2019 Volume 31 Issue 1-2 Pages 1-16
An inter-organizational community of practice (CoP) consisting of employees of multiple organizations plays important roles in individual and organizational learning. However, past studies have mainly focused on CoPs involving organizations in cooperative relationships, without sufficient focus on those involving competitors. To address this problem, we examined a CoP formed by employees of competing Japanese airlines, referencing to the theory of “coopetition,” a situation where organizations simultaneously compete and cooperate. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 22 informants, supplemented by secondary data and observations of the CoP. The modified grounded theory approach was employed to analyze the data. As a result, we found that the airlines established a cooperative relationship that resulted from the common threat they faced, the similarity in tasks they held, and the structure in which one’s cooperative behavior toward the others tended to improve benefits for their own organization. It was also found that the participants’ cooperative behaviors were facilitated further by the rareness and uncertainty of knowledge needed for their tasks. In addition, potential conflicts were mitigated by the separation of competition and cooperation, and by the close business relationship among them.