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Creating Ideas for Innovation: Effects of Organizational Distance on Knowledge Creation Processes
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Integrated Product Development. SCA Hygiene Products, Sweden .
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Integrated Product Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6024-7908
2015 (English)In: Creativity and Innovation Management, ISSN 0963-1690, E-ISSN 1467-8691, Vol. 24, no 1, 87-101 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Innovation is to a large extent considered a social and communicative process, and input from other individuals potentially improves the generation of novel and valuable ideas also in the early stages of idea creation and development. Both colleagues inside organizations and external parties have frequently been proposed as important sources of information and knowledge within this part of the innovation process. Other contributions addressing social networks and innovation bring into focus the potentially negative effects that certain network structures may have on innovation, pointing to inconsistencies in received theory. In order to address these inconsistencies, an empirical study of ideation in a Swedish multinational firm was performed, taking into account two different knowledge creation processes - combination and in-depth analysis - and their inter-relationships with organizational distance between contributing individuals. Data was collected using a survey and was analysed using regression models. It was found that different levels of organizational distance correlate with different knowledge creation processes. In-depth analysis occurred more often with employees' close colleagues, whereas the combination of existing ideas and information was more frequent in interaction with employees' close colleagues and with external parties. Both these interaction patterns were also found to be positive for the generation of patents, whereas no such relationship could be seen when individuals interacted with colleagues in other departments in the same firm. The findings have implications for theory on cognitive distance, and also suggest that management needs to facilitate different types of collaboration and networking when aiming to facilitate and support ideation, taking into consideration the type of innovation aimed for, as well as its supporting knowledge creation processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 24, no 1, 87-101 p.
Keyword [en]
Optimal Cognitive Distance, Absorptive-Capacity, Product Development, Structural Holes, Social Network, Weak Ties, Ideation, Search, Communities, Perspective
National Category
Other Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-163451DOI: 10.1111/caim.12097ISI: 000350278600006ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84923009529OAI: diva2:800971

QC 20150408

Available from: 2015-04-08 Created: 2015-04-07 Last updated: 2015-08-31Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Collaboration and competition in firm-internal ideation management: Two alternatives – and a third way out
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaboration and competition in firm-internal ideation management: Two alternatives – and a third way out
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The passive reliance on ideas to spontaneously emerge within companies is today replaced with more active and continuous ideation management that embraces employees from different functions and knowledge-domains within the company to create and develop ideas. A frequently observed feature in the active management of ideation is the reliance on collaboration and competition mechanisms. These mechanisms use the strength of enabling people to working together towards a shared interest (collaboration) and the power of enabling people to outperform each other in submitting the best idea (competition). The existing research on collaboration and competition in ideation is found inconclusive about their effects as collaboration is stated to both enhance and hamper performance, and as competition is claimed to both drive and reduce performance in ideation. This constitutes a limitation to the management of ideation as it reduces the ability to actively and purposefully guide ideation through a deliberate use of the two mechanisms.

The aim of this thesis is to investigate collaboration and competition mechanisms in firm-internal ideation.

A multi-methodological approach has been deployed using three different studies: a multiple case study, a survey, and an experiment. This has allowed for the phenomenon of ideation to be studied using different perspectives and for the individual results to be triangulated. The empirical data has been acquired from both industry and experiments with university students.

The conducted research has revealed that the inconsistencies on the effects from the two mechanisms are possible to understand and resolve by applying a more detailed level of analysis. When competition is decomposed into components of individual- and group competition, it is found that individual competition drives idea quantity and that it hampers collaboration, whereas group competition instead is found to induce collaboration and to nurture idea quality. This indicates that competition can be used to manage levels of collaboration in ideation, thereby bridging the two mechanisms.

This thesis further presents that the individual effects from each of the mechanisms are complementary to each other. This implies that the effect from each mechanism is retained when combined with the other mechanisms, and that the combined effect is equal to, or even greater than, the sum of the individual effects. This combined use is found to drive both ideation efficiency and motivation, and is offering management an interesting third alternative, out of the two mechanisms, of how firm-internal ideation can be managed in a more effective and efficient manner.

An analytical framework is included, presenting the interrelationships between the mechanisms, motivation, ideation behavior and the ideation performance. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. vi, 76 p.
TRITA-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2015:05
innovation, ideation, collaboration, competition, ideas, idea generation, performance, firm-internal, ideation management, management, efficiency, employee.
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Machine Design
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-172534 (URN)978-91-7595-667-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-09-18, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)

QC 20150831

Available from: 2015-08-31 Created: 2015-08-26 Last updated: 2015-08-31Bibliographically approved

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