While previous research considering the emergence of strategic alliances has typically viewed their formation through a single theoretical lens, we suggest that multiple theoretical perspectives are needed to understand their complexity. This research conceptually integrates the resource-based view and institutional theory to assess variations in firm-level motivations to form strategic alliances. Applying these ideas to the context of complex environmental problems, we propose that strategic alliances typically are either competency- or legitimacy-oriented, and that four structural dimensions characterize both types of alliances—organization learning, partner diversity, governance structure, and partner relations. We present research propositions that describe how alliances differ along these dimensions, and offer an important broader perspective on alliance formation that is applicable towards understanding their strategic and social outcomes.
Lin H & Darnall N. 2015. Strategic alliance formation and structural configuration. Journal of Business Ethics. 127, 549-564.