic
capabilities; and thirdly, ambidexterity as a key dynamic capability to manage coopetitive
tensions. In a second section, we develop methodological elements through the research
design and a brief presentation of our studied cases. The third section is dedicated to the
results and the fourth section to discussion elements and conclusion.
1. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
1.1. Exploration / exploitation tension in coopetition
Scholars suggested coopetition strategy as being critical for firm performance (Yami,
Castaldo, Dagnino & Le Roy, 2010). In coopetition, firms have to deal with one major
dilemma related with the management of learning capabilities. Should they develop the
context to exploit their own competencies or to explore new knowledge from the partner to
develop a common new knowledge? The dilemma between exploration and exploitation
(Poole & Van de Ven, 1989; March 1991) appears as a key challenge for firms involved in
coopetition. Exploitation generates short-term benefits for firms to improve quality and
efficiency in their organizational development, while exploration provides opportunities for
revolutionary changes and long-term performance (March, 1991). Inside an interorganizational network, the exploration process is based on a common pool of competencies
owned by the network whereas the exploitation process is based on a private property of the
competencies. The exploitation of competencies depends on the control over them (Dyer &
Singh, 1988). However, exploitation and exploration require a different managerial mindset,
different sources of allocated resources and a distinctive knowledge process, thus it is not an
easy task to achieve both at the same time (March & Levinthal, 1993).
In a coopetition context, the management of competencies becomes increasingly critical
(Yami et al., 2010). Firms need to strategically manage their portfolio of competencies
beyond their boundaries. Four challenges result from the exploration and exploitation
dilemma in coopetition (Prévot, 2007). First, firms have to decide the extent to which
competencies need to be shared so to make the innovation succeed. Because they are main
competitors, partners may try to reduce their implication in the collaboration by limiting the
pooling to the minimum (Fernandez & Le Roy, 2012). Second, focal firms intend to learn new
competencies from the partner, and moreover, to learn more from the partner than the partner
learns. Firms may try to disturb the reciprocity of the process. The third source of tensions is
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related with the protection of competencies. Because of the collaboration, partners need to
facilitate the replication of their competencies, which is highly risky in a coopetition context.
Duplicated competencies can be used against the firm in a future phase of competition. Thus,
firms need to limit the accessibility of their core competencies by implementing self-defense
mechanisms (Hamel et al., 1989). The accessibility of the competencies depends on the level
of the protection established by the firm, the historical of past relationships between the
partners, the complexity and the tacit character of the competence (Inkpen, 1998). Finally,
tensions arise from the management of the competencies shared during the collaboration.
Firms remain competitors and try to obtain more control over the competencies jointly
developed (Fernandez & Le Roy, 2012).
The issues raised above greatly challenge knowledge acquisition, transfer and aspiration
between two firms, which affect the process of exploitation and exploration. In coopetition,
the dilemma between exploration and exploitation needs to be considered in a dynamic
process. Because the intensity of collaboration and competition vary over time, firms need to
deal with a temporal dimension. They need to balance between the integration of
competencies learned through the collaboration –i.e. exploitation– and the pursuit of the
collaboration –i.e. exploration– (Doz & Hamel, 1997).
1.2. Managing exploration / exploitation tension through dynamic capabilities
In coopetition, firms’ objective is not to reduce tensions but it is rather to maintain and
balance them (Chen, 2008). Regarding the exploration-exploitation dilemma, the issue for the
firm is to maintain its competencies’ portfolio to limit the absorptive capacity (Cohen &
Levinthal, 1990) of its partner-competitor. The strategic issue is not to choose between
competition and cooperation but to manage the tensions between both (Clarke-Hill et al.,
2003). The collaboration dimension is critical in coopetition since it encourages exploration
by pooling key resources and core competencies in order to create new ones. The competitive
dimension is essential in coopetition since it stimulates exploitation processes by avoiding
complacence to keep the creative tension within organizations (Quintana-Garcia &
Benavides-Velasco, 2004; Bengtsson & Solvell, 2004). In an inter-organizational conflicted
context such as coopetition, a balance of exploitation and exploration plays a critical role.
Thanks to innovation dynamic capabilities, firms would develop innovation through both
exploration and exploitation processes (Mothe & Chanal, 2005). Innovation dynamic
capabilities seem consistent with a dual management (Mothe & Brion, 2008).
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The management allows partners to reach objectives perceived as mutually exclusive (Kale et
al., 2000). It is also responsible for the management of organizational tensions during a new
product development (Dougherty, 1996; Lewis et al., 2002). Managerial tools become
essential in the management of coopetitive tensions and thus contribute to the success of
coopetition. But, as shown by Coy (2006), managers and executives have difficulties to
convince their colleagues to work with a competitor. Coopetition appears as a strong source
of stress for individuals (Gnyawali et al., 2008). This double observation suggests that not
everyone has the capability to work in a coopetitive context. In coopetition, individuals must
hold technical competencies but managerial ones are even more essential (Walley, 2007).
Companies, which have human resources able to deal with the paradox of coopetition, tend to
be more involved in coopetition and reach higher levels of profit (Gnyawali & Park, 2011).
We explore the concept of ambidexterity as a critical dynamic capability to manage the
tension between exploration and exploitation in a context of coopetition, and thus to enhance
partners’ innovation performance. In this respect, we refer here to Teece (2007) framework to
locate and characterize the dynamic capabilities needed in such a context of coopetition, we
label further ambidextrous capabilities. According to the author, at least for analytical
purposes, dynamic capabilities can be split into three activities: “sensing”, “seizing” and
“managing threats / transforming” the business opportunities that arise in the context of
hypercompetition. Sensing stems from the “analytical systems (and individual capacities) to
learn and to sense, filter, shape and calibrate opportunities” (p. 1326). These systems can
relate both to the internal process (for example, how R&D spending are allocated or how
technologies are selected) and the external processes (for example, how new customers or
supplier innovations are detected). Seizing depends on “enterprise structures, procedures,
designs and incentives for seizing opportunities” (p.1334). It pertains to the ability to build
new business models, selecting decision-making protocols and industry boundaries but also to
building loyalty and commitment. Managing threats / transforming depends on the
“continuous alignment and realignment of specific tangible and intangible assets” (p.1340). It
is linked to decentralization and near decomposability, modes of governance, cospecialization
as well as knowledge management.
Previous scholars studied exploration and exploitation processes as opposites (Gupta &
Govindarajan, 2000), in a dialectic perspective (De Rond & Bouchikhi, 2004). Behind their
opposition, exploration and exploitation processes can be complements. Farjoun (2010)
recommends a duality approach to consider interdependencies between exploration and
exploitation. For example, both exploitation and exploration are essential for organizational
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learning (Benner & Tushman, 2002; Lavie et al., 2010). As pointed out by Gimeno (2004),
behind their opposition, competition and collaboration may in fact work as complementary
forces. If the related tensions are well managed, the simultaneous combination of exploration
and exploitation processes (i.e. collaboration and competition) can be positively related to
firm innovation performance.
1.3. Ambidextrous dynamic capability to manage coopetitive tensions
Successful firms are those that can resolve the tension between exploitation and exploration,
pursue ambidexterity and achieve long term superior performance (Gibson & Birkinshaw,
2004; He & Wong, 2004; Lavie, Stettner & Tushman, 2010). In this study, we identify three
key drivers from coopetition for firms to develop an ambidextrous capability. These drivers
include resources advantages, organizational structure for information flow as well as
organizational culture. These three factors help us not only understand how coopetition can
lead to a balance of exploitation and exploration, but also explain why and how some
coopetition can successfully achieve innovation performance through an ambidextrous
dynamic capability.
1.3.1. Shared Resources
Resources are considered as crucial to the innovation process (Sorensen & Stuart, 2000).
Slack resources have been identified as key drivers to exploration (Voss et al., 2008).
However, some scholars have argued that larger firms introduce less radical innovation
(Damanpour, 1996). Therefore, it is not the possession of slack resources which drives the
development of ambidexterity, but the effective management of resources which fosters
ambidexterity. In coopetition situation, firms can benefit from simultaneously pursuing both
exploitation and exploration because they are more likely to access resources. Furthermore,
coopetitive firms constantly manage the trade-off between exploitation and exploration within
and outside their organization boundary; therefore, such firms tend to have capabilities to
balance exploitation and exploration for resources allocation. In order to pursue learning
through exploitation and exploration as well as to manage the balance between both,
coopetitive partners acquire technological, business and managerial knowledge from each
other. New knowledge acquired by the firm can be considered as sources of exploration. The
focal firms need to develop certain absorptive capacity in order to identify the value of
knowledge and aspire this latter in order to create new knowledge (Zhou & Wu, 2009). This is
built on the common knowledge both companies have developed in the competitive market.
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1.3.2. Organization Structure
Furthermore, research investigated the development of the organizational structure, which
allows firms to achieve an ambidextrous capability. A project-based organization fosters the
development of individual potential and improves the capacity to tap individual knowledge
and ideas (Verona & Ravasi, 2003). Project-bases organizations can be considered as flexible
organizations (Volberda, 1996). On the contrary, in highly centralized organizations,
exploration is hindered. Jansen et al. (2009) argued that centralization negatively affects
exploratory innovation whereas formalization positively influences exploitative innovation.
This is based on how the coordination mechanism impacts routine operation, formal duties,
power, and problem solving process. Therefore, we argue that coopetition provides focal firms
the structure for better coordination in order to achieve information flow within the two
companies. Firms learn through the process of social and collective coordination. In this way,
firms can keep constantly searching and evaluating practices and knowledge. These search
and evaluation activities, involving collaboration outside the organization, are crucial for both
exploitation and exploration. Fang, Lee & Schilling (2010) argue that firms need to invest in
semi-isolated subgroups in order to facilitate the availability of information in an efficient
manner so to achieve a balance of exploitation and exploration. Coopetition relationship here
tends to provide such a facilitating environment for a semi-isolated program group.
1.3.3. Organization Culture and managers’ mindset
In addition to collaboration and integration, firm culture has been identified as an essential
force in driving exploitation and exploration (O’Reilly & March, 2004). An organization can
have a culture characterized by opportunism, experimenting, risk taking, decisiveness and
taking initiatives. These cultures allow creative thinking, furthermore encourage
innovativeness for exploration. Beckman (2006) argued that managers’ experience, including
their prior company affiliations, could predict whether a firm pursues exploratory and
exploitative behaviors. The required organizational flexibility comes from managerial
capabilities i.e. management challenge (Volberda, 1996). In a coopetition situation, original
affiliations of management team members shape firm exploitation and exploration. Teams
with common prior company affiliations are more likely to pursue exploitation while teams
within which members come from a wide range of previous affiliations are more likely to
pursue exploration. In coopetition programs, focal firms tend to assign people to these
contexts over time, which provides an interesting combination of people sharing the same
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affiliation with a dual identity. In this way, a balance of exploitation and exploration can be
achieved.
Figure 1 – Coopetition and innovation performance: a theoretical framework
Coopetition
Exploration /
Exploitation Tension
Managing Exploration /
Exploitation Tension
Innovation
Learning Dynamics: Ambidexterity as a Dynamic Capability
2. METHOD
2.1. Research design
2.1.1. An in-depth case study
Case-based exploratory methods are appropriate to tackle a phenomenon that is poorly
understood (Eisenhardt, 1989), has multiple and complex elements (Dodgson et al. 2008)
which evolve over time (Langley, 1999). As suggested by Bengtsson, Eriksson & Wincent
(2010), case studies are recommended to investigate co-opetition phenomenon. In-depth case
study exploring details of a multi-faceted and paradoxical phenomenon constitutes the best
way to understand difficulties associated with the management of a coopetitive strategy
(Gnyawali & Park, 2011). Accordingly, we conducted in-depth studies of two exemplar cases
–one of radical innovation and one of incremental innovation– in order to develop insights
about the phenomenon and tensions arising from it (Yin, 1994). The cases studied are
embedded (Yin, 2003; Musca, 2006). They can be considered as exemplar and unique cases
as they represent situations that are faced by many firms engaging in coopetition and help to
generate insights by going inside the organizations and their relationships. We designed this
research as an exploratory study in order to generate insights about the sources, the
dimensions, and the management of tensions stemming from dyadic coopetitive relationships.
In order to do so, we considered two collaborative programs conducted by Astrium (EADS
group) and TAS (Franco-Italian joint venture between Thales [67%] and Finmeccanica
[33%]) as exemplar cases of radical and incremental innovation in coopetition.
2.1.2. Data collection and analysis
This research was carried out starting from a qualitative method of a standard case study. This
method has enabled us to avoid the constraints of a preliminary choice of tools or types of
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data to be used (Yin, 2003), making it possible to access heterogeneous data collected from a
variety of sources (Langley and Royer, 2006). Moreover, this method makes it possible to
analyze a phenomenon at several levels (Eisenhardt, 1989). The exploration and exploitation
dilemma in coopetition could thus be examined at organizational level and team level.
Following qualitative analysis criteria (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Yin, 2003), fifty-one
semi-structured interviews, of about 60 minutes duration each, were conducted in both
companies i.e. Astrium (EADS group) and Thales Aleania Space (Thales group) with top
managers, project managers, and members of coopetitive and competitive team projects.
These interviews were conducted face-to-face (except for five conference calls) individually,
tape recorded and then transcribed as soon as possible to preserve the quality of information.
All the face-to-face interviews were conducted in France. Ten were conducted in Paris
offices, one in Cannes, and all others in Toulouse. Three were performed in English and the
rest of them in French. Primary data based on interviews was evaluated against previously
collected secondary data collected from multiple sources: extracts of contracts, presentations
at meetings, managerial reports, experts’ analysis, press reviews etc. Whole data collected
was analyzed through NVivo 8 Software following Miles & Huberman (1994)
recommendations. In order to preserve respondents’ confidentiality, quotes are anonymous.
Only respondent’s position or statuses are mentioned, and the company (affiliation) is not
named. We use “firm A” or “firm B” to distinguish both partners.
2.2. Cases’ presentation
2.2.1. The manufacture of telecommunications’ satellites
Manufacturing of telecommunication satellites represents the most competitive segment of the
whole space industry. The worldwide market is divided among five major manufacturers:
three US –Boeing Space System, Lockheed Martin, Space Systems Loral– and the two
European mentioned above. All of them compete on global commercial markets to respond to
bids from telecommunication operators. If competition is the dominant strategy between
manufacturers, collaborative relationships tend to be developed between the two European
manufacturers of telecommunications’ satellites located in the same area within the city of
Toulouse in Southern France.
Traditionally, European companies in the space industry have adopted a mode of organization
by projects. For each program they build a team called Project Management Office (PMO)
responsible for the governance of the program. The human resources parts of the team are
full-time dedicated to the program. Other supporting teams are then made up depending on
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the needs of the programs’ development. In that case, the team can be shared by several
projects simultaneously. When TAS and Astrium decide to collaborate on a space program,
they use the same organizational logic. They build a team with a mixed PMO. Each
organization fully dedicates technical, financial and human resources to a common team with
its main competitor. This mode of organization in mixed teams between competitors offers an
exemplar configuration to investigate tensions arisen from coopetition. We choose to study
in-depth two current coopetitive programs corresponding to the case of a radical innovation
(Alphabus program) and the case of an incremental innovation (Yahsat program) developed in
a coopetition context. These programs represent a unique configuration, very suitable to study
exploration and exploitation tension in coopetition and how it is managed.
2.2.2. The Alphabus program: an exemplar case of radical innovation developed in
coopetition
The evolution of telecommunication services implies new satellite requirements in terms of
power and capacity. The ranges Eurostar (Astrium) and Spacebus (TAS) are limited today in
terms of operator expectations. The leading position of Boeing Space in the top-of-the-range
market segment leaves Europeans in the position of challengers. European manufacturers
wish to enter in competition by developing a new range of products. Such a development
involves very high investment in R&D. For financial reasons, the CNES (National Center for
Space Studies) and then the ESA (European Space Agency) encourage manufacturers to work
on this fundamental innovation together. In 2001, Astrium and TAS, supported by both
institutions, initiated a project called Alphabus. Their objective is double: first, it is to design
a European orbital platform able to support very powerful telecommunications’ satellites;
second, to market it together on the private worldwide market. The institutional support aims
to stimulate innovation by European manufacturers to improve their competitiveness with US
market leaders. Developing a major innovation program with a competitor is complex to be
implemented. Companies have to think about a relevant organization to explore new
technological opportunities based on a common knowledge base. Two-mixed project teams
have been set up: the first one was between industrials and the other one with institutions.
2.2.3. The Yahsat program: an exemplar case of incremental innovation developed in
coopetition
In August 2007, Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), a subsidiary of
Mubadala (United Arab Emirates), signed a contract with Astrium and TAS for the
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manufacture of a dual system of telecommunications by satellite. With a global value of
approximately 1.8 billion dollars, it represents the most important program at that moment.
This project not only demonstrates the construction of a satellite but also the creation of a
complete telecommunications’ system encompassing two satellites, two launchers, two
ground stations, and a military network dedicated to civil use. Two main factors explain
coopetition between Astrium and TAS. First, at the final stage of the global bidding
procedure, Astrium and TAS were competing against each other, and also against Boeing, a
US common competitor. The location of the market provides a real advantage to the European
industry. The telecommunication operator Yahsat was more in favor of European
manufacturers. Thus, strategically, Astrium and TAS, supported by European institutions,
decided to bid together to win against a common threat from abroad. Second, contracts’
characteristics were a strong incentive leading Astrium and TAS to collaborate. The client
being unknown before, its financial capacities to buy a satellite were highly questionable.
Moreover, since 15% of the satellite’s price is due to suppliers after the launch, manufacturers
are confronted to the high financial risk to not be paid at the end of the program which is not
covered by insurances. Yahsat was not contract dealing with a simple satellite but is about a
whole telecommunication system inducing very high technological risks. Financial risks
coupled with technological risks constituted an inacceptable level of risks for a single
company. Thus, the risk sharing represented a powerful driver for Astrium and TAS to
coopete. While Yahsat is a completely new program for the industry, each partner developed
before most of the core technologies used in the program. If Yahsat cannot be considered as a
fundamental technological innovation, innovation was required to adapt the components to
build the whole system. In order to achieve the common developments needed, Astrium and
TAS set up a mixed-project team in which technological, financial and human resources were
pooled. This original organizational mode is consistent to in-depth study the dilemma
between exploration and exploitation in a context of incremental innovation developed in
coopetition.
3. RESULTS
3.1. Exploration and exploitation tensions within the programs
The success of the innovation developed jointly by TAS and Astrium depends on the resource
sharing process between partners. Through the two coopetitive programs studied, TAS and
Astrium want to achieve a same goal: the development of a whole system of
telecommunications with Yahsat; the development of a new platform with Alphabus. To
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achieve these goals, knowledge and know-how from both firms are required. Because of the
similarity of Astrium and TAS technologies, risks of technology transfers are low. Since the
organizations share their work methods and their production processes, risks of imitation are
very high.
3.3.1. The Yahsat program
When TAS and Astrium decide to cooperate for the realization of Yahsat, they are constraint
to pool key strategic resources to develop the telecommunications system. Astrium and TAS
have to share core competencies and confidential data. The success of the program is
depending on the quality of the pooling. Yahsat requires the best from both companies. But,
both partners want to preserve their idiosyncrasy because of their strong competition. They try
to limit the resource-sharing process between each other. However, collaboration requires
teams’ members to open their mind, to give access to their industrial processes, to share data
and to communicate confidential information. Astrium and TAS cannot be just competitors.
They cannot avoid the resource sharing of their key competencies and of their know-how just
because they are competitors. This dilemma is particularly critical in the upstream phases of
the program. For example, when Astrium and TAS decided to divide the industrial activity of
the program, tension arose because both partners wanted the same strategic part of the
program. The head of the Yahsat space segment from firm B testifies:
“So, at the interfaces, some conflicts can also appear during the upstream stages, when we
share the work, because Astrium and TAS have opposed interests so each one will try to do the
same part of the program by saying, that is strategic, I think it’s strategic. So, if the two
companies think that the same part is strategic, there is a conflict. Then we have to discuss it
around a table. Each partner expresses its point of view and we have to make them
converging.”
The engineering of a satellite is a process requiring a strong coordination of multiple
components. Each part of the process is completely interrelated with the others. In spite of the
division of the industrial activity, team members need to share some strategic information in
particular during the interfaces of the engineering process. Risks of transfers of know-how
during these interfaces are very critical. Formal contracts don’t represent strong enough
protection to the risk of imitation. But at the same time, Astrium and TAS cannot completely
avoid the collaboration and the resources sharing. Know-how and core competencies have to
be shared by both partners in spite of the risk of imitation. The same respondent confirms the
presence of a learning process between both partners:
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“Everyone from Astrium and from TAS has good ideas. So, we can learn ideas to improve our
work after the program. It’s true that we are learning from working with them. But they also
learn from working with us. Everyone benefits from the common work”.
During a program such as Yahsat, each partner is involved in a dual process. Astrium and
TAS play two simultaneous roles. Each company imitates the best practices while limiting the
access to its ones. Astrium and TAS try to balance between the necessary sharing and the
protection of their core competencies. At the team-project level this tensions between
exploration and exploitation becomes higher. Engineers of each company consider that no
information should be shared. They perceive each other as the enemy. In their perspective
information about internal processes is confidential and must be protected. Astrium and TAS
are two satellites manufacturers. They have the internal competencies and the know-how to
build alone a telecommunication satellite. The information related to the payload, to the
platform or to the integration of the payload on the platform is considered as very sensitive by
each company. In spite of its high level confidentiality, information needs to be shared
between team members to develop the common program. The head of the Yahsat space
segment from firm B points out the ambiguity of the relationship:
“We are in a collaborative process with our colleagues from firm A since for the program, we
are building the payload and they will do the integration of it on the platform. In that sense, it is
a real partnership. But it is also a competition because they don’t want to let us learning too
much from them about the satellite. They are afraid that their main competitor benefit from it.
And we reciprocally don’t give them too much information about the payload because we don’t
want them to benefit from it. So, there is always this duality in our relationship in terms of
competition and collaboration.”
3.3.2. The Alphabus program
Because of its fundamental innovation nature, the development of Alphabus is based on an
exploration process. The combination of the expertise of both companies will allow the
success of a fundamental innovation. At the same time, Alphabus represents a rare
opportunity for Astrium and TAS to improve their own ranges of products. Space innovations
are costly and European companies do not have the financial capacity to conduct whole
innovation programs. Astrium and TAS will exploit the Alphabus resource pooling to
reinforce their own competitiveness. The division of the industrial activity is a critical stage in
the Alphabus program. On the contrary of Yahsat, Alphabus refers to the development of a
completely new platform of satellite. A new range of satellites is supposed to be built based
on this new technology. In Yahsat, partners have to pool their core competencies to ensure the
success of the program. In Alphabus the challenge is different. At the beginning of the
14
program, Astrium and TAS were agreeing to benefit from the synergies of the new
development for their own range of products i.e. Eurostar and Spacebus. As the Alphabus
project manager from the institution A explained, this stage was complex and a source of
tensions:
“And that was a commercial agreement but that went fairly smooth, what was much more
difficult was the, let's call it the commercial agreement was in the future, what was much more
difficult in the beginning was the industrial work share between the two parties for the building
of Alphabus itself. That took a reasonable amount of time.”
Whereas Yahsat program is based on sharing of the best competencies of both partners, in
Alphabus, Astrium and TAS pool their weaknesses following an exploration process. Even if
team members are afraid to open their mind within the team, the success the program depends
on the good ideas from engineers and managers from both organizations. Exploitation process
is simultaneously required to innovate fundamentally. In the space industry, a development is
a very long process. It may take up to a few years between the design, the realization and the
marketing of a component or equipment. Astrium and TAS need to anticipate the future
Alphabus needs in terms of components and equipment. A first dilemma appears because of
the fundamental innovation character of Alphabus between exploration and exploitation over
time. The head of the Alphabus industrial segment for firm B underlines the importance of
this perspective:
“In 2001, we had to start to prepare the future because we could not keep using electronics
components which would not be built anymore, which would be obsolete. The manufacturers of
these components would stop building it. They would not keep building them just for us. We
don’t use them enough. So, we needed to prepare the future, to think about which components
should be replaced and which components could still be used”.
After the definition of the necessary new developments, Astrium and TAS need to share the
development. This stage was a source of critical tensions between the partners. Should they
follow a rule of excellence to divide the developments? This rule would be more based on the
exploitation of the know-how and the core competencies of each company. Or, should they
enjoy the new developments to improve their own range of products? This perspective would
be more in favor of an exploration process in order to increase the future firm’s
competitiveness. The head of the Alphabus industrial segment for firm A points out this
dilemma:
“If we learn about doing 100 volts, then we can use 100 volts in our satellites. So there are two
objectives: the product, I mean, the new range of products and improving the competing
product, Eurostar or Spacebus. It’s both. We do Alphabus for that too.”
15
3.2. Managing exploration and exploitation tension
3.2.1. Ambidexterity at the organizational level
Astrium and TAS didn’t sign any formal contract to define the rules of their collaboration.
They just committed to respect some rules written in a document called GME (Momentary
Group of Enterprises) for Yahsat and in a partnership agreement in the case of Alphabus.
Those rules are supposed to give the partners some guidelines about how to structure every
potential situation of tension during the program. But these formal rules are short and can’t
foresee every potential source of tension. In terms of information management, Yahsat and
Alphabus require exchanges of technical information. None of voluntary and deliberated
training process is implemented between TAS and Astrium. Managers and team members
both dedicated efforts to protect and share information simultaneously. It is not a question of
helping the partner to solve its technical difficulties. If TAS or Astrium has difficulties for a
development, the partner is not supposed to provide the solution. The phenomenon is
accentuated by the pride of each company to find its own solution. Thus, each firm explores
the solution at other units while exploiting the information in cooperative programs.
Paradoxically, Astrium and TAS cannot leave its partner in trouble for too long. Delays are
costly for both companies. Astrium and TAS cannot afford to reproduce the same mistakes in
innovative programs. Without sharing all their previous experiences, they have to share
minimal information about the solution. The communication is vague but allows the program
to advance. The exploitation of knowledge related to technical failures is implemented to
ensure the progress of the program. Through this exploitation process, the partner will be
aware of the weaknesses of its competitor. They can exploit this knowledge in a future
competition. Through the same process, the weaker partner could improve its competitiveness
thanks to a learning process. In that sense, coopetitive programs represent an interesting
opportunity for each partner. Astrium and TAS learn new processes or more effective
methods from its partner. In terms of division of industrial activity, on Alphabus, Astrium and
TAS proceed to a benchmark of all the processes developed by both companies. Following
the exploitation process, the objective was to evaluate what components could be used on
Alphabus. Both partners should validate each technical solution provided. This double
validation loop ensures the best technical option for the program. The same procedure was
developed on Yahsat to convince the client that the coopetition between Astrium and TAS
allowed him a better technical performance at the end. At the same time, through the pooling
activity manufacturers implement an exploration process. The objective was to find new
technical options to improve the final program. In the case of Alphabus, the exploration
16
seemed to be more important than in Yahsat just because of the nature of the innovation. In
terms of resource sharing, the learning capacity seems particularly critical in a coopetitive
context. Through the pooling, each partner accesses the core assets of its main competitor. At
the same time, the partner exposes itself to a high risk of imitation. Pooling different
industrial approaches supports the reciprocal training of the best practices and thus a
reciprocal exploration process. During a program such as Yahsat or Alphabus, Astrium and
TAS play two simultaneous roles. They enhance their learning process i.e. the exploration
process from their competitor while reducing learning opportunities of their competitor.
Astrium and TAS remain strong competitors on the telecommunications satellites worldwide
market. They want to preserve their idiosyncrasy to maintain their competitive advantage on
the market. Inter-organizational resource sharing enhances the risk of imitation but is
necessary to commonly innovate i.e. exploitation process. The creative process strongly
depends on the resource pooling. Thus, organizations balance between learning opportunities
offered by the concept and the protection of their core competencies. In that sense, Astrium
and TAS develop ambidexterity capabilities allowing the exploitation of internal resources
and the exploration of new opportunities. Regarding the resource sharing, the main rule is
non-aggression. If a company considers a component as critical or confidential, they have the
right to refuse to share it. The other company has no choice to accept it. But these formal rules
are inadequate to efficiently deal with the multiple coopetitive tensions and in particular to
efficiently manage the daily dilemma between exploration and exploitation processes. This
management is one dimension of the mission of the project manager. The project manager
becomes the intermediary between the organization and the project-team in terms of resource
management. Taking into account the multiple tensions arising from the coopetitive context,
the constitution of a motivated and competent project-team becomes highly critical for
organizations. Astrium and TAS face some difficulties to find individuals who are able to
work in such conflicted context, as the Yahsat process manager for firm A underlined:
“We’ve started something that induced strong hostility and strong anger from team members.
It’s a violent daily program. Yes, it’s daily violent. People struggle themselves to work
efficiently with the other. It’s something very hard psychologically. It’s a very psychologically
violent program, above all during its first year.”
Astrium and TAS don’t have formal or explicit rules regarding to the resources allocation
process. They have to simultaneously deal with internal programs mainly based on an
exploitation process and with collaborative programs based on a combination of exploration
and exploitation processes at different levels. In that sense, the organization involved in
17
coopetition develops an ambidexterity capacity. Each project manager defends his program to
obtain the optimal human, financial and technological resources. This process creates internal
tensions between all project managers, inside the company. The head of telecommunications
programs has to manage between collaborative and competitive programs to balance
exploration and exploitation processes. He is responsible for the resource allocation process.
He is facing the risk of failure if the resources are not well allocated and the risk of transfers if
the competitor imitates the core competencies shared in the program.
3.2.2. Ambidexterity at the team level
The capacity of the project-team to efficiently manage the coopetitive tensions is strongly
related to the composition of the team. The mix of the team is a major challenge.
-
The project manager
In a program such as Yahsat or Alphabus, the mission of the project manager includes the
management of tensions. He is the emblematic character of coopetition. Through its multiple
daily tasks, he balances the levels of collaboration and competition within the team over time.
He controls the intensity of the tensions and proposes some relevant ways to manage them.
Since he internalizes in himself the paradox of coopetition i.e. the simultaneity of
collaboration and competition regarding exploration and exploitations processes, he holds
specific abilities. As pointed out above, there is no formal procedure to choose a competent
project manager. The Yahsat project manager from firm B shared its own experience:
“I’ve told to my boss that I was interested in it, and my program ended up in 2008. Hopefully
the person in charge of the program before me, he decided to quit it. It is not easy to work on it
every day, so he decided to quit. My boss knew that I could be interested in it, so I was on the
list and he offered me the job.”
Individuals don’t have incentives from their companies to work in a coopetitive context, in
spite of the difficulties represented by such situations. They don’t get any bonuses; they don’t
fasten their career. For some individuals, the coopetition context represents a challenge while
for others it’s highly prohibitive. Some individuals only perceive the constraints of the
program (the risks of imitation) while others focus their attention the opportunities (the
learning dynamics). Being co-prime contractors, sharing the responsibilities and managing the
confidentiality represent a high barrier for individuals. The Yahsat project manager for firm A
testifies:
18
“I have had huge difficulties to find French people to work on Yahsat because they found the
organization too complicated. Well, this kind of organization requires a lot of business travels
so I’ve found competent people, competent well in quotations marks, but they refused to come,
they’d rather work in a cooler program.”
The implication and the involvement of the project manager are essential to ensure the
success of a coopetitive program. The project manager must perfectly understand the reasons
of such collaboration with a competitor. He must be convinced of the interest of the
coopetition in spite of the high level of risks he is facing. The understanding of the project
manager is critical since he is responsible for the intra-team communication. For example, in
the case of leaking information, the project manager is responsible for the management of the
situation. He reminds all the team members the objective of the program, the benefits for the
company directly and indirectly for them. The conflicts must stay at the project-team level
without slowing the progression of the program. As the Yahsat project manager for firm B,
the trust between both project managers facilitates the management of tensions within the
team:
“We also have our management if we need it, just in case. But our first mission is to make the
program progressing and to ensure that all the tensions remain at the level of the project-team.
They don’t have to impact the rest of the organization or the other current programs. It works
pretty well because we get along great with M. X but I guess If it had been another project
manager with whom I didn’t get along with, it would have been very tough.”
Project managers are also in charge of the management of confidential information at the
interfaces. On a daily base, they decide what kind of information should be shared or not,
depending on the needs of the program. Sometimes they may decide to share key data
whereas they shouldn’t. They daily balance between exploration processes and exploitation
processes to ensure the success of the program while protecting the core competencies of their
companies. They don’t forget that, they will compete with the same people they’re
collaborating with right now. Project managers from Astrium and TAS are also responsible
for the composition of their project-team. They define the needs of the program in terms of
human, financial and technological resources. Since individuals are strategic resources in
innovation programs, the composition of the team becomes highly critical.
-
Team members
As pointed out below, working in a coopetitive context can be schizophrenic for individuals.
Hiring individuals for these programs is not easy. A first challenge appears while defining the
required competencies. Should the project managers hire highly qualified individuals or
should they hire individuals with relational skills? Actually, Yahsat and Alphabus require
19
very rare and scarce human resources holding both, technical expertise and relational skills.
The head of the Yahsat engineering segment insists on the importance of the technical
expertise mostly at the beginning of the program:
“We count on the individuals’ qualities and on their individual former experiences to create a
new process every time. So, that is level zero of the CMM. We call this level the time for heroes.
We need the best people, very independent people to enhance the creativity. And then we need
less experts and more adaptable people, with very precise processes defining what to do and
how.”
The coopetition context reinforces the need of relational competencies. Individuals must be
able to deal with the paradoxical context, source of specific tensions. The balance between
technical and relational skills is leading to the constitution of a project-team. Team members
responsible for the design and the construction of Yahsat hold a high expertise coming from
previous experiences and managerial and relational competencies. The mix between relational
and technical ensures the success of the program. The development of Yahsat or Alphabus is
based on the exploitation of Astrium and TAS competencies. Individuals involved in
coopetitive programs such as Yahsat or Alphabus work in a different geographical area within
the company, in a different building. This geographical separation is a way to limit the
information exchanges and the risks of transfers with the competitor. For individuals, it
represents also a complication to access to the internal information. Engineers need data from
their departments to develop the program. Team members must develop some ambidexterity
in terms of working with their internal colleagues as they use to do but at the same time, they
must be able to separate their corporate work while they work on the program. The Yahsat
engineering manager for firm A underlines the importance of the interpersonal dimension in
the process:
“On a side we need technical skills to make the program progressing. On the other side, to be
respected by the competitor, because it’s true that when we work in the same company we kind
of judge people by saying this one doesn’t understand anything to what I’m telling him, I’d
rather have another one. But when you’re in the other company, it’s worse. So, they have to be
technically competent but they also have to be open-minded to negotiate with the competitor
while defending the interests of their own company.”
3.2.3. Experiences and Organizational Culture for Ambidexterity
Collaborative relationships between Astrium and TAS are not recent. Before the industrial
reorganizations, Astrium Toulouse and TAS Toulouse were not competitors but
complementors. Astrium Toulouse was specialized in the construction of platforms whereas
the activity of TAS Toulouse was more specialized in the construction of payloads. Such
complementarities encourage both plants to vertically collaborate. One firm was building the
20
platform while the other was building the payload. The division of the industrial activity was
clear and simple, like in outsourcing. Through these previous collaborative experiences
between both partners, individuals from both companies developed capacities and mindsets.
These capacities became essential in the current context of coopetition. The Alphabus
engineering manager of firm B underlines the importance of the historical dimension:
“It’s history. The plant of Cannes was Aerospatiale satellite. The plant of Thales Toulouse was
Alcatel. And here, in Toulouse, it was Matra. So, I think that Matra Toulouse and Alcatel
Toulouse have already collaborated in the past. The two companies, non-competitors, with
distinct areas of competencies… It worked well. When we were doing an Arabsat satellite or
something else, with a payload coming from the competence of Thales Toulouse and a platform
and the integration of the satellite coming from the competence of Astrium Toulouse. It worked
well.
Alphabus and Yahsat mostly involve individuals from two French subsidiaries of Astrium and
TAS located in the south of the country in the city of Toulouse in order to benefit from the
capacities developed through these previous collaborative experiences. Even if they are
technical experts, junior engineers lack of experience to deal with coopetitive tensions. The
ambidexterity required by the context is not an ability but a capacity developed through
previous experiences. Within each company, the head of telecommunications programs
knows the background of each individual. He is aware of the previous collaborative (or
coopetitive) experiences of each individual. This explains why the Alphabus project-team
benefits from a previous similar program called Stentor and why the Yahsat project-team is
similar as the previous Skynet team. The Yahsat satellite manager for firm A underlines the
importance of the heritage of Skynet:
“In each profile, for each position, there is a pool of people, good or not, well, some of them are
better than the others but they all have their characteristics, their experiences which define their
knowledge and above all their knowledge about working in collaboration with a competitor. We
are an industry working by projects. So, when a program is ending, most of the team is affected
to the next program. We try to not changing the core composition of the team to benefit from the
previous experience. Regarding Yahsat, most of the satellite team, but also most the ground
team have worked on Skynet before. The two programs are successive and are almost similar
since they are military telecommunications programs.”
Previous collaborative experiences helped organization to develop routines and capacities
such as the ambidexterity to manage the specific tensions due to coopetition. But the cultural
and geographical proximity between individuals also helped them to develop specific
capabilities. Team members benefit from a cultural and geographical proximity facilitating
the development of their capacities to manage coopetitive tensions. The Alphabus engineering
manager of firm B explained:
21
“People are culturally closed. They live in the same place and it went fine. The collaborations
went fine. So, people work easily together.”
The following table 1 presents ambidexterity challenges and learning dynamics at the multilevels investigated.
Table 1: Ambidexterity and learning dynamics at multi-levels
Level of analysis
Ambidexterity as a
Dynamic
Capability
Learning
dynamics
Organization
Development of ambidexterity
capabilities: Balance between
learning opportunities and core
competencies protection
Previous collaborative
experiences
Team
Project manager
Managerial capabilities:
Balance between sharing
and protecting knowledge
Previous coopetitive
experiences
Team members
Individual relational
capabilities: Balance
between collaboration
and competition
Previous participation in
collaborative projects
4. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
While collaboration basically encourages exploration processes, competition furthers
exploitation processes. On the contrary to classic collaboration between non-competitors, in
coopetition, firms deal simultaneously with exploration and exploitation processes. Both
processes occur at the same time and sometimes in the same activities. Thus, specific tensions
arise and firms are required to develop specific capabilities to manage them.
As regard coopetition, we suggest here to consider it as a dynamic process to understand the
tensions that arise in a context of coopetition and their management. We highlight the
importance of considering an intra-organizational level to analyze the management of
coopetitive tensions. In a general way, the link with the concept of dynamic capabilities offers
meaningful insights to understand the relationship management and coopetition mechanisms
on innovation performance. Coopetition is a source of external knowledge for partners. This
knowledge interacts with internal dynamic capabilities to enhance long-term innovation
performance. In this respect, ambidexterity represents a specific dynamic capability which
makes it possible to manage the tensions generated by the exploration /exploitation dilemma.
We think that coopetition project, according to the nature of the innovation considered
(incremental and/or fundamental), constitutes a particularly rich ground to characterize
ambidexterity as dynamic capability at the base of the success of an innovation project. In the
following purpose we suggest some reflections on the interest to consider these ambidextrous
capabilities in a context of coopetition.
22
4.1. Sources and characteristic of ambidextrous capacities in a context of coopetition
A first idea consists in considering these capabilities at various levels of analysis and through
various dimensions. In this way, our study makes it possible to highlight the sources and
characteristic of ambidexterity. Thus, beyond the dyad represented by the two partners, the
two levels of analysis that are the organization and the project team appear as being the
relevant levels in which ambidextrous capabilities emerge and are mobilized. In a finer way, it
is on the level of analysis of the team that these ambidextrous capabilities make sense through
the two important types of actors and their relationships which highlight the interpersonal and
human dimensions in the coopetitive project: the project manager and the team-members. The
existence of these various levels of analysis shows that ambidexterity in a context of
coopetition is a process which irradiates in a transverse way a set of staffs which belong of
course to partners’ structures, but especially to the interface of the borders of these structures,
through the considered project logic. Our results stemming from the analysis of the cases go
in the direction of Bengtsson et al. (2010) recommendation which stresses the importance to
observe contexts of coopetition with multilevel lenses. However, we are conscious that the
image is then complex and that each level of analysis would require deepening which
constitutes future reflection issues. Then, the development of ambidextrous capabilities
constitutes an effective response compared to the tensions emanating of the exploration /
exploitation dilemma. These ambidextrous capabilities appear through various dimensions, in
particular, learning processes and resource sharing in conflict context. Coopetitive projects
require ambidexterity which is regarded here as the expression of a specific dynamic
capability bringing into play the of the “sensing”, “seizing” and “transforming” activities or
microfondations highlighted by Teece (2007). Thus, throughout a dynamic process of
learning which goes beyond technical problem solving, it is a question of the mobilization of
particular management capabilities in a context of coopetition loaded with tensions and
conflicts of various nature and at various levels. Indeed, if we consider the project through its
more innovating aspects as a new opportunity, we see clearly the analytical systems (and
individual capacities) to learn and to sense, filter, shape and calibrate opportunities that
characterizes the “sensing” activity, and which responsibility is dedicated to the project
manager, key of vault of the program success. We see also the “seizing” activity through the
enterprise structures, procedures, designs and incentives for seizing opportunities which
correspond to the routines already present at the level of the partner companies, represented
by the PMO and the way of building loyalty and commitment of staff involved in the
programs. Finally, we observe the management of threats / transforming activity through the
23
continuous alignment and realignment of specific tangible and intangible assets which
illustrated in particular by the decentralization and once again the role of the project manager,
and also the knowledge management. Beyond the simple location of these activities, a finer
work on the dynamics of emergence and development of these ambidextrous capabilities in a
coopetitive project would constitute another issue which would make it possible to refine the
framework of analysis proposed by Teece (2007).
4.2. Profiles of the ambidextrous actors managing coopetitive tensions
The success in the management of coopetitive tensions invites to consider necessary
competencies of the actors concerned, namely the project manager and its team-members,
which exceed the technical, organizational or functional aspects, to consider essential
managerial competencies (Walley, 2007). During the coopetitive project, the project manager
seems to be the central character of the process and who must develop individual and
managerial capabilities that are specific to the project and which exceed those already
developed within the company to which he (she) is affiliated. Admittedly this particular
context generates complexity and tensions but those one prove to be at the same time inherent
in the coopetitive project and necessary for its success (Chen, 2008). Thus, the project
manager must have a very good knowledge of the strategy pursued by his (her) company and
the inscription of the coopetitive project in this one, so as to translate the strategic elements
with the members of his (her) team whose culture is mainly engineers. Especially the project
manager must be in addition capable to manage the conflicts which occur during the project
and to communicate. Lastly, he (she) is responsible for the confidential information
management. We are here in the presence of activities which require idiosyncratic skills. As
for the team-members, beyond the technical skills, they must develop relational competencies
and especially observe the strict rule of separation of their activities which leads them to
distinguish in a schizophrenic way what comes within their company domain of that of the
program. Ambidexterity is conceived on the level of whole participants in the coopetitive
project and feeds on the learning of all the involved staff but requires a favorable context so
that the coopetitive project can succeed. In line with O’Reilly & March (2004), this context is
characterized by multiple coopetitive experiments and a whole of proximity elements which
are expressed in cultural and geographical terms. Coopetition appears here as a positive value
for innovation since it supposes the development of ambidextrous capabilities which are
wanted by coopeting firms’ executives. Lastly, this study of exploratory nature allows,
starting from our theoretical framework, to locate important dimensions which makes it
24
possible linking coopetition to innovation performance. However, this study on the basis of
exemplary cases requires deepening which represent as many future issues.
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