Grounded in a cumulating number of real world experiences in different sectors and arenas, the issue of coopetition has progressively emerged as a nontrivial issue in strategy research (Dagnino 2007; Walley 2007). The significant role that coopetition has increasingly assumed has been the core driver of investigation into the structure and consequences of interfirm coopetitive dynamics (Brandenburger and Nalebuff 1996; Lado et al. 1997; Chapter 2, this volume). Moving from this initial claim, various studies have began scrutinizing the relationships between coopetition and knowledge transfer, respectively, at both the internetwork level (Peng and Bourne 2008), the interfirm or interorganizational level (Loebbecke et al. 2002) and the interunit or intraorganizational level, especially in the context of the multinational firm (Tsai 2002). Accordingly, it appears clear that some steps have lately been undertaken to determine the nature of coopetition (Padula and Dagnino 2007). Nevertheless, investigation into coopetition still seems to be at its early stages. There are a number of underexplored research areas and problems that allow us to reveal several avenues for future research. One such unexplored area is an investigation into the mutual interaction between trust and coopetition. Whereas managerial scrutiny of trust had to some extent developed in parallel vis-à-vis coopetition, studies scrutinizing the organizational underpinnings of trust and trust-based behaviors have become more intense and more systematic over the last decade. Trust studies have thus achieved a higher degree of scientific sedimentation and crystallization than coopetition studies have. The mushrooming quantity of academic workshops and conferences that have been dedicated to trust is unquestionably indicative of this progressive path. Consequently, to all appearances trust could seem to have more to contribute to coopetition than vice versa. Despite this prevailing opinion, the clarification of trust’s comparative contribution and degree of bi-directional influxes to coopetition and vice versa are the focus of this chapter. More precisely, our intention is to dig more deeply and ascertain how trust helps out in shaping and molding the multidimensional and complex phenomenon that is the structure of coopetition. Thus, our motivating question is: “What are the features
that characterize trust as a fundamental moderating mechanism affecting firms’ coopetitive dynamics?” In this chapter, we contribute to the burgeoning literature on coopetition by investigating the structure of coopetition regarded as a multidimensional phenomenon in the light of trust. Our aim is basically twofold. On the one hand, we show that coopetition structure is so elusive to display a dual nature; i.e. it is a behavior that, in order to be grasped, far from admitting a monodimensional inquiry, needs to be scrutinized from a duality of guiding lights: the economic and the social aspects. On the other, we emphasize the strategic role of trust considered as a crucial moderating mechanism which contributes to mold and shape the paths of firms’ coopetitive processes and coopetitive dynamics. In more detail, we maintain that, since trust is defined as expectation that coopetitor’s future actions will produce favorable results in a situation of risk and vulnerability, it helps to circumscribe more firmly the coopetitive arena and is able to assume an essential moderating and mitigating role in guiding and controlling the directions taken by interfirm coopetitive paths. Drawing on different kinds of trust, we lay the groundwork of a dynamic and history-based model of coopetition evolution. Due to its exploratory status and multidimensional approach, the consideration of trust in interfirm coopetitive dynamics embraces a few original features. The first one is that the work is one of the very few that genuinely takes into account contributions from two relevant, but habitually unrelated, management literatures: the marketing literature and the strategic management literature. Whereas the two fields of study have lately resulted in various trust studies based on economic, sociological and psychological arguments, which present considerable integration potential, these inquiries have occurred disjointedly, as the two academic communities have largely remained isolated from each other. In fact, although they are in many ways mirror images (i.e. respectively more oriented to the demand side and to the supply side of management inquiry and practice), marketing and strategy authors, schools and journals have traditionally pursued utterly separate research projects. For the reasons above, this study is one of the few that try to bridge the two important research fields. The second original trait is that, since trust is conceived as a mechanism that evolves differently over time, crossing different phases and states, this study aims to provide a process view of coopetition. Accordingly, the passage of time and the changing conditions of trusting behaviors are, in our view, crucial in forging the dynamic shape of coopetition and coopetitive environments. Owing to this study’s multifaceted nature and the necessity to encompass both the economic and social aspects, as well as managerial behavior’s competitive and collaborative sides, its third original feature consists in that the analysis that we will undertake is among the few in management studies that crucially examine the possibilities of integrating process and content. In the course of the chapter, we will demonstrate that, under a coopetitive regime, the content dimension is associated with a process dimension: the former dimension is regulated by economic and social aspects, the latter by the competitive and collaborative sides of the relationship.