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Paper info: The opportunities and limitations of network visioning – the case of strategizing in a distribution network


The opportunities and limitations of network visioning – the case of strategizing in a distribution network


Morten H. Abrahamsen
BI Norwegian Business School
Morten H. Abrahamsen ,
Aino Halinen
Turku School of Economics and Business Administration
Aino Halinen and
Pete Naude
Manchester Business School
United Kingdom
Pete Naude

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 34th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2018.


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Future plays a key role in any form of strategic thinking. In network strategizing the future perspective is involved in the visioning that has been identified as an important activity related to the formation of network pictures and the sketching of options for strategic action (Laari-Salmela et al. 2015; Möller & Halinen, 1999). However, very few studies exist that explicitly take a future outlook on network strategizing. In recent research, strategizing has been viewed as a process (Abrahamsen et al. 2016; Laari-Salmela et al. 2015) and foresight as part of it (Andersenet al. 2017), but visioning in a complex interactive business network has not been explicitly addressed. In this paper we describe how visioning becomes part of the process of network strategizing. Based on a theoretical model grounded on existing literature, we will investigate the opportunities and limitations of network visioning. Two research questions are posed: What can companies foresee in the development of their business networks, and to what extent does their visioning inform the emergent strategic path of their company? The study applies a qualitative, longitudinal methodology, where the key actors in a fresh salmon distribution network in Japan are interviewed at two points in time. The managers’ future outlook of the developments within their network are investigated in period one and then verified in a retrospective analysis six years later. Based on this data we present conclusions as to how well the companies concerned were able to foresee the developments that actually occurred during the intervening time period, and how the strategic intentions of the companies were realized through interaction and networking. By applying the sensemaking approach and concepts from futures research, the study contributes to the literature on strategizing in business networks. Comparison of data between the two periods in time and between two companies following different strategic paths, provides a basis for both theoretically and managerially valuable conclusions related to network visioning.