Chapter 1: The Nature and Role of Relations and Networks in Business
There is a proliferation of books, articles, research and business advice that seek to address the issue of relations and networks in business life. This literature has been growing at an ever-increasing pace during the last decade. Diﬀerent authors refer to fundamentally the same types of issues in many ways so as, it seems, to confuse us. There is talk about relationship marketing, supply chain management, customer relationship marketing, networking, partnering, strategic alliances, collaborative strategies, co-opetition and the like. Here I want to make sense of this profusion of terms and give a simple roadmap of what is meant by business relationships and networks, what types businesses are involved in and what their role and importance is. This sets the scene for developing tools and frameworks of analysis to help us understand how and why relations and networks develop and evolve over time, and the problems of managing them. I draw on a variety of literature but do not attempt to review or synthesise it in any comprehensive manner. Much of what I have to say draws on papers written over the years with many colleagues and students. WHAT IS A RELATIONSHIP? I began the Introduction with the point that all of us are the product of a relationship between our mother and father, and are born into a relationship with our biological mother. This focuses attention on the structural (biological) bonds or ties linking us and our parents. But we are the product of an active sexual dance...
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