A Pluralistic Perspective to Overcome Major Blind Spots in Research on Interorganizational Relationship



Interorganizational relationships have attracted much scholarly attention in the last two decades. Despite the significant advances made in this field, the literature still largely relies on assumptions that overlook core features of interorganizational relationships. We draw from the organizational research on pluralism to evaluate and identify opportunities to extend the literature on interorganizational relationships. Drawing on a synthesis of the last 20 years of research (1996-2016) on interorganizational relationships, we discuss four major “blind spots” concerning (1) a single party (i.e., the assumption of symmetry between parties or the focal party’s perception is taken to reflect the whole relationship), (2) a single valence (i.e., the assumption of uniform relationships between parties), (3) a single level (i.e., the assumption of an interorganizational phenomenon within one level of analysis), and (4) a single conceptualization of time (i.e., the assumption of universal time). Through an analysis of exemplary studies, we identify a coherent set of strategies to address each blind spot.

Overcoming each of these blind spots provides novel insights to revisit theoretical mechanisms concerning the functioning of interorganizational relationships. We advance the literature on interorganizational relationships by articulating a pluralistic perspective for future research.