The 38th Annual IMP Conference hosts a regular track and some special tracks. Please idicate in the abstract if you are submitting for the regular track or for a special track.
Resource interaction in established and novel areas
Track chairs: Roberta Bocconcelli, Conor Drummond, Debbie Harrison, Frida Lind, Milena Ratajczak-Mrozek
Resources, resource interfaces, and resource interaction are central concepts within IMP. In this special track proposal, we call for conference papers that aim at conceptual, empirical, and / or methodological development of current knowledge.
While the track is aimed to include and not exclude, and all papers with resources at their core are welcome, we encourage papers which engage in conceptual development. For example, ‘open language’ is a characteristic of resource interaction research (Bocconcelli et al, 2020). This is both an opportunity and a constraint, as it can hinder clarity of conceptual definitions and their relatedness. Conference papers aimed at conceptual refinement are encouraged. Furthermore, themes such as value generation and appropriation are long standing but underdeveloped. In particular, the dynamics of resource interaction and how this underpins network value co-creation is understudied and we call for papers on those themes. The same interest concerns developments in entrepreneurship in business networks (e.g., Aaboen et al, 2017) that employ a resource interaction lens, for example, processes of resource interaction or resource mobilization involving start-up firms in business relationships and networks.
IMP’s knowledge base generally has been developed from empirically based theorizing. Papers could rely on empirical studies in the context of established business and long-term business relationships. Papers could also engage in novel areas in the empirical context. Novel areas including the nature of resource mobilization for attempting to handle ‘grand challenges’, emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (Boyd & Koles, 2019) and Artificial Intelligence (Leone, Schiavone, Appio & Chiao, 2021), the role of platforms as resources, and neglected areas such as social media, are all examples of changes impacting business networks which can be investigated using a resource lens. The negative aspects of resource interaction in networks (Baraldi, Ingemansson Havenvid, Linné & Öberg, 2019) is another area of interest for this special track, while the need to examine complex resource interactions within industrial relationships and networks requires advancements in methodological approaches (Waluszewski, Snehota & La Rocca, 2019). Papers examining novel methodologies or methods suitable for developing our understanding of these phenomena are also welcome.
Dynamics of interaction, business relationships and business network
There has been in the IMP tradition a mixture of research perspectives although the distinctions are not always declared (e.g. Ojansivu, Hermes, & Laari-Salmela, 2020). Within the IMP tradition one finds research that accepts interaction, business relationships and networks as: (i) objectively defined entities modeled by dimensions in a Cartesian space (e.g. levels, mechanisms), (ii) social constructions where there are shared, co-created understandings, and (iii) emerging ephemeral entities created socially in processes. For example, while Håkansson and Johanson (1988) describe interactions as streams (processes) they also proclaim interaction is:
“Both objective and subjective. It is objective in the sense that the industrial activities and the interfirm relations have an observable effect on the interaction and vice versa. It is subjective in the sense that the actors make subjective interpretations of its meaning and base their action on this meaning.” Håkansson and Johanson (1988, 373)
When applied according to a constructivist approach the IMP tradition emphasizes change and the dynamics inherent in interaction, business relationships and networks. For example, one starting point for understanding interaction is the subjective aspect on an individual actor (Ford & Håkansson, 2006). While a subjective interpretation fits to a constructivist perspective, it also implies and relies upon a distinction to an objective interpretation (see, Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Burrell & Morgan, 1979). This ‘dualism’ is quintessential in a Cartesian entity interpretation of the world (Adam, 1995; Lefebvre, 1991; Rorty, 1991; Uttal, 2004), which is “rationally blind to the dynamic world of interwoven, reciprocally responsive, ceaseless living activities within which we all have our being” (Shotter & Lannamann, 2002, 578).
There is a further issue inside that of adopting a research perspective, for each is changing as new understandings are adopted, some are aspects are changed and others are forgotten (Ojansivu, Medlin, Andersen, & Kim, In press). What is at issue here is not so much a static perspective reminiscent of the paradigm wars (Shepherd & Challenger, 2013), rather there is a path of academic development that has primarily adopted a Cartesian ‘entity path’, in which concepts are individual, ‘a historic’, ‘a contextual’ and neglectful (Shotter, 1995b). Cartesian thinking models the business world as atomistic actors (Gergen, 2018), in static theoretical representations that can only imply processes, studied separate from their contexts and without consideration of the growing and changing character of individuals in their social settings (Adam, 1995; Ingold, 1986; Lefebvre, 1991, 2008; Lock & Strong, 2010; Shotter, 2006, 2010b; Shotter & Lannamann, 2002). The ephemerality of business relationships and networks is also studied according to mechanistic processes (Shotter, 1990). But to do so is to take more an entity path following the Cartesian method. Evidently studies always combine aspects of the entity, the constructivist and process perspectives.
In this call for papers, we seek studies that develop an alternative path, provisionally named a temporal process path. We look for research that accepts the joint (Ford & Håkansson, 2006) and co-created ways of acting and sensemaking (Weick, 1979; Weick & Roberts, 1993; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2008) that are found in business relationships. Here we are taking Descartes “I think therefore I am” and re-imagining the ‘therefore’ as temporal processes that involve interaction, business relationships and networks from the collective perspective of “We are thinking therefore we are becoming”. The idea being to research interaction, business relationships and networks as relational concepts that are connected to participant respondents and to the IMP academic community (see Andersen, Medlin, & Törnroos, 2020; Gergen, 2009; Shotter, 2015), but to focus to relational becoming (Corcoran & Cromby, 2016; Gergen, 1994; Gergen, 2011; Shotter, 1995a) according to a turbulent relational ontology (Shotter, 2012).
There are of course many issues in pursuing the temporal process path. Researchers are constantly faced with and drawn towards an entity path for explanation and representation, as it is easier to communicate and fits neatly into established research perspectives (Adam, 1995; Ingold, 2016). By contrast the proposed temporal process path recognizes: (i) each event is specific and particular with its own historic and contextual setting (Gergen, 1994, 1997; Shotter, 2010a, 2011), (ii) constructions of time and temporalities requires care to study (Adam, 1995), (iii) contexts are social constructions (Shotter, 1985; 1993, 2011), and (iv) processes are joint social constructions with a longitudinal life in which, rather than logically within systems, the interdependencies are temporal.
The IMP tradition has for some time been pursuing the temporal process path. For example studies in the IMP tradition have been cognizant of processes, time and the temporalities of actors in the empirical domain (see the special issue Halinen, Medlin, & Törnroos, 2012), and their acting together in a joint fashion is noted (Ford & Håkansson, 2006) although hardly studied. Business relationships are developed in time through interaction between actors (Håkansson, 1982), as are networks (Håkansson & Snehota, 1995), but the way temporal processes are involved as contexts and situations for relating and networking deserve further research.
Following a temporal process path of academic development seems difficult and against the grain, but this may only be our academic training and the inertia of our academic communities (Ojansivu et al., In press). However, when one considers the advances made in following an entity path of academic development, there appears a great opportunity in developing an understanding of the alternative path, for all research perspectives.
We look for studies that consider:
Decision Making when interacting in business relationships
Track chairs: Simone Guercini, Antonella La Rocca, Ivan Snehota
Empirical studies in the IMP research tradition over the past four decades evidence that continuous relationships tend to emerge between customer and supplier organizations. These interorganizational relationships economically relevant, with pervading consequences for the economic performance as well as for the development of businesses. These studies also evidence that developing interorganizational business relationships takes place in a context characterized by interdependences and involves interacting. The economic relevance of the interorganizational business relationships derives from actual and expected cost and revenue consequences for the businesses involved which, in turn, arise from solutions related to combining resources coordinating activities and connecting actors between the organizations involved. Past research also suggests that the solutions that emerge in customer supplier relationships originate in behaviours of managers as actors within and across organizations and that the interdependent business network structures result from interactions in dyads between single actors and interaction among all involved actors collectively (Ford, Mattsson & Snehota, 2017).
Past research, in particular in the IMP tradition, has approached the actor dimension in interorganizational business relationships in an ambivalent way, conceiving the actor dimension on the individual and organizational levels. Our understanding of factors shaping the actual interaction behaviours of managers is incomplete. Theorizing actors’ behaviours, in particular in the management context, appears to remain mostly rooted in a conception of managerial action as ‘rationalistic’ in that it assumes that rational choice (sensible conduct) is matter of anticipating future consequences of decisions regarding choice among alternatives. This conception of managerial decision making has a normative implication that the “best” decisions flow from systematic decision making where systematic analysis foregoes the choice among the available courses of action.
However, there has been a parallel development (different streams) in conceptualizing the managerial decision implying that other factors such as emotions, rules and norms are important factors shaping the actual behaviours and business solutions and therefore that the actual scope for systematic decision making in management is rather limited (Bettis, 2017). Among the alternative frameworks to explain managers’ behaviours there is the research stream on the use of heuristics in decision making which suggests that avoiding systematic decision making might be a sign of ‘adaptive rationality’ and leads to better outcomes than the rationalistic systematic decision making (Luan et al., 2019). The scope for use of heuristics when interacting in interorganizational business relationships has also been evidenced in some past studies in the IMP perspective (e.g. Guercini et al., 2014, 2015).
Given the limited research and understanding of the interaction processes in business relationships (La Rocca, Hoholm, Mørk, 2017) we see the need and opportunity for bettering our understanding of the interaction processes in business relationships and in particular of the factors underpinning managers’ interaction behaviours. There seems to be a need to go beyond, to use the terms of Argyris and Schön(1996), the theories “espoused” to those that actually are “theories-in-use” by managers when interacting both within and across organizational boundaries. We intend to stimulate research towards that end and welcome, empirical, theoretical but also methodological papers that can contribute to better understanding of interaction behaviours in interorganizational business relationships.
The topic of decision making when interacting in interorganizational supplier-customer relationships is broad and apparently relatively unexplored both empirically and conceptually. There are several themes that we expect to advance the understanding of interaction behaviours such as:
Understanding and managing digital transformation from an inter-organizational perspective
Track chairs: Vincent Fremont, Jens Ecklinder Frick and Andrea Perna
To follow up on the main topic of last year’s IMP Forum in Uppsala seminar and a forthcoming special issue in Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, a special track regarding the phenomenon of digital transformation as viewed from an inter-organisational network perspective is arranged.
Digital transformation is described as an evolutionary process in which digital capabilities and technologies are used to form new business models, operational processes, and customer experiences, all aimed at creating customer value (Morakanyane et al., 2017). In comparison to digitization and digitalization of business practices, a digital transformation is a more profound change process (Brennen & Kreiss, 2015; Henriette et al., 2015; Parviainen et al., 2017; Stolterman & Fors, 2004). It allows for the development of external opportunities, such as new business models, improved customer delivery times, improved customer service quality, etc. In extension, it may lead to disruptive change such as changes in business roles or even making a company’s business obsolete within its wider context (Parviainen et al., 2017). Digital transformation thus includes inter-organizational aspects of how firms create value through social and technical change processes, a perspective that fits well with the research conducted by the IMP community (Baraldi et al., 2012; Håkan Håkansson & Waluszewski, 2007).
Expectations surrounding digital technologies are core to digital transformations, and the realization of their potential benefits is not solely dependent on their intrinsic technical characteristics but rather on how these will interact with their context (Baraldi & Nadin, 2006). However, these processes are often seen from a firm-centric perspective, and the drivers of the value creation behind such transformation remain vague and explained from a theoretically aggregated level. The IMP stream of literature has, for the last 40 years, empirically investigated how inter-organizational activities, resource utilization and actor bonds can generate value for business actors (Håkan Håkansson, 1982; Waluszewski et al., 2017). It is thus logical that literature embracing the inter-organizational network perspective also aids the understanding of digital transformation, especially when it comes to how such a phenomenon might result in novel business practices and value creation within and between interacting firms. Historically, the IMP perspective has proven apt in empirically tracing and explaining innovation and change processes within industrial business practices (Håkan Håkansson & Waluszewski, 2016). Moreover, there is currently an increase in papers within the IMP community that study digital transformation related phenomena (Andersson & Mattsson, 2016; Baraldi, 2003; Eklinder-Frick et al., 2020; Fremont et al., 2018; Karjaluoto et al., 2003; Mele et al., 2019; Ojala et al., 2016).
The aim of this special track is to stimulate a discussion and increase our understanding of the possibilities and hindrances that digital transformation entail. With a specific focus on digitally transformed inter-organizational activities, resource utilization within and between firms, and the alteration of relational bonds between interacting business actors.
Network outsidership and internationalization: new trends and emerging issues
Track chairs: Andrea Runfola, Milena Ratajczak-Mrozek, Martin Johanson, Mikael Hilmersson, and Wensong Bai
Significant trends in the business environment are now heavily influencing the company's internationalization, such as the growth of uncertainty generated by the current pandemic or the impact of digitalization (Ghauri, Strange & Cooke, 2021; Sharma, Leung, Kingshott, Davcik & Cardinali, 2021). These and other business environment trends make it more important than ever to understand how companies internationalize, what liabilities they face, and how they approach international markets.
Over the years, the literature has highlighted the relevance of adopting a network perspective in internationalization (Johanson & Vahlne, 2009 Vahlne & Johanson, 2017). According to this perspective, relationships and networks play a vital role in the company's internationalization and provide firms with privileged access to resources and opportunities (Bai & Johanson, 2018, Hilmersson, Johanson, Lundberg & Papaioannou, 2021). Being part of a foreign network and developing an insidership, represents a pivotal condition for operating effectively in international contexts. Research has even suggested that it is the liability of network outsidership, rather than foreignness that is essential for internationalization (Bai, Johanson, Oliveira, Ratajczak-Mrozek & Francioni, 2021; Johanson & Vahlne, 2009). The contemporary digital era, with new properties such as the user-centric network and network effect of internet (Brouthers, Geisser, & Rothlauf, 2016), adds complexity to the concept of liability of outsidership (Chen et al., 2019). Then, overcoming the liability of outsidership is essential, both for large companies (Vahlne, Schweizer & Johanson, 2012) and for small and medium-sized enterprises (Guercini & Runfola, 2010; Hilmersson & Jansson, 2012), no matter they are advanced or emerging market companies (Bai, Johanson, Oliveira & Ratajczak-Mrozek, 2021, Li & Fleury, 2020), or engage in conventional offline or online networks (Fraccastoro, Gabrielsson, & Chetty, 2021). The IMP approach makes an essential contribution in this regard (Håkansson and Gadde, 2018). Understanding which actors to interact with, how to relate with them, which resources to mobilize, what activities are involved allows to overcome the liability of outsidership and operate effectively in international markets.
This special track aims to understand what new dimensions characterize international networks and how companies act in the network to overcome the liabilities of outsidership and foreigness. Hence, we invite papers addressing the following topics according to a market as network approach:
We invite conceptual, literature reviews, and empirical papers addressing these and other issues linked to the special track topics.
Business networks in the change towards sustainability
Track Chairs: Tuula Lehtimäki, Hanna Komulainen, Pauliina Ulkuniemi
In the heat of the climate crisis, sustainability transition has become a necessity, and firms are learning how to create value from sustainability (Varadarajan, 2015). However, the change towards sustainability is complex and slow in many industries (e.g., Doganova & Karnøe, 2015; Ottosson et al., 2020). Sustainable innovations and systems are often introduced into existing business networks, where conventional solutions have strong market positions, and existing businesses depend on them. Also, value appropriation for new sustainable offerings and systems has appeared problematic.
As an example, even though bio-based plastics offer an alternative for fossil-based plastics, and biodegradable plastics have many promising applications, there are many challenges in developing the performance, availability, credibility, applications, and infrastructure for these materials. There is a need for new network actors to provide feedstock, to produce and process these materials, to redesign products, and to handle their end-of-life, to capture the value from bioplastics (Keränen et al., 2021). Altogether, existing business networks are adapted, and new actors, activities, resources, and interactions are needed.
To contribute to the still limited business-to-business marketing research on sustainability (Sharma, 2020), we welcome theoretical, empirical, and methodological papers to investigate how business network research (e.g., Lacoste, 2016; Möller et al., 2020) can help us to understand both ongoing and future changes towards sustainability in diverse industry contexts. Suggested themes include but are not limited to:
Entrepreneurs and consumers in business networks - Looking at passion and entrepreneurship through IMP lenses
Track chairs: Bernard Cova, Simone Guercini, Enrico Baraldi, Andrea Perna
IMP has over the recent years contributed within the area of entrepreneurship and new business formation by focusing mostly on the relevance of the interorganizational and network context (Snehota, 2011; Baraldi et al., 2020a). Less focus instead has been put on the roles played by emotions/passion and individuals when new business is formed within business networks.
The theme of passion, emotions, the loss of rationality (or in the different rationality) associated with entrepreneurship is gaining constantly attention as witnessed by the increasing number of contributions in this area (Baraldi et al., 2020a; Newman et al., 2019). Passion is expressed, for example, in the activity of consumption, but it leads to the formation of skills and relationships and the formation of groups that can then produce effects when the same individual actor plays an entrepreneurial role and by developing networks even at the interorganizational level (Guercini and Cova, 2018; 2021). The formation of structured skills from the basis of solid personal motivations passion is serious and persistent – lead to lasting investments over time such as the ones which surrounds the new business formation and networking processes (Baraldi et al., 2020b; Pagano et al., 2021). But from a conceptual perspective seems that emotions and passions are distant from the interorganizational relationships focus of the IMP network tradition. One reasoning is that in the literature resulting from IMP research, the organizational side clearly prevails, without completely losing the interaction between individual actors (salespeople, managers), but limiting it to their organizational and commercial outcomes (Mainela & Ulkuniemi, 2013; Cova, Skålén and Pace, 2019): in other words, emotions and passions have not been central in IMP because of its focus on organizational actors (eg. Hakånsson and Snehota, 1995).
In the light of the above introduction, the goal of our special track is to engage the IMP community for understanding the emergence of entrepreneurship from the passionate consumption of individuals with a specific focus on inter-organizational activities, resource utilization and interaction among individuals and firms. This track would also represent a platform for IMP researchers aimed to utilize IMP frameworks, methodologies and tools to study and analyze the phenomenon of entrepreneurship by taking passion and emotions as specific angles. From a methodological view point the IMP traditionproposes a methodological approach that can find wider application (Håkansson and Waluszewski, 2016). In fact, the IMP tradition proposes not only an object of study, but models and a methodology of process analysis whose usefulness in the research of entrepreneurship has already emerged from recent research that falls within the IMP umbrella (Baraldi et al., 2020b).
The track should be inclusive, seeing various aspects, including at least the following:
Mergers, acquisitions and network change
Track chairs: Helén Anderson, Sabine Gebert-Persson, Lars-Gunnar Mattsson, Christina Öberg
Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) construct an opportunity to study change in pre-/post-hoc settings as M&As demark distinct events in time. M&As take place in different forms (from becoming a majority shareholder to two firms being unified into one) and have rendered research interests from scholars across disciplines. M&As are frequently appearing in many of those case studies produced by IMP researchers and beyond, and are also used as critical events to study network change (Havila & Salmi, 2000). Being a distinct event in time, M&As offer several opportunities for understanding the dynamic of interactions.
In contrast to the more narrow, company centric lenses on M&As often underpinning research in strategic management, accounting, finance and HRM studies (e.g., Dezi, Battisti, Ferraris, & Papa, 2018; Haleblian, Devers, McNamara, Carpenter, & Davison, 2009; Kiessling, Vlacic, & Dabic, 2021), IMP research has contributed to the view on M&As as a strategic mode to change firm resources or offerings. IMP researchers have among other aspects highlighted: 1) the importance of considering business parties in M&A studies (Anderson, Havila, & Salmi, 2001; Holtström & Anderson, 2021); 2) M&As as a critical event triggering radical change both at the dyadic and network level (Havila & Salmi, 2000), and 3) patterns between M&As, integration and customer reactions (Öberg, 2008). Studies have furthermore focused on network effects related to specific types of firms (e.g., family firms, small-sized firm and innovative firms) and cross-border M&As (Andersson & Mattsson, 2006; Bocconcelli, Snehota, & Tunisini, 2006; Mattsson, 2000; Öberg, Grundström, & Jönsson, 2011). Studies have focused on management cognition to structural network analyses (Gebert Persson, Lundberg, & Elbe, 2014; Öberg, Henneberg, & Mouzas, 2007).
Although IMP research has been done in relation to network effects of M&As, much remains not the least as the business landscape changes to include platform-based operations, servitisation, climate change and as business models are intensively debated (e.g., Raja, Basner, Chakkol, & Frandsen, 2017; Öberg, 2021). We therefore invite papers focusing on M&As related to business relationships and networks in the contemporary business and political context to further expand knowledge related to M&As in a network setting and M&As as a methodological opportunity to capture change in business relationships and networks. The track invites papers including M&As in business network studies, departing from M&As to capture stability and change of business relationships, or using M&As methodologically. Rather than providing a list of suggested themes, we provide some inspirational questions and look forward to your contributions: