Conventionally, the purpose of business strategy is the attainment of competitive advantage, and it is generally understood that competitive advantage yields superior performance. The locus of value-creation – central to competitiveness – has, however, shifted from the individual to a network of businesses. This thesis argues that within a complex networked environment, performance excellence is propelled by collective benefit rather than competitive advantage.
Conducted with a Strategy-as-Practice research lens, rooted in affordance theory, and applying a mixed-methods methodology, the purpose of this thesis was to identify, define and report a Model of Collective Benefit that explains the purpose of strategy in a networked environment. The results of the study are reported in five sequential academic manuscripts.
Firstly, a comparative 2016 Strategy-as-Practice Typology Matrix was offered. Secondly, the legacy purpose of strategy, namely competitive advantage, and its application to the networked environment were investigated. By following a systematic literature review, as well as cognitive interviews with 12 South African strategists, collective benefit was proposed as an additional purpose of strategy, and a stipulative definition was presented. Thirdly, an operational definition of collective benefit was developed. Fourthly, 580 valid global responses from the Business Network International (BNI) were used to create an evaluation framework that strategists could use for prioritising when developing a strategy aimed at creating collective benefit. In conclusion, the data was subjected to Principle component analysis (PCA), Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and OLS regression, positing a model of collective benefit.