Abstract for: Understanding the Dynamics of Alliance Capabilities

Strategic alliances have become important strategic options for firms to achieve competitive advantage. Yet, there are many examples of alliance failures. Scholars have studied this phenomenon and identified many reasons for alliance failure, including lack of trust between the partnering firms. Paradoxically, the concept of trust is still not fully understood, specifically how and under what conditions trust comes to break down within the broader process of alliance building. We synthesize a process model that describes the “alliance capability”, including trust, openness, partner contributions, and relational rents. We then translate this framework into a formal simulation model and analyze it thoroughly. In analyzing trust dynamics we identify and explore a tipping boundary, separating a regime of alliance failures and successes. We apply our core findings to openness strategies – decisions about how much knowledge to share with partners. Our analyses reveal that strategies informed by a static mental model of trust, contributions, and openness, undervalue openness. Further, too little openness risks early failure due to the being trapped in a vicious cycle of trust depletion.