Understanding the Practices of Knowledge Integration in the Innovation Process: The Role of Team Reflexivity
1Paris School of Business, France; 2ISC Paris
Integrating knowledge coming from various expertise aeras is quite challenging for large companies (Tell, 2006). Endberg and Lindkvist (2006) explored the role of the team and differentiated the phases of interacting and acting. However the properties of the teams to enhance the knowledge integration is underinvestigated.
Practices of knowledge integration vary among teams.
The intensity of exchanges depends on the unity of effort (Slotegraaf & al, 2001) : interaction - simple exchange of information - and collaboration—collective goals and resource sharing-.
This also depends on the diversity of knowledge. When projects require a diversity of competences across people, organizations and domains of specialization, the knowledge articulation becomes a challenge (Carlile, 2004). People need to collaborate beyond their pragmatic boundaries.
Knowledge integration needs to be appraised in a dynamic way. Some authors stress that high level of integration is required upstream, other downstream (Olson & al, 2001).
We use the concept of team reflexivity in order to appraise the team capacity to enact various practices of integration inside the organization. Reflexivity is associated with team ability to monitor and to react to the environment (West, 2000). This is a key factor to improve innovation (Pietersea & al, 2011; Schippers et al. 2015).
There is a gap in understanding how the properties of team reflexivity are the key drivers to understand how individuals and teams enact integration practices in their daily activities and how the organization could support the development of team reflexivity.
This research seeks to indentifying the variety of integration practices and demonstrating how teams enact this capacity. We aim to identify drivers of team reflexivity. The research question can be formulated as follows: What are the antecedents of the team reflexivity to enact various practices of integration?
Using qualitative approach, based on abduction (Thomas, 2001), we explore and compare five innovation cases based on a French domestic appliances manufacturer’s business unit (BU) that specializes in cookware. In the first stage of the research, three in depth interviews with the top managers have allowed identifying relevant projects for investigation. In the second stage of the research five cross functional teams, each composed of an R&D and a marketing manager have been studied.
A total of 15 interviews were realized. As a result of data analysis, the characteristics of reflexivity for each project team were assessed based on the processes of information sharing, of reflection and actions. The analysis has been carried out through the coding procedure of the interview transcripts.
First, we point out that in the same organizational context, different practices of integration emerge. Indeed, creating common organizational rules inside the NPD process alone does not condition the capacity of cross-functional teams to deploy a variety of practices of integration. Second, based on a microfoundations approach, our research suggests that having cross functional teams is not enough to achieve high integration. We provide the evidence that the cross functional approach in itself does not represent a “best practice”. It is rather team reflexivity that facilitates the NPD process. Third, our results provide an extended understanding of the antecedents of team reflexivity. It is the combination of experience, shared vision, social and cognitive skills and team stability that represents the main condition of high reflexivity. Finally, our results suggest that understanding team reflexivity helps to better define and analyse the dynamics of exploration and exploitation inside firms.
Contribution to Scholarship
We contribute to the existing body of literature first by providing a conceptual link between the stream of literature on integration practices and the one on reflexivity in teams. Secondly, we empirically demonstrate that the capacity to mobilize various forms of integration practices is located in the team reflexivity. Finally, based on our results we develop a number of propositions on various links between team reflexivity dimensions and integration capacity, for further research.
Contribution to Practice
While the study emphasizes the key role played by team reflexivity to deploy various practices of integration, internal and external dimensions of reflexivity are difficult to assess in the context of an organization daily practices. Our results suggest that top management have to pay more attention to team characteristics like the composition stability, the shared vision, the individual and collective experiences and the relational and cognitive skills as those are the antecedents of team reflexivity
We propose this abstract to the general session of the conference. Knowledge integration, teams practices and team characteristics represent a huge topic in innovation. Reflexivity is a concept introduced in psychology and recently used by the litterature in management to understand the innovative capacity of the team.
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A Microfoundational Perspective of Open Innovation: What Role do Lower-level Managers play?
1University of Technology Sydney, Australia; 2Macquarie University; 3University of Waikato
The open innovation (OI) paradigm is centered on organizations’ openness to knowledge flows across organizational boundaries (Chesbrough, 2003), and stresses the specific routines designed to purposively manage the search and transfer of such external knowledge as the key to bolster innovation (Dahlander and Gann, 2010; West and Bogers, 2014).
The majority of existing studies has focused on organizational-level antecedents to OI such as absorptive capacity (De Faria et al., 2010) and organizational-level mechanisms for obtaining external knowledge (Lopez-Vega et al., 2016). Research that examines OI at the micro level is sparse (Randhawa et al., 2016), leaving us with limited knowledge about the role individuals (within an organization) play in OI (West and Bogers, 2017). The little research emphasizing the “human side” of OI (Bogers et al., 2018) has largely studied individual-level attributes such as how employee and managerial characteristics affect their ability to combine internal and external knowledge for OI. Previous research has studied the impact of individuals’ human capital on organizational-level knowledge flows (Bogers et al., 2018) and individual-level competencies on brokering OI solutions (Chatenier et al., 2010). Ahn et al. (2017) have focused on CEOs’ characteristics as enablers of OI.
Despite such clarifications, research with a focus on individual-level activities that determine organizational proficiency in conducting OI is still lacking (Bogers et al., 2017). In particular, an understanding of OI’s microfoundations – how individuals, processes and structure shape aggregate OI routines and capabilities – is sparse (Felin et al., 2012).
Our focus is on how individual lower-level managers responsible for implementing OI in organizations act to surmount challenges in their daily practice of OI and enact routines that enable the organization to benefit from OI.
As microfoundations of OI are under-researched, we use an inductive multiple-case study design (Eisenhardt, 1989a), building on insights from a wider study. The sample comprised key individuals working in Australian public sector organizations that have used the services of the same online OI intermediary, which we label Nexus. This context is well-suited to address our research question as public sector organizations are known to face internal barriers to innovation (e.g., Maiolini and Naggi, 2011) in implementing OI (Dixon, 2010), which allows us to investigate how individuals deal with the daily challenges that these barriers bring to their OI efforts.
Following a theoretical sampling logic, we chose 21 clients, ensuring variance in clients’ OI engagement behavior, among other criteria. Data for this study comes from three rounds of fieldwork spanning two years: (1) 24 semi-structured interviews with lower-level managers (e.g., community engagement managers) responsible for OI in the sample organizations and 27 with intermediary managers who directly dealt with the interviewed lower-level managers, and also those who engaged with these individuals on a strategic level; (2) online observations of past and ongoing OI projects; (3) archival data including policy documents, websites, press releases; and (4) follow-up e-mails and informal conversations to track ongoing processes in real-time. This allowed us to get complementary perspectives on the same activities and choices of the individual managers in these organizations, strengthening the validity of our findings. We analysed the data based on our initial theoretical reasoning of microfoundational factors of routines affecting how organizations perform OI. We iterated between data and theory to anchor emergent themes in extant literature (Eisenhardt, 1989a). We identified patterns of recurrence in the data to construct first-level themes which aggregated into theoretical constructs. We triangulated our individuals’ interview data with online observation and secondary data.
We find that individual lower-level managers faced key issues – lack of OI knowledge and skills (in self and peers) and attitudinal resistance in OI adoption (from peers and senior managers) – that affected their daily practice of OI. These manifested as four challenges that hindered their OI efforts. When faced with challenges in OI implementation, lower-level managers act to solve this problem and navigate tensions related to the challenge. This led to four OI routines – self-directed learning from and with external partners, transferring and assimilating external knowledge, enhancing professional and social identity of peers and championing OI amidst senior managers. We find that that lower-level managers vary in the extent to which they form and enact these routines. This variance is related to the differences in the way they build and draw on their three memories - procedural (know-how), declarative (know-what) and transactive (know-who) - to shape ostensive and generate performative aspects, which in turn is driven by the strength of the learning mechanisms and related cognitive capacities. This process ultimately determines the level of alignment between ostensive and performative facets of OI routines, and in turn the proficiency of OI capabilities - as depicted in our framework of OI microfoundations.
Contribution to Scholarship
First, we advance knowledge on the efforts of individuals operating on the front line of OI in overcoming barriers so as to implement OI successfully. Second, we integrate routines thinking into the discussion of OI and the individual, to elucidate the microfoundations of OI, as alluded to in previous works (Bogers et al., 2018; Randhawa et al., 2016). Third, we extend the discussion around microfoundations of routines and capabilities (Argote & Ren, 2012). We extend Felin et al.’s (2012) categorization of microfoundations as individuals, processes and structure, by linking them with OI routines and capabilities. Finally, different to previous research on the individual-level, we neither focus on senior managers (e.g., Ahn et al., 2017) nor on technology experts/R&D professionals (Salter et al., 2014), but rather investigate individual lower-level managers’ “bottom-up” influence, to improve our understanding on how they facilitate OI in the organization by enacting OI routines.
Contribution to Practice
We show that it is crucial for senior managers to acknowledge the central role that lower-level managers play in fostering OI within organizations. Hence, development of an organization’s OI capability requires purposeful job design specifications for those lower-level managers involved in OI. Organizations can put in place knowledge management systems and training programs that support lower-level managers draw on the memory elements underpinning ostensive routine aspects, to accelerate the speed of developing an organization’s OI capability. Organizations can also provide an environment that enables lower-level managers to enact flexibly in performative OI routines.
By focusing on how managers address challenges to the implementation of OI, and unpacking the microfoundations of OI routines and capabiilties, this research addresses the general conference theme as well as aligns with the track on Open Innovation.
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Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989) Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14, 532-550.
Felin, T., Foss, N. J., Heimeriks, K. H. and Madsen, T. L. (2012) Microfoundations of routines and capabilities: Individuals, processes, and structure. Journal of Management Studies, 49, 1351-1374.opez-Vega, H., Tell, F. and Vanhaverbeke, W. (2016) Where and how to search? Search paths in open innovation. Research Policy, 45, 125-136.
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Randhawa, K., Wilden, R. and Hohberger, J. (2016) A bibliometric review of open innovation: Setting a research agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33, 750-772.
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The Human Side of Expertise: Dealing With Role Ambiguity of Experts in R&D Departments.
ISG International Business School, France
Building on the longitudinal study, this research explores the human side of technological expertise, by focusing on the specific figure in the organizations - the expert. It explores the origines of the ambiguity of expert role and highlights the importance of relational dimensions of role, and, in particular, the role enactment.
The classical role theory defines a role as a pattern of expected behaviors, perceived by an employee (Kahn et al., 1964). The unpredictability about these expected behaviors as well as the absence of clarity of the latter are traditionally considered as primary sources of role ambiguity (Pearce, 1981; Rizzo et al., 1970). The consequences of the latter were reported to be considerable. Indeed, it was demonstrated that ambiguous roles could have a significant impact on job performance, job resourcefulness and be an important source of work-related stress. Despite a significant body of research on the issue, the majority of studies have traditionally focused on the managerial population (supervisors, top executives, etc.) (Rogers & Molnar, 1976). However, no research was done in order to understand the roles of experts in organisations and the potential ambiguity they could be facing.
The recent research on role ambiguity was predominantly based on the quantitative methodology and is misses the interactional level of conceptualisation. The study of such an interactional level could require a thorough qualitative analysis, allowing to understand the complex nature of interactions between experts and expertise seekers.
By exploring the emergence of expert role in multinational organisation, this paper analyses the origines of role ambiguity of experts and the conditions for the enactment of such a role.
In order to follow the emergence of a new role of expert, I have undertaken a longitudinal research in multinational industrial company from October 2014 to January 2017.
The long engagement with the research field has allowed to access diverse sources of data at different points of time : the meetings with Scientific Direction, the semi-structured interviews with experts, department managers, R&D managers and research group leaders and, finally, the qualitative questionnaires distributed to experts.
First, the meetings with Scientific Direction of the company provided an overview of the managerial practices that were put in place in order to recognize and value scientific and technological expertise. They have also shed light on the challenges that the company is facing after officialising the expert status. These meetings also helped to prepare a second part of the research agenda – the semi-structured interviews with experts, department managers, R&D managers and research group leaders. These interviews have demonstrated a strong feeling of ambiguity perceived both by experts and other organizational members concerning the expert role. Finally, the qualitative questionnaires distributed to experts helped to deepen the understanding of the different dimensions of expert role as well as the sources of ambiguity linked to these role’ dimensions.
The study shows that the emergence of a new role of “expert” in organisation is compromised by a high level of ambiguity associated with the latter. The cause of this ambiguity could be found not as much in the unpredictability or a lack of information about the expected behaviors, as proposed by classical role theory, but rather in weakly developed relational aspects of the role. Indeed, the enactment of the expert role is conditioned by the “expert”- interaction, which occurs between the expert and the one who is in need of expertise. When the organizational environment is not supportive for such an enactment, the experts consider the process of attribution of expert status as superficial, as no changes occur in their role after the nomination and no “expert”-interaction takes place. This research allowed to distinguish the different dimensions of role enactment: enacting for, enacting towards and enacting with. These dimensions appear to be the conditions for the enactment process to take place. They also highlight that the role enactment is not an individual-driven process, but rather builds upon the collective and interactive dynamics.
Contribution to Scholarship
This research shows the human side of managing technological expertise, by focusing on the origines of role ambiguity in case of the creation of a new organizational role - "the expert". It contributes both to the R&D literature, by highlighting the importance of considering the relational aspects of expertise, and to the classical role theory, by revisiting the origines of role ambiguity. It also further develops the concept of role enactment in R&D settings, which received little attention from scholars so far.
Contribution to Practice
The research shows that it could be counterproductive to apply managerial policies without understanding the essence of the expert’ role. It proposes the overview of diverse dimensions of this role and demonstrates that the interactional aspects could be at the origin of role ambiguity. It also defines the conditions for the enactment of expert role in the organisation. The research highlights the importance of the organizational environment that allows enacting expert role by stimulating and encouraging the interactions between experts and other organisational members around the issues requiring expertise knowledge and action.
The research contributes the the understanding of innovation and expertise, that are key to the R&D activities, by exploring the human side of these processes.
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How Telework Influences Innovation and R&D Capability: An Empirical Study
University of Southampton, United Kingdom
In the R&D literature, telework has mixed effects. Positive effects include higher job satisfaction and performance. Negative effects include reduced interaction and lower project value. Telework practices and technologies continue to evolve, and now include entirely remote teams of international freelancers. What should R&D managers do about telework today?
Teleworking is becoming increasingly common. The effects of telework have been discussed a great deal, but results remain mixed. Telework has positive effects including higher job satisfaction (Fonner & Roloff 2010), higher performance (Bloom et al. 2015; Messenger et al. 2017), lower turnover intent and lower role stress (Gajendran & Harrison 2007).
In the literature, geographical proximity improves NPD performance (Ardito et al. 2015) and the exclusive use of technology reduces team performance (Malhotra & Majchrzak 2014). The geographical dispersion of R&D also reduces innovation value (Singh 2008). Industry practice has aligned with these expectations: co-located teams were more common in high- versus average- performing firms (47% vs 33%) (Barczak et al. 2009).
Advances in technology, the mixed effects of telework, and the limited understanding of precisely why worker proximity is valuable (Buciuni & Finotto 2016) means that further research is needed to understand the effects of teleworking on R&D.
Because knowledge workers are more likely to be engaged in telework (Lee et al. 2007) and because and it is more likely to have negative implications, the effects of telework are amplified in R&D. Recent advances in communications platforms and firm practices mean these assumptions need to be revisited.
What is the perceived effect of telework on individual effectiveness in innovation projects?
What is the perceived effect of telework on innovation project performance?
In order to address the research questions, we carried out twenty individual interviews focusing on innovation in teams with varied levels of remote participation and telework. We adopted a purposive sampling strategy specifying participants in an extremely wide pool: workers on innovation projects who use telework to some degree. We include a wide range of practices, from large established firms to very small and agile firms orchestrating global teams of freelance workers. Such a wide range of practices presents clear limits for the generalizability of our findings, but enables a broad search for explanatory theory in a conflicted research area.
20 interviews were conducted remotely using telephone, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Most interviews were completed within the pre-arranged one-hour meeting slot, with a range of 34 to 75 minutes. All interviews were recorded and professionally transcribed.
Telework is thought to improve individual effectiveness, in terms of both the quality and quantity of individual work. The primary reported mechanism for this is ‘improved focus’. Web-based communications systems also significantly increase knowledge accessibility. This is through access to existing explicit knowledge in searchable databases, but more critically is through direct answers to questions on chat systems such as ‘Has anyone previously solved this specific problem, and how?’
The effect of telework on project performance is mixed. Remote working patterns significantly increase the availability of skills through a wider geographical reach. Telework is thought to reduce interaction quality, reducing the potential to create and integrate the knowledge that is central to innovation and R&D. The typical approach to balancing this problem is to meet face-to-face, though other socially focused modes of remote interaction are emerging that may help to some degree. Our participants did not have data on performance so we report on their perception, and in general remote work is thought to reduce project performance. This negative effect must however be balanced against whether that project could happen at all locally (due to the availability of skills), and the additional costs of local staff and office space.
Contribution to Scholarship
Telework and remote working practices are being adopted alongside unprecedented technological change. Mobile web use overtook desktop web use in 2018, and the first iPhone was only released in 2007. Telework practices are deeply embedded in the enabling technologies, so a current evaluation of their relationship is required. Even without this background of technological change, the effects of telework reported in the literature are mixed. Further understanding of the benefits of technology-supported work and of the value of physical proximity and face-to-face work is required. A new conceptual model that seeks to understand both the positive and the negative effects of telework and its supporting digital tools is required.
Contribution to Practice
Understanding the shifting balance between the positive and negative effects of remote working is important for R&D practice.
This study attempts to bridge the needs of industry and current R&D research.
Ardito, L., Messeni Petruzzelli, A. & Albino, V., 2015. From Technological Inventions to New Products: A Systematic Review and Research Agenda of the Main Enabling Factors. European Management Review, 12(3), pp.113–147.
Barczak, G., Griffin, A. & Kahn, K.B., 2009. PERSPECTIVE: Trends and Drivers of Success in NPD Practices: Results of the 2003 PDMA Best Practices Study. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 26(1), pp.3–23.
Bloom, N. et al., 2015. Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1), pp.165–218.
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