By Gail Allyn Short

Allen JohnstonEvery organization has them.

They are the employees who are too busy to change their passwords. They are the ones who install unapproved software applications, or leave their laptops on airplanes. They are the ones who despite warnings from IT, will click on suspicious URLs sent to them via e-mail and unwittingly unleash malicious malware onto the company’s network. 

To promote data security in the workplace, IT executives routinely craft cyber security policies and procedures, deploy firewalls and install a range of security appliances, says UAB Collat School of Business Associate Professor Allen Johnston, Ph.D.

“But what they tend to overlook is the fact that for security to be effective within [your] organization, your people, employees, clients and those who are working within your organization have to have a role in security,” he says.

The acquisition, assimilation, and exploitation of heterogeneous, valuable knowledge-based resources contribute critically to a firm’s competitive advantage and superior performance. Research in supply chain and strategic management further indicates that abnormal returns derive not only from resources within a firm but also from those outside of the firm’s boundaries. Attaining such external resources often involves acquiring knowledge from external ties.  In supply chain management area, researchers have highlighted the positive role of relational ties in fostering performance and knowledge acquisition. Increased socialization between the buyer and supplier contributes to the creation of relational capital that leads to deeper interfirm communication and knowledge sharing. However, recent supply chain management research cautions about the potential dark side of highly embedded ties, which may become a source of blindness that restrict information flows and even bring in the risk of opportunistic exploitation that hurts knowledge flows. Thus it remains unclear whether relational ties facilitate or inhibit knowledge flows between embedded parties.


Dr. Simon Sheng and his colleagues address this controversy by studying the following questions:

What is the real relationship between inter-firm relational ties and knowledge sharing between the two firms? Does the shape of the relationship depend on the strength of the ties?

As an informal governance mechanism, how do relational ties interact with formal governance mechanism, i.e., inter-organizational contracts, to influence knowledge acquisition between two firms?

How does the industrial context surrounding the inter-firm exchanges ( i.e., industrial competitive intensity) influence the impact of relational ties on knowledge acquisition?

As the business landscape becomes more global, managers must navigate cross-cultural relationships with an increasingly diverse set of partners. These relationships are built on economic as well as social considerations. Parties to a business relationship may consider qualities such as financial outcomes, convenience, interpersonal relationships, fairness, trust and other aspects of potential partners as they manage their network of business partnerships.

Given a diversity of cultural backgrounds, it seems that some managers may favor more communal interactions within relationships than would be desirable by the typical American firm. With the drastic increase in global business, it is important to understand that our expectations for relationships may not apply to business partners from other cultures.

Lund 200In a nutshell, Dr. Lund and his colleagues found that fairness is most important in cultures that are highly avoidant to uncertainty. Of five different cultural dimensions, uncertainty avoidance accounted for the majority of variation across countries in the importance of fairness. Findings also show that increased exposure to diverse cultures through business relationships enhances the importance of fairness.