Managing Paradoxical Tensions in Coopetition

By Johanne Hagelin and Stine Sætre

8 July 2021 13:01

Managing Paradoxical Tensions in Coopetition

A Qualitative Case Study from the Banking Industry – Examining the Functions of Leadership in Managing Paradoxical Tensions in Coopetitive Interfirm Strategies.

Johanne Hagelin and Stine Sætre
Johanne Hagelin and Stine Sætre.

Coopetition – cooperating with a competitor – is increasingly used as an innovation strategy in today’s business world. However, this simultaneous pursuit of cooperation and competition between firms create a paradox in the relationship, which in turn has the potential to cause tensions. Research on how the individual leader can manage these paradoxical tensions is particularly limited.

Our study is an extention to this research and especially looks at how leadership is critical in different phases of a coopetitive project and how leaders can manage the paradoxical tensions and emotional ambivalence that may be experienced in coopetitive relationships. To do this, we conducted seven semi-structured interviews with project leaders from a coopetitive project.

Based on our data, we identify critical points of tension and key leadership behaviors. Our findings suggest that leaders and their distinct leadership behaviors and ambitions are crucial for sustaining a constructive coopetitive relationship, and important for reaching the project’s innovation potential. Further, our data indicates that how the leader deals with emotional ambivalence and paradoxical tensions ultimately affects the functionality of his/her leadership behavior, which should be noted.

The thesis was written within the RaCE research project, which is a part of DIG.

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