Chapter 5: Relationship Attractors: Typologies of Business Relations
INTRODUCTION When relations grow up they can become many things, not all of which are foretold in their starting conditions. Each relation develops its own history and takes on its own distinctive personality as it is shaped by historical events, context and contingencies, much like a human personality develops. But a relationship is not the product of one mind and body, but of interacting bodies (ﬁrms) and minds that self-organise over time through their actions, interactions and responses, or they part company and the relationship ends. What kinds of relationship attractors are there? What forms of relationship arise in business systems in diﬀerent circumstances and how stable are they? Which forms function better and in which types of conditions? RELATIONSHIP METAPHORS: MARRIAGES, FRIENDSHIPS AND AFFAIRS1 A metaphor used to characterise business relations is that of marriages versus aﬀairs (for example, Levitt 1986; Dwyer et al. 1988). Marriages are long-term, committed relations in which the parties involved cooperate to achieve their goals, with more or less diﬃculty along the way, just like real marriages. Aﬀairs, on the other hand, are shorter-term, more exploitative relations, where the other party is used as a means to an end, with little value placed on maintaining the relation. Intermediate forms of relations have also been suggested, resembling friendships and acquaintances. The marriage metaphor ﬁts naturally as an extension of the idea of business mating discussed in Chapter 4. But the metaphor is limited because it focuses attention more on the reasons...
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