Striking the right balance in tension management: The case of coopetition in small- and medium-sized firms

Henrik Virtanen*, Sören Kock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to elaborate on the management, sources, levels of strength and dynamics of inherent tension in coopetition between small- and medium-sized firms (SMEs).

Design/methodology/approach – An embedded single-case design is applied in the study. Two manufacturing SMEs in coopetition are studied. The units of analysis are their past dyadic coopetition with other competitors, their present coopetition with each other and their view of possible dyadic coopetition with other partners in the future.

Findings – This study addresses the call for more research on coopetition and tension dynamics. It gives longitudinal insight into the changes of a coopetitive relationship through the evolution of tension inherently present in the relationship. Furthermore, the results show that a partial separation of the cooperative and competitive dimensions enables entrepreneurs’ integration of a contradictory logic. The successful management of tension also relies on mechanisms for mutual value appropriation, which eventually enhances the ability to embrace contradictions.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the limited knowledge on tension management by showing how partners in coopetition apply different tension management principles or combinations of principles due to how the tension in the relationship evolves. Furthermore, on a practical level, it introduces a mapping or configuration scheme to identify the sources and levels of strength of inherent tension, enhancing coopetition partners’ ability to monitor their relationship over time.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Business & Industrial Marketing
Issue number13
Pages (from-to)33-47
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 10.03.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Coopetition
  • Tension
  • Tension management
  • Coopetition strategy
  • SMEs
  • Case study


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