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Paper info: Relationship turbulence in bridging technological discontinuities: A network strategy perspective


Relationship turbulence in bridging technological discontinuities: A network strategy perspective


Hsin-hui Chou
Hsin-hui Chou and
Judy Zolkiewski
Manchester Business School
United Kingdom
Judy Zolkiewski

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 24th IMP-conference in Uppsala, Sweden in 2008.


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The continuous interaction between actors, who control resources and carry out activities, produces both stabilizing and changing forces driving the development of business nets (Gadde and Mattsson, 1987, Håkansson and Henders, 1995). In highly dynamic technology-intensive industries, an actor's bridging of technological discontinuities can be a pivotal event that gives fresh impetus to the firm's long-term sustainability(Sood and Tellis, 2005), but on the other hand, such a strategic change could potentially function as a critical incident that triggers relationship turbulence between the firm and its counterparts and marks a transition period in which they migrate from their existing business net to a new business net. This paper explores the relationship turbulence that results from bridging technological discontinuities and investigates the implications of this for the net involved. Findings are presented from case-based qualitative research which has taken place in the optical recording media industry. These findings verify the existence of relationship turbulence prior to a firm's entrance into a new business net based on the next technological generation. Our empirical data also shows that the turbulence results in the reconfiguration of the existing business net and the establishment of a new relationship that links the firm to a new business net. Our findings suggest the following: Firstly, relationship dissolution or deterioration could be a strategic choice and could result in positive consequences. Secondly, a fading relationship may allow the firm to reallocate its resources and provide opportunities for new relationship establishment, and in turn, generate sustainable momentum for the firm. Thirdly, a customer firm who makes a drain on its supplier's resources may encounter adverse effects and lose its influence in the relationship.