My research focuses on the dynamics of the social structure of interorganizational relations (e.g., partnership ties and patent infringement lawsuits among organizations) and on their consequences for individual organizations and their exchanges. I also examine the implications of social structure for entire communities of organizations.

Coupling various methodologies (longitudinal analysis, agent-based modeling, survey analysis, and qualitative research) with social network analytic techniques, I assess how interorganizational ties form, evolve, and aggregate into globally interconnected social systems. I investigate how the structure of these systems and an organization’s position in them impacts organizational behavior and outcomes and the evolution and outcomes of interorganizational dyadic exchanges. Organization-level outcomes include the organization’s performance in procurement relationships; its propensity to enter into collaborative relationships and to initiate and sustain conflictual interactions; and the organization’s growth rate and innovation performance. I also examine the implications of global network structures for entire communities of organizations in terms of the networks’ enabling or constraining the diffusion of knowledge across different industries.


Uribe, Jose, Sytch, Maxim, and Yonghyun Kim. 2019. “When Friends Become Foes: Collaboration as a Catalyst for Conflict.” Administrative Science Quarterly, In Print. Download PDF. Media. ASQ Blog.

We explored a counterintuitive insight regarding how a history of collaboration between rivals—instead of facilitating future collaboration—can turn into a liability and escalate conflict between them. In such circumstances, when past collaboration with a rival invokes loyalty concerns from new clients, people may respond with uncooperative behaviors to demonstrate loyalty to the client. Using data on 21,000 lawyers in 4,900 patent infringement lawsuits over 15 years, we found how past collaborative relationships among lawyers translated into aggressive courtroom behaviors when these lawyers later represented opposing sides in litigation. Lawyers used these compensatory behaviors both to distance themselves from the compromising affiliations with former collaborators and to signal unwavering loyalty to their clients. Ironically, such behavior led to longer lawsuits, which were more likely to esclalate to trial and result in lost value to clients."

Sytch, Maxim, Wohlgezogen, Franz and Edward Zajac. 2018. “Collaborative by Design? How Matrix Organizations See/Do Alliances.” Organization Science, 29(6): 1130-1148. Download PDF. Media.

We predicted that matrix organizations - due to their managers' superior ability to deal with knowledge-sharing, coordination, and power/conflict challenges - would be more likely to enter into complex interorganizational partnerships that mirror similar challenges externally (e.g., multilateral, multifunctional, with partners from diverse countries and industries). We found that while matrix organizations are indeed more likely to enter into complex interorganizational partnerships, the stock market penalizes them for these efforts, leading us to introduce the concept of "double complexity discount."

Sytch, Maxim. 2017. “The Architecture and dynamics of global networks.” In R. Ragozzino, L. Mesquita, and J. Reuer (Eds.), Collaborative Strategy: A Guide to Strategic Alliances , Edward Edgar. Download PDF.

This articles reviews research on the architechture and dynamics of global networks, including small-world properties and community structures in networks, as well as their dynamics. These properties and dynamics can affect collective outcomes in networks (e.g., speed and scale of diffusions); they can also impact ego-level outcomes (e.g., innovation) by changing the distribution of information and knowledge in the global network.

Tatarynowciz, Adam, Sytch, Maxim, and Ranjay Gulati. 2016. "Environmental Demands and The Emergence of Social Structure: Technological Dynamism and Interorganizational Network Forms." Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(1): 52-86. Download PDF.

This study finds that in more dynamic industries (e.g., biotechnology & pharmaceuticals, microelectronics), companies are more likely to puruse open networks, which fosters access to new and diverse resources that help sustain continuous innovation. This behavior is more likely to beget community networks at the global level, which combine high network connectedness with medium-to-strong community structures. In contrast, firms in technologically stable industries (e.g., chemicals, automotive) on average pursue more-closed ego networks, which fosters reliable collaboration and helps preserve existing resources. These behaviors result in clan networks , which combine rather low network connectedness with strong community structures. Among the networks we examined, we could not find convention networks , which feature high network connectedness and weak community structures. The developed typology of clan-community-convention networks is superior to alternative global toppologies (e.g., small worlds) in explaining diffusion outcomes.

Sytch, Maxim and Adam Tatarynowicz. 2014. "Friends and Foes: The Dynamics of Dual Social Structures." Academy of Management Journal, 57(2): 585-613. Download PDF.

This paper investigates the evolutionary dynamics of a dual social structure encompassing collaboration (partnerships) and conflict (litigation) among corporate actors. We apply and advance structural balance theory to explore the formation (rather than stability) of balanced/unbalanced dyadic and triadic structures, and examine how these dynamics aggregate to shape the properties of a dual global network. Our findings are threefold. First, we find that existing collaborative or conflictual relationships between two companies engender future relationships of the same type, but crowd out relationships of the different type. Second, we find that network formation is driven not by a pull toward balanced triads, but rather by a pull away from unbalanced triads. Third, the observed micro-level dynamics of dyads and triads affect the structural segregation of the global network into two separate collaborative and conflictual segments of firms.

Sytch, Maxim and Adam Tatarynowicz. 2014. "Exploring the Locus of Invention: The Dynamics of Network Communities and Firms' Invention Productivity." Academy of Management Journal, 57(1): 249-279. Download PDF.

This paper introduces the network-community perspective and the associated dynamics into the analysis of networks. Network communities represent dense and nonoverlapping structural groups of actors in a social system. The network-community perspective allows to analyze networks at the meso level, between the ego-network level of analysis (e.g., actor centrality) and global-network level of analysis (e.g., small-world quotient). We find, first, that a firm reaps the greatest invention benefits in a network community with moderate levels of membership turnover. Second, a firm attains the greatest invention productivity when its own rate of movement across different network communities is moderate.

Sytch, Maxim, Adam Tatarynowicz, and Ranjay Gulati. 2012. “Toward a Theory of Extended Contact: The Incentives and Opportunities for Bridging Across Network Communities.” Organization Science ,23: 1658-1681. Download PDF.

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Gulati, Ranjay, Maxim Sytch, and Adam Tatarynowicz. 2012. “The Rise and Fall of Small Worlds: Exploring the Dynamics of Social Structure.” Organization Science , 23:449-471. Download PDF.

This study challenges the assumption that small-world networks are stable and builds a theory of their dynamics. The pursuit of bridging relationships by firms searching for heterogeneous knowledge inputs engenders a small-world system, while also planting the seeds of its subsequent demise. Specifically, the excessive formation of bridging relationships by firms in the pursuit of diverse knowledge resulted in the increased connectivity among network communities, which reduced the very diversity these bridging ties were designed to harness. This dynamic subsequently led to a decline in the formation of bridging ties and a drop in the average path-length of the system, thereby resulting in the erosion of the small-world architecture

Sag, Matthew, Tonja Jacobidi, and Maxim Sytch. 2009. “Exploring the Notion of IP Exceptionalism.” California Law Review , 97: 801-856. Download PDF.

This study refutes the long-held belief of intellectual property (IP) exceptionalism: the belief that IP cases are immune to the influence of juddges' ideologies. Using data on the poplation of IP rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, we show that conservative justices are more likely to support IP owners; liberal justices are more likely to support the challengers of IP.

Sytch, Maxim and Ranjay Gulati. 2008. “Creating Value Together.” Sloan Management Review , 50 (1): 12-13. Download PDF.

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Gulati, Ranjay, Maxim Sytch, and Parth Mehrotra. 2008. “Breaking Up is Never Easy: Planning for Exit in a Strategic Alliance.” California Management Review , 50(4): 147-163. Download PDF.

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Sytch, Maxim and Philipp Bubenzer. 2008. “Research on Strategic Alliances in Biotechnology: An Assessment and Review.” In H. Patzelt and T. Brenner (Eds.), Handbook of Bioentrepreneurship , Springer: New York: 105-131. Download PDF.

This is a review of research on alliances in the field of biotechnology. It identifies the primary motivations for biotechnology firms to enter into alliances, including access to complementary resources and the pursuit of legitimacy. The review further address the governance of these alliances as well as their consequences for participating firms. We draw attention to the need to understand the properties of the global partnership network at the level of the industry or orgnaizational field, as well as consider the ways in which participating in alliances can constrain their performance.

Gulati, Ranjay and Maxim Sytch. 2008. “Does Familiarity Breed Trust? Revisiting the Antecedents of Trust.” Managerial and Decision Economics , 29: 165-190. Download PDF.

Contrary to our theory and commonly-held assumptions, we found that the length of the history of interaction between organizations does not impact the formation of trust between them. We have subsequently discovered that a history of interaction between organizations contributes to trust formation in a complex, non-linear manner. There is a "period of ambivalence" , which we measured at about 25 months in our data, during which history of interaction does not affect trust formation. During this period, partners are reluctant to make themselves vulnerable in a relationship, which is essential for developing trust. Following the period of ambivalence, history of interaction begins to positively affect trust formation.

Gulati, Ranjay and Maxim Sytch. 2007. “Dependence Asymmetry and Joint Dependence in Interorganizational Relationships: Effects of Embeddedness on Exchange Performance.” Administrative Science Quarterly , 52: 32-69. Download PDF.

The central aim of this paper is to introduce the logic of embeddedness into the study of organizational interdepedence and distinguish it from the logic of power. Interdepence between two actors could be decomposed into (a) dependence asymmetry, which gives rise to the logic of power and coercion; and (b) joint dependence: the same level of asymmetry can occur between actors that depend on each other barely or highly. We find that joint dependence between partners leads to fine-grained information exchange and joint action in the relationship, subsequently enhancing exchange performance.

Book Reviews

Gulati, Ranjay and Sytch, Maxim (2007) "Handbook of Trust Research" by Reinhard Bachman and Akbar Zaheer (Eds.), Academy of Management Review , 33(1): 276-278., 33(1): 276-278. Download PDF.

Sytch, Maxim and Sivanathan, Niro (2007) "Trust Under Pressure" , by Katinka Bijlsma-Frankema and Rosalinde K. Woolthuis (Eds.), Personnel Review , 36(6): 996-1000. Download PDF.