Learning by Supplying
Learning processes lie at the heart of our understanding of how firms build capabilities to generate and sustain competitive advantage: learning by doing, learning by exporting, learning from competitors, users, and alliance partners. In this paper we focus attention on another locus of learning that has received less attention from academics despite popular interest: learning by supplying. Using a detailed panel dataset on supply relationships in the mobile telecommunications industry, we address the following questions: What factors contribute to a firm’s ability to learn by supplying and build technological and market capabilities? Does it matter to whom the firm supplies? Is involvement in product design important, or is manufacturing the key locus of learning? How does a supplier’s initial resource endowment play into the dynamic? Our empirical analysis yields interesting findings that have implications for theory and practice, and that suggest new directions for future research.
Spatial Organization of Firms
We explore the impact of geographically bounded intra-firm spillovers (internal agglomeration economies) and geographically bounded inter-firm spillovers (external agglomeration economies) on firms’ location strategies. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database and the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project, we analyze organic expansions of biopharmaceutical firms (by both new establishments and employment increase in existing establishments) in the U.S. in 1993–2005. We consider all activities in the value chain and allow location choices to vary by R&D, manufacturing, and sales. Our findings suggest that (1) internal and external agglomeration economies have separate, positive impacts on location, with relevant differences by activity; (2) internal economies of agglomeration arise within an activity (e.g., among plants) and across activities (e.g., between manufacturing and sales); (3) the effects of internal economies across and within activities vary by activity and type of organic expansion; and (4) across-activity internal economies are asymmetric.
Location Choices under Strategic Interactions
The literature on location choices has mostly emphasized the impact of location and firm characteristics. However, most industries with a significant presence of multi-location firms are oligopolistic in nature, which suggests that strategic interaction among firms plays an important role in firms’ decision-making processes. This paper explores how strategic interaction among competitors affects firms’ geographic expansion across time and markets. Specifically, we build a model in which two firms that differ in their capabilities enter sequentially into two markets with different potentials for profit. The model is solved using game theory under three learning scenarios that capture the ability of a firm to transfer its capabilities across markets: no learning, local learning, and global learning. Three equilibrium strategies arise: accommodate, marginalize, and collocate. We identify how these strategies emerge depending on the tradeoff between the opportunity costs of absence (giving competitors a lead in a market) and the entrenchment benefits (the cost advantage firms develop through learning-by-doing when they enter early). Both the opportunity costs of absence and the entrenchment benefits vary according to initial relative firm capabilities, relative market profitability, and learning rates. Our model offers a comprehensive approach to understanding the drivers of firm location choices by modeling not only the impact of location and firm heterogeneity, but also the strategic interaction among firms.