A Research on Development of Inter-Organizational Learning: Through the Case of an International Strategic Alliance

Article excerpt


This research deals with the development of inter-organizational learning (IOL) in co-operative strategies. Organizations have to adapt to their increasingly changing environment for continuing to attain profitable performance and success. Under this circumstance, co-operative strategies such as international joint ventures (JV) and strategic alliances are continuously prospering, and many researchers have addressed them (For reference, see Oliver and Evers, 1998; Faulkner and de Rond, 2000, Inkpen, 2001.). One standpoint to grasp co-operative strategies is to analyze them under the aspect of change or development. For example, Ring and Van de Ven (1984) refer the development of inter-organizational relationship (IOR) as "socially contrived mechanisms for collective action are restructured."

It is essential for IORs to achieve high performance, and it is clear that the development of IORs plays important role. Here, it is also important whether knowledge or ability of each organization or IOR as a whole is improved. In other words, when the development of IORs happens as result of inter-organizational learning, the possibility of long term adaptation is considered to be increased.

On the other hand, Inter-organizational learning (IOL) is one major field of IORs researches and researches on it have increased in this decade. What do we mean by IOL? How is IOL related to each organization? Does IOL itself change over time? Based on these ideas, we firstly survey existing researches on IOL in dyadic IOR and present our framework. Here, we will point out that the relationships between several types of IOL have been discussed. Although many researchers have explained that IOL contributes to the development of IOR, the fact that there is a variety of IOL itself means we should refer to the typology and the relationship between each type of IOL in thinking about the development of IOR. Secondly, with case of the alliance between Renault and Nissan, we show how IOL developed make clear this side of IORs. Lastly, we point out implications and theoretical connection between organizational learning (OL) and IOL.


Although IOL research doesn't have long history, there are so many foci in this field. For example, Inkpen (2002) refers to following topics as IOL research foci; motive, opportunities, measurement, antecedents, alliance outcome, bargaining power, impact on other organizational variables, processes, and protecting knowledge.

As seen before, one important aspect of the foci above is how IOL develops overtime, because it is considered to contribute the possibility of long term adaptation of organization. And to think about the development of IOL, two questions arise; what does the word "develop" mean? And when does it occur? In this research, we focus mainly on the former.

When we talk about the development of IOL, we have to make clear the typology of IOL. Here, two existing researches are useful. First, Inkpen (2002) refers to two types of IOL in terms of acquiring knowledge through alliance; one involves learning from a partner, the other involves with a partner. Second, Child et al. (2005) explain two types of IOL bringing about changes in both cognition and behavior; received learning and integrative learning. The former means that one partner willingly receives new insights from another. And the latter means that both parties endeavor to express and share their knowledge and practices.

We have seen two researches so far, and can classify them into two streams. Inkpen's discussion is about the typology of IOL, and the one by Child et al. is about the direction of IOL. Combining these two together, we can classify IOL into four types. Figure 1 shows this typology; the vertical axis shows the direction of IOL, and horizontal axis relates to whether IOL brings about common benefit or not.

With this table, we can grasp types of IOL in more detail than existing researches. …