Competitive Rationales: Beneath the Surface of Competitive Behavior

Goce Andrevski, Danny Miller, Isabelle Le Breton-Miller, Walter Ferrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Competitive dynamics research has focused on studying whether rivals are able and likely to carry out competitive actions, typically by examining indirect reasons such as characteristics of the actions themselves, the firms involved, or the competitive context. We explore why rivals initiate a specific competitive action at a particular time and situation. Drawing from the philosophy of action literature, we introduce the concept of competitive rationales to examine the primary reasons that cause tactical actions. Given the rapid exchanges characterizing tactical competitive dynamics, we conducted an inductive, multicase study to explore the reasons behind over 800 discrete tactical decisions carried out by 9 professional basketball coaches during 15 basketball games. To garner insight, we develop a conceptual framework revealing their types and scope. Even during intense head-to-head rivalry, most rationales were not rivalrous but were instead organizational—to optimize resource use, strategic consistency, and reputation—or social—to manage relationships. Moreover, the three main types of rationales varied in scope, extending beyond immediate competitive situations and rivals to address longer term, strategic outcomes, and assorted stakeholders. Thus, our analysis reveals these rationales to be complex and potentially difficult for rivals to decipher. It also recasts each component of the dominant awareness-motivation-capability (AMC) model of rivalry, suggesting that awareness is challenged by subtle rationales, motivation drives not only action but also forbearance, and capability is both a requirement and product of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2286-2317
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada and the Basketball Federation of Macedonia. We are grateful to Gavin Kilduff, Ann Langley, Tomi Nokelainen, Editor Tieying Yu, and two anonymous reviewers for their most useful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • competitive dynamics
  • competitive intent
  • competitive rationales
  • managerial cognition
  • strategic forbearance
  • tactical actions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


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