THE ROLE OF UNDERLYING MECHANISMS IN ACHIEVING CONSISTENT HYBRID COMBINATIONS OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES
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This thesis takes a step beyond the current discussion on hybrid competitive strategies (HS) by identifying the underlying mechanisms and common elements of successful hybrid strategies. Reviewing empirical and theoretical literature revealed a significant gap in this respect. Therefore, the activity-based view of strategy is introduced to the discussion on HS. In a first step, four consistent and sustainable HS concepts are developed providing the basis for deriving specific HS models. A second step identifies commonalities among these HS types and theoretically derives a synthesized, common HS model. Thirdly, the critical realist stance was selected for answering this thesis’ research questions addressing consistent HS concepts, implementations, common activities achieving external and internal fit, as well as common capabilities and resources supporting these activities. In a case study approach, semi-structured, open ended interviews combining appreciative and laddering methods are conducted with twelve interviewees from five firms. The separate analysis of ladder elements and ladders allowed distinguishing constitutional from relational elements. Based on this, fourth, an empirically revised research construct is substantiated. This research finds HS firms applying intended and consistent, but mixed strategy concepts based on generating high customer benefits through combining competitive weapons of differentiation and price or total customer cost. Moreover, HS concepts centre on three strategic building blocks: customer centricity, fulfilment of customer needs and employee orientation. Additionally, the research indicates that firms apply activities primarily for achieving fit. While all firms combine both views, no activities are directed to both fit types simultaneously. Activities deploy capabilities and resources in general on two adaptive and two absorptive mechanisms. Several practical implications derive from this thesis. First, firms can apply the synthesized model as a kind of ‘blueprint’ providing orientation for how to combine competitive advantages. Second, policy makers can apply the outcomes as principles steering firms or industries to ‘higher’ levels of performance. Last, firm managers can adapt their own as well as their firm’s behaviour accordingly.
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