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Is this the real secret to Samsung’s success?

It's a truism that networking helps people progress at work, but companies that build partnerships also do better, according to academics at the prestigious INSEAD business school.

Best-of-breed companies like Toyota and Samsung often have far more outside alliances than less successful rivals like Peugeot and Blackberry, Professors Henrich Greve, Tim Rowley and Andrew Shipilov found.

Diagram of Samsung's alliances

Compiled by INSEAD with Thomson Reuters data

"The point is really to see what alliances are used for — as drivers of cost reduction or as drivers of innovation. The idea is to have both, and also to have more in turbulent times," said Shipilov, 'the Associate Professor of Strategy at INSEAD Europe campus based in France, on Wednesday.

(Read more: Samsung sparks dividend debate after big bonuses)

Shipilov and his colleagues published a book on the subject of partnerships in December, called "Network advantage: How to unlock value from your alliances and partnerships".

Speaking to CNBC, he described alliance-building as a middle-ground between building products or expertise in-house and gaining them through mergers or acquisitions.

"Alliances are hybrids," he said. "By the time you have developed something inside your own firm, it could have become obsolete. And if you go and buy things when the environment is uncertain, you may be overpaying for something by the time the deal's completed."

Shipilov noted that thriving Toyota had struck multiple alliances — ''some of them really unusual". Partners include other car companies like BMW, with whom Toyota works on developing green cars, and Ford with whom it is building gas-electric hybrid motors. It also collaborates on electronic car components withTesla Motors.

In addition, Toyota — which said on Tuesday it was on track to post its best-ever annual profit come March — is working with technology giant Fujitsu to create a warning system that alerts road users when they are approached by a (silent) environmentally friendly car.

Shipilov estimated Toyota had around twice as many alliances as Peugeot, and said Toyota's partnerships drove both cost-cutting and innovation, while the French carmaker's focused solely on saving money.

"Pretty much every alliance for Peugeot is focused on driving costs down, be they (the partner companies) in Russia, Latin America and Asia," he said.

"What Peugeot need is not more alliances, but alliances with partners that could help them innovate — if the world is moving towards a smart car they need an alliance with a chip maker."

(Read more: Peugeot approves capital hike plan: Report)

However Shipilov said that Blackberry (previously called RIM) lacked both cost-cutting and innovative alliances. He highlighted that between 2008 and 2011, the smartphone manufacturer built just four partnerships, including with Royal Bank of Canada and TiVo.

Diagram of RIM's alliances

Compiled by INSEAD with Thomson Reuters data

And while he thought there was still time for Peugeot to build bridges with other companies, he warned it could be too late for Blackberry to re-establish itself against competitors like Samsung, Apple and Google.

(Read more: BlackBerry CEO: Here's our new strategy)

"It's difficult. They are finding they are a less sexy product, which fewer people use. If fewer people are in the ecosystem, that spells the end of it. When there is a downward spiral nobody wants to partner," Shipilov said.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato. Follow her on Twitter: @KatyBarnato


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