Informal Cooperation in the US and Germany. An Investigation of Interfirm Information Trading
Several empirical studies have shown that apparently competing companies cooperate extensively through an informal exchange of valuable information. So far, however, the question of whether information trading patterns are stable across cultures has remained widely unexplored. This research compares the informal exchange of technical information among 438 managers in US and German steel companies. The findings indicate: Managers of German companies are found to interact more frequently than US managers with colleagues at other companies. At first glance, German manager appear to be more cooperative than their American counterparts, frequently exchanging information across firm boundaries. However, the information exchanged among German firms proves to be of less importance to the recipient company than in the US. Information that is of considerable importance to the other firm is, in Germany, ceteris paribus, more likely to be withheld, and in the US more likely to be offered. In other words, the inclination toward cooperation among German managers is quantitatively greater while qualitatively more limited than among American managers. This finding stands in partial contradiction to the generally accepted assertion that German companies behave more cooperatively than American firms.
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