Concept of the Trajectory of Development of Cooperative Relationships in COs

The concept of the trajectory of development of cooperative relationships in COs, which was formulated on the basis of qualitative research, was the result of the combination of six elements based on the core categories derived in the study. The concept in question was based on three cooperation markers, which formed the basis of establishing four levels of cluster cooperation. At each of the levels, a set of general objectives (determining the trajectory of development of COs) and specific objectives were defined - pointing to the specific role assigned to a given CO, in each case based on the following tripartite division: the CO as a Direct resource supplier, a Broker, an Integrator. Furthermore, at each of the levels of cooperation, the fundamental forms of commitment of COs were identified, which allow for the fulfillment of both general objectives and specific objectives alike (Fig. 5.1).

The shape of a triangle present on the above figure symbolizes the participation of cluster members, which manage to achieve the

S.l Concept of the trajectory of development of cooperative relationships in cluster organizations - elements of the concept and relations among them

Figure S.l Concept of the trajectory of development of cooperative relationships in cluster organizations - elements of the concept and relations among them.

Source: Authors’ own elaboration.

subsequent levels of cooperation and engage in fulfilling the goals defined therefor (both general and specific) on the basis of their commitment to specific activities assigned to each level. In the course of achieving subsequent levels, the group of committed cluster members shrinks, which reflects the scale of difficulties of achieving subsequent “rungs of the ladder”. The easiest to achieve is cooperation level I (“Integration at the unit level”), which at the same time is the most important level from the perspective of the further development of cooperative relationships in COs. Relationships established among cluster members form the foundation for the three subsequent levels of cooperation. At the other end lies level IV - “Creation and integration at the organizational level” - which is reserved solely for select cluster members displaying the highest degree of commitment in the development of various forms of cooperation with other cluster members. Thanks to the combination of their resources, it is possible to create common added value and in turn achieve synergistic effects, which mostly manifest themselves at this level of cooperation.

In the further part of the analysis, the generated concept of the trajectory of development was divided into smaller elements (corresponding to the core categories derived in the study), which were presented “step by step” - in keeping with the logical of preparation, from levels of cooperation (including objectives and cooperation markers for the levels of the development of cooperation), through roles and specific objectives, up to commitment. This sequence was forced by the high degree of complication of the reality to which the concept refers. The described issues pertain to various cooperative relationships (made in COs), the nature and intensity of which change with the organizations achieving higher levels of development.

Levels of Cooperation: Main Objectives and Cooperation Markers

In the course of work on the concept of the development of cooperative relationships in COs on the basis of the held study, the point of departure were the forms of cooperation undertaken by entities operating within COs. As the study has demonstrated, particular forms of cooperation are the effect of the arrangement of various relationships, both interpersonal and inter-institutional, characteristic of the given CO. It is impossible to create efficient forms of cooperation only on the basis of one of the above-mentioned channels. A top-down imposition of means of cooperation (in the form of rules and regulations, contracts, agreements) would rid COs of essential flexibility of operations and would discourage entities wishing to cooperate in accordance with their own principles from the very idea of functioning within COs. On the other hand, depending solely on the personal relations made among individuals committed to the well-being of the entire group could decisively narrow down the group of cooperating entities (due to the fact that cooperation would emerge only among entities connected with ties of sympathy, with a high degree of mutual trust) and call into question one of the visions of clustering, that is, coopetition, or the combination of two, seemingly mutually exclusive processes: cooperation and competition with partners belonging to the same CO. Furthermore, dismissing the channel of inter-institutional relations in crystallizing forms of cooperation among cluster members could be seen as a symptom of the inefficiency of the higher-order structure (the CO itself), which is no longer capable of (or does not wish to) fulfill the role of the guarantor of relationships created by its own members. In light of the above, we should conclude that forms of cooperation in COs will always be the result of the relationships made by particular institutions and organizations, as well as the nature of the interpersonal contacts of their representatives.

At the intersection of the aforementioned two complimentary forms of contact lie the foundations of specific forms of corporate activities within the cluster. These activities were identified in the course of the study and later grouped according to their similarities (and accounting for their effects), which in turn led us to derive four main areas of cooperation in CO. On the basis of the research, in each of the identified areas of cluster cooperation, the authors also identified the objectives of the actions made therein. What is characteristic of formal groups (including COs) is the fact that they are initiated consciously to fulfill group objectives. The definition of such objectives is required for the later definition of the activities (and the forms of commitment) undertaken in a given organization. The terms used to refer to the four identified area of cluster cooperation, as well as the method of defining the objectives assigned thereto, reflect the key form of activity undertaken by entities operating within COs. Tab. 5.16 presents the four identified levels of cooperation in COs along with their assigned objectives.

The next category derived in the course of the study - cooperation markers - enabled the authors to range the identified areas in accordance with the degree of advancement of cooperation in COs. In other words, cooperation was approached as a feature, the intensity of which characterizes a given CO and its members. Cooperation markers comprise three features pointing to the specific nature of cooperative relationships at the given level of development in the CO: the activities, goals, and interests of institutional members.

The identified features may be arranged in a logical way: interests - goals - actions - which underlines the cause-and-effect sequence at the foundation of the functioning of each economic entity, including the companies comprising the CO. The functioning of each company is a mix of informal, unofficial interests resulting from (both directly and indirectly) overt and (usually) formalized objectives, which in turn lead to taking actions of a specific nature. The actions undertaken by economic entities are meant to fulfill objectives, which in turn should secure the interests of the companies.

Drawing on the aforementioned markers, the authors have traced the trajectory of development of cooperative relationships in COs, which starts at level I (“Integration at the unit level”) and ends with level IV (“Creation and integration at the organizational level”). Between levels I and IV sit two additional identified areas of cooperation (which may run in parallel): “Allocation and integration at the process level” (level II) and “Impact on the environment” (level III) (see Tab. 5.17).

The first of these features - Activities of institutional members - refers to the observed tendency of the entities comprising COs to focus

“Integration at the unit level”

“Allocation and integration at the process level”

“Impact on the environment”

“Creation and integration at the organizational level”

• Creating a base network of relationships among cluster partners

  • 1 Facilitating access to the increased pool of resources, including information
  • 2 Increasing the quality of products and services and/ or reducing business costs

1 Gaining impact on the external environment of the organization

1 Setting up conditions to create common added value by pooling resources

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

Table 5.17 Levels of cooperation and cooperation markers

Cooperation markers

Level I

Level II

Level III

Level IV

“Integration at the unit level”

“Allocation and integration at the process level”

“Impact on the environment”

“Creation and integration at the organizational level”

Activities of institutional members

Individual

Collective

Collective

Collective

Goals of institutional members

Individual

Individual

Collective

Collective

Interests of institutional members

Individual

Individual

Individual

Collective

Source: Authors’ own elaboration primarily on activities of an individual or collective nature. This means that cluster members will more eagerly enter into those forms of cluster activities, which will either allow them to work relatively individually or will require coordination with their cluster partners (collectively). However, the initiation of such activities is dependent on the given entity (or group of entities) displaying a certain degree of commitment in the activities of the CO. Without such commitment, the entity will in the best case remain a passive observer of the life of the CO and will not be capable of activating the potential necessary to actively participate in the emerging (or already existing) cooperative relationships within the CO.

The second feature - Goals of institutional members - is tied to the trajectory of direct objectives that companies participating in COs set before themselves. Their goals may only be tied to their own functioning and operations (in this case, we may speak of “individual” goals) or they may encompass a broader set of entities, e.g. partners from the same CO, companies from the same industry or complimentary industries, companies from the same region etc. (in this case, we may speak of “collective” goals). In this instance, the term “goal” will designate the set of factors directly determining specific actions undertaken within the CO.

In turn, the term “Interests of institutional members” will pertain to the paramount general trajectories of development taken by each company. The trajectories termed “individual” will primarily focus on the creation and use of these opportunities, which will in turn translate into broadly understood added value, solely for the entity itself, while “collective” interests will characterize those companies, which actively commit to activities resulting in tangible effects for each of the entities taking part.

However, it should be stressed that the collective nature of actions (at levels I, III, and IV), goals (at levels III and IV), and interests (at level IV) does not mean that at the levels in question, there are no actions, goals, and interests of individual nature. Collectivism is only an additional aspect, which manifests itself in each of the cooperative markers for COs.

It is also worth noticing that collectivism pertaining to all three areas - action, goals, and interests - was only observed at cooperation level IV. Because of the commutarization of goals and interests, it is at this level that inter-organizational relationship based on coopetition become the most pronounced. A reference to the convergence of goals and interests can be found in the definition of coopetition: “a system of actors that act due to partly coinciding interests and aims” (Dagnino et al., 2008). Beside the convergence of interest, scholarship also underlines two other aspects of coopetition: co-dependence between companies remaining in a coopetitive relationship is a source of creating value, as well as a space for its division; it is also a positive-sum, variable-sum game which should provide the participants with mutual, albeit not necessarily equal benefits

(Brandenburger & Nalebuff, 1996; Dagnino et al., 2008; Cygler, 2009). To bookend the discussion on the first elements of the generated concept (levels of cooperation and their related goals and markers), it is necessary to articulate additional assumptions at its foundation (formulated on the basis of the study).

The first assumption - the most important from the perspective of the entire concept - rests in the realization that in any CO, any number of levels of cooperation may run in parallel. This in turn means that in most cases, it is impossible to point to a single level of cooperation in a CO, which would be common to all cluster members - in the same CO, cluster members may function at different levels of cooperation. This is tied to the nature of a CO itself - a structure which in principle is far from homogeneous, and which instead comprises elements of different character. Cluster members belong to different industries (or the same industry, albeit in different parts of the value chain), have different levels of potential (e.g. number of employees, employee skill levels, financial possibilities), and a virtually unique set of interests. In effect, it is impossible to arrive at a single, one-size-fits-all model of cooperation. Instead, it is necessary to identify existing or create entirely new subgroups of cluster members, in which the companies will be able to cooperate on relatively consistent terms. Only at this level is it possible to point to the compatibility of the cooperative actions with one of the proposed forms of cooperation. The coordinator should fulfill a key role in the processes (the identification of existing subgroups or the initiation of new subgroups). The efficient management of the CO for the most part rests in the skillful management of the existing diversification within the CO. In effect, it should be up to the coordinator to identify the need and possibilities of the cluster members, establish the trajectory of development of the CO, and introduce organizational measures with a view to encourage all cluster members to commit in the actions of the cluster. It should be stressed that it is that commitment on the part of cluster members (in different forms) which to a considerable degree decides on the possibility of arriving at a given level of cooperation in the CO.

The second crucial element from the perspective of the analysis of cooperative relationships in the studied COs is the assumption on the dynamic nature of the cluster reality. Not only will this dynamic encompass a single CO as a whole, but also its particular elements, that is, the companies themselves. This assumption will lead to the acceptance of the conclusion of the limited applicability of the results of studies and analyses made in reference to the specific group of entities to the time in which the studies and analyses were made, as well as a certain (though impossible to define with certainty) time after these events. In other words - each empirical study has its own “due date”, which is limited by the dynamics of changes within the entity it pertains to. In the context of studies on COs and cluster members, it becomes necessary to respect the conclusion that the forms of cooperation present in a CO and their assignment to the subgroups derived in the course of the study are not constant - they will undergo changes with time. A specific subgroup functioning within a given CO may formally or informally reformulate its goals and initiate cooperation on entirely different terms. Such a redefinition of cooperation may also be tied to the natural rotation of members within each social structures. When an entity or a group of entities leaves the structure, which is then joined by others, this is naturally tied to the appearance of new stimuli and the emergence of different influences, which determine changes in the functioning of a given subgroup, including changes in its accepted (established) forms of cooperation. Apart from the dynamics of the CO as a whole, we may speak of the internal dynamics of its members - though it has to be stressed that such particular interests, goals, and activities undertaken by particular entities may (and probably will) change in the short or long term.

The last of the necessary assumptions of the theoretical concept at hand is giving attention to the relative nature of the categories used to describe cooperative markers used in the analysis of levels of cooperation. The fact that a given area of cooperation is considered to display an individual or collective approach in the case of some of the markers (the activities, goals, and interests of institutional members) is the result of the features observed among the studied cooperating cluster members. However, this is not to not imply that in an area that has been labeled as “collective” in a particular category of cooperative markers there are no cases which would point to an individual approach - or vice versa. By the same token, labeling a given feature as “individual” or “collective” does not imply that there are no exceptions in this regard - it is not tantamount to the statement that specific companies functioning at one of the four levels of cooperation only undertake actions of one nature or are only interested in fulfilling goals of a single kind, resulting from interests reduced to a single form. This is only a guideline to observe certain tendencies (or directed possibilities), that is, to identify a certain emphasis, which is made visible in the functioning of cluster members.

 
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