Purpose: Firms collaborate for many reasons; however, sharing resources would seem a primary motive. This paper seeks to argue that in many instances firms collaborate to become part of a knowledge network - to learn about their industry and collectively use their knowledge to serve their own customers more effectively in a competitive environment. Design/methodology/approach: This is a conceptual paper; however, the authors illustrate the work with examples from the automotive industry. Findings: The authors conclude that it is necessary to expand traditional approaches to understanding networks to include the nature and purpose of the interactions between the firms, as well as the structural features of the network and the development of shared meaning and consensus among the network participants. Research limitations/implications: The authors demonstrate the need to take a broader view of learning and collaboration in networks. Practical implications: The automotive and other industries are beginning to witness firms collaborating with competitors and other firms that can add value through collective learning. What seems certain is that for many industries the basis of future competition will be collaborative learning communities versus collaborative learning communities rather than OEM versus OEM in competing for resources and market share. Originality/value: The paper examines how and why firms interact and how this influences what learning is shared, and how such learning is utilised by the firms involved. The paper explores the concept of collective learning, and discusses how the nature and purpose of the interactions between network partners facilitate key learning capabilities. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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