Forbearance: Strategic Nonresponse to Competitive Attacks

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Andrevski, Goce
Miller, Danny
Competitive actions , competitive dynamics , competitive response , competitive strategy , forbearance
Evidence suggests that firms often do not respond to competitive attacks even when they are aware of an attack and have the capability to counter it. We believe that this is because they engage in a form of nonresponse that we designate as strategic forbearance, a phenomenon that has been mostly neglected by scholars of competitive dynamics. We view such forbearance as a critical component of competitive strategy – an attempt to situate responses to attacks within a more complex and nuanced strategic, organizational and environmental context. Forbearance, we argue, represents managers’ mindful attempts to transcend reflexive responses by expanding the range of considerations a) beyond an attacker to other stakeholders and rivals, b) beyond the immediate attack to its historical setting and long-term relational implications, and c) beyond unitary tactics to those concerning global strategic coherence and adaptation. We define formally and tentatively operationalize strategic forbearance, before deriving propositions concerning its five general transcending drivers. Ultimately, we believe, the study of forbearance can bring scholars of competitive dynamics closer to the heart of the reflective competitive strategy.