Brokers and Competitive Advantage

  • Ryall M
  • Sorenson O
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Abstract

The broker profits by intermediating between two (or more) parties. Using a biform game, we examine whether such a position can confer a competitive advantage, as well as whether any such advantage could persist if actors formed relations strategically. Our analysis reveals that, if one considers exogenous the rela- tions between actors, brokers can enjoy an advantage but only if (1) they do not face substitutes either for the connections they offer or the value they can create, (2) they intermediate more than two parties, and (3) inter- dependence does not lock them into a particular pattern of exchange. If, on the other hand, one allows actors to form relations on the basis of their expectations of the future value of those relations, then profitable positions of intermediation only arise under strict assumptions of unilateral action. We discuss the implications of our analysis for firm strategy and empirical research.

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Authors

  • Michael D. Ryall

  • Olav Sorenson

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