Decision making and heuristics in business relationships

Open for submissions 1 January 2023


This special issue focuses on conceptual and empirical studies about decision making and heuristics in the field of interaction and business relationships. Business marketing, and international organization evidence continuous relationships that tend to emerge between customer and supplier organizations. These interorganizational relationships are economically relevant, with pervading consequences for the economic performance as well as for the development of businesses. These studies also evidence that developing interorganizational business relationships takes place in a context characterized by interdependences and involves interacting. The economic relevance of the interorganizational business relationships derives from actual and expected cost and revenue consequences for the businesses involved which, in turn, arise from solutions related to combining resources, coordinating activities and connecting actors between the organizations involved. Past research also suggests that the solutions that emerge in customer supplier relationships originate in behaviours of managers as actors within and across organizations and that the interdependent business network structures result from interactions in dyads between single actors and interaction among all involved actors collectively (Ford, Mattsson & Snehota, 2017).

Past research, in particular in the business marketing literature, has approached the actor dimension in interorganizational business relationships in an ambivalent way, conceiving the actor dimension on the individual and organizational levels. Our understanding of factors shaping the actual interaction behaviours of managers is incomplete. Theorizing actors’ behaviours, in particular in the management context, appears to remain mostly rooted in a conception of managerial action as ‘rationalistic’ in that it assumes that rational choice (sensible conduct) is matter of anticipating future consequences of decisions regarding choice among alternatives. This conception of managerial decision making has a normative implication that the “best” decisions flow from systematic decision making where systematic analysis foregoes the choice among the available courses of action.

However, there has been a parallel development (different streams) in conceptualizing the managerial decision implying that other factors such as emotions, rules and norms (March, 1994; Sloman, 1996) are important factors shaping the actual behaviours and business solutions and therefore that the actual scope for systematic decision making in management is rather limited (Bettis, 2017). Among the alternative frameworks to explain managers’ cognition and behaviours there is the research stream on the use of heuristics in decision making (e.g., Gigerenzer & Brighton, 2009; Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011) which suggests that avoiding systematic decision making might be a sign of ‘adaptive rationality’ and leads to better outcomes than the rationalistic systematic decision making (Gigerenzer & Selten, 2002; Luan et al., 2019; Ehrig et al., 2021). The scope for the use of heuristics when interacting in interorganizational business relationships has also been evidenced in some past studies in the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) perspective (e.g. Guercini et al., 2014, 2015). In this studiesit was noted both the importance of heuristics in the processes of formation of judgments and choices of the actors in the interaction, in a substantially positive view about the role played by them for the realization of these processes (Cavarretta, 2021; Guercini & Lechner, 2021).

Given the limited research and understanding of the interaction processes in business relationships (La Rocca, Hoholm, Mørk, 2017), we see the need and opportunity for bettering our understanding of the interaction processes in business relationships and in particular of the factors underpinning managers’ interaction behaviours. There seems to be a need to go beyond, to use the terms of Argyris and Schön (1996), the theories “espoused” to those that actually are “theories-in-use” by managers when interacting both within and across organizational boundaries. We intend to stimulate research towards that end and welcome, empirical, theoretical but also methodological papers that can contribute to better understanding of interaction behaviours in interorganizational business relationships.

List of topic areas

The topic of decision making when interacting in interorganizational relationships and business markets is broad and apparently relatively unexplored both empirically and conceptually. We welcome papers that attempt to explore this phenomenon from different perspectives and research streams than that prevailing in the industrial marketing literature. In so doing, we hope to foster research with a multidisciplinary approach. There are several themes that we expect to advance the understanding of interaction behaviors such as:

  • how interaction behaviors concur to creating value in business relationships
  • what factors shape the actual choices in customer supplier relationships
  • actual “theories in use” and “espoused theories” guiding managers’ behaviors in customer supplier relationships 
  • how managers learn from interaction experience
  • what is the role of norms, rules and heuristics in interaction behaviors of managers
  • the scope for alignment of goals and agendas of the interacting managers
  • the significance of contrast and conflict in interaction
  • the interplay of interaction behaviors at individual and collective level

This special issue aims to provide high-quality, cutting edge research regarding interactions and decision making in customer-supplier relationships. This special call for papers for Management Decision seeks theoretical and practical research avenues, frameworks, drivers, barriers, and best practices on the topic.

Submission Information

Papers should be submitted via the journal’s online submission system available through the journal homepage   

When submitting please choose the special issue: “Decision making and heuristics in interorganizational business relationships” as the article type from the drop down menu.

All papers must follow the guidelines outlined by the journal for submission, available at:

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

For any questions, interested authors can contact the guest editors.

Key Deadlines

Open for submissions: January 1, 2023

Manuscript submission deadline: June 30, 2023

Guest Editors

Simone Guercini (University of Florence) [email protected]

Antonella La Rocca (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan) [email protected]

Ivan Snehota (Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano) [email protected]


Argyris, C., Schön, D.A. (1996). Organizational learning II: Theory, method and practice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Bettis, R. A. (2017). Organizationally intractable decision problems and the intellectual virtues of heuristics. Journal of Management, 43(8), 2620-2637.

Cavarretta, F. L. (2021). On the hard problem of selecting bundles of rules: a conceptual exploration of heuristic emergence processes. Management Decision, 59(7), 1598-1616.

Ehrig, T., Katsikopoulos, K. V., Jost, J., & Gigerenzer, G. (2021). An exploratory study of heuristics for anticipating prices. Management Decision, 59(7), 1750-1761.

Ford, D., Mattsson, L.-E., & Snehota, I. (2017). Management in the interactive business world. In H. Håkansson & I. Snehota (Eds), No Business Is an Island: Making Sense of the Interactive Business World (pp. 27-46). Bingley: Emerald.

Gigerenzer, G. & Brighton, H. (2009). Homo heuristicus: Why biased minds make better inferences. Topics in cognitive science, 1, 107-143.

Gigerenzer, G., & Gaissmaier, W. (2011). Heuristic decision making. Annual review of psychology62, 451-482.

Gigerenzer, G., & Selten, R. (Eds.). (2002). Bounded rationality: The adaptive toolbox. MIT press.

Guercini, S., La Rocca, A., Runfola, A., & Snehota, I. (2014). Interaction behaviors in business relationships and heuristics: issues for management and research agenda. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(6), 929-937.

Guercini, S., La Rocca, A., Runfola, A., & Snehota, I. (2015). Heuristics in customer-supplier interaction. Industrial Marketing Management, 48, 26-37.

Guercini, S., & Lechner, C. (2021). New challenges for business actors and positive heuristics. Management Decision, 59(7), 1585-1597.

La Rocca, A., Hoholm, T., & Mørk, B. E. (2017). Practice theory and the study of interaction in business relationships - Some methodological implications. Industrial Marketing Management, 60, 187-195.

Luan, S., Reb, J. and Gigerenzer, G. (2019), Ecological rationality: fast-and-frugal heuristics for managerial decision making under uncertainty, Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), 1735-1759.

March, J. G. (1994). Primer on decision making: How decisions happen. Simon and Schuster.

Sloman, S. A. (1996). The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological bulletin119(1), 3