Distributed and collaborative innovation

We investigate how firms organize to create and capture value in distributed and collaborative innovation systems.

First, in one sub-stream, we focus on user innovation, specifically, internal or embedded lead users. This refers to a firm's employees, who are also users of the firm's products. Internal lead users are very innovative because they use experience due to product use and act as boundary spanners to other users outside the firm. We investigate how internal lead users absorb cross-boundary information, foster creativity within a firm, facilitate product diffusion outside the firm, and how their ideas differ from fellow employees’ and external lead users' ideas.

Second, in another sub-stream, we focus on the micro-foundations of open and collaborative innovation. We investigate how individuals' knowledge and interactions with knowledge sources outside the organizational boundary can facilitate innovation in the firm. For example, we focus on how the absorptive capacity for need knowledge fosters innovation in a firm. Absorptive capacity for need knowledge is a largely understudied complement to absorptive capacity for technological solutions. We also investigate how individuals' external search behavior, in conjunction with their absorptive capacity, affects innovative behavior in firms.

Third, we investigate open innovation communities and their relationship to firms. Innovation is becoming more distributed due to digital technology, and open innovation communities represent a new form of organization in which innovation happens. Firms can harness the knowledge created in such communities by fostering collaboration with them. Yet, profiting from communities also involves giving up control over firm resources and opening parts of the innovation process to external stakeholders. We investigate the interplay between control and openness in a firm's relationships with open innovation communities.

Some example research questions we are addressing in the stream on distributed innovation are:

  • What are the mechanisms to absorb external knowledge for innovation?
  • How does the integration of external stakeholders affect innovation?
  • Does the collaboration with internal lead users lead to more and better ideas?
  • Can user innovators create disruptive innovations?
  • How does the openness of firms evolve?