Business Relating Business
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Business Relating Business

Managing Organisational Relations and Networks

Ian Wilkinson

Business Relating Business argues that business performance depends on the way a firm is connected to other firms and organisations and not just its own skill and resources. The book synthesises thinking from marketing, management, economics and international business with evolutionary biology and complexity theory, as well as integrating many years’ research on interfirm relations and networks. It develops the management and policy implications of adopting relationship and network perspectives and sets out an agenda for future research.
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Chapter 9: Reinventing The Future of Business Relations and Networks

Ian Wilkinson


1 INTRODUCTION This book has shown that, in business, interactions between the parts of a system (including people, firms, resources, activities and ideas) matter more than the characteristics of the parts themselves, and networks of interactions matter even more. This point of view brings aspects of business into clearer focus and is a source of insight that other, more narrowly focused, firm and management perspectives obscure. Interactions produce, reproduce or change the parts, the firms and other organisations involved in business and the way they are interconnected, including economic, social and political, and the activities, resources, bonds and schemas involved. In an important sense people and firms do not manage these interactions and networks of interactions within and across firm boundaries; the interactions ‘manage’ them. I came to my views on business from a prior focus on systems theory and Aldersonian functionalist marketing theory, with a particular emphasis on the structure of marketing channels and the interactions taking place among firms in such systems. Business marketing allowed me to broaden this to encompass the structure and function of business networks more generally, including buyer–seller interactions and relations. I have written generally about the history of thought concerning business networks and channels in marketing elsewhere (Wilkinson 2001); in this chapter I summarise some of the key ideas in this book and how I think we can and should move forward in terms of our research and thinking. MARKET TRANSACTIONS AND COLLABORATIVE ADVANTAGE The analytical framework underlying this book may be...

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