chapter  10
18 Pages

Learning Alliances

In an era characterized by rapid changes and high levels of uncertainty, learning enables a fi rm to maintain or improve its competitive advantage. Learning allows a fi rm to generate new knowledge about markets, technologies, processes, product and service concepts, and business models. However, because fi rms may lack the internal resources they need to sustain their learning to build new competences, they forge alliances to enhance the breadth and depth of the knowledge available to them, both existing and new. In a learning alliance, two or more fi rms enter into a collaborative scheme to generate knowledge by sharing and combining their knowledge bases. However, in a learning alliance a fi rm also provide access to its counterpart, enabling the latter to acquire proprietary or valuable knowledge that is not part of the alliance agreement. Therefore, fi rms engaged in learning alliances must protect themselves from unwanted knowledge leakage. This situation presents fi rms with a specifi c challenge: to strike a balance between learning (i.e. accessing, internalizing and exploiting knowledge), and knowledge protection. The fi rst section of this chapter discusses this challenge in detail. The following sections elaborate on mechanisms that stimulate or hinder learning and knowledge protection, and associate the governance of learning alliances with the alliance development framework. The chapter concludes with a summary and a case illustration.