Capturing and Exploiting External Knowledge (CEEK)

Reel by Neville Miles (380 x 200)

We surveyed 600 R&D scientists and engineers at our focal firm

Theme: Open and Distributed Innovation

Dates: 2009-2012

Research Team: Professor Ammon Salter, Paola Criscuolo, Anne ter Wal

Despite the central role of external engagement in innovation, we still know very little about how successful scientists and engineers are in reaching beyond the boundaries of the firm for new ideas and in integrating these ideas inside the firm. The goal of this project was to identify the search and networking practices of effective knowledge scouts and integrators by mapping their internal and external networks, measuring successful instances of integration of externally sourced ideas.

The results of this study are generating a greater understanding of how firms enhance the search and networking activities of their R&D staff, and design effective strategies for sourcing and integrating external ideas. This project addressed the following questions:

  • What are the search and networking strategies of effective knowledge integrators?
  • Is their success contingent on the nature of the knowledge being sourced and the nature of the technological environment in which they search?
  • What are their key individual characteristics and their knowledge integration capabilities?
  • How can organisations support the development of these capabilities?

The project:

  • shed new light on what types of search and networking practices are important for open innovation
  • increase our understanding of how organisations create and maintain absorptive capacity
  • offered new insights into how individuals span organisational boundaries and how these spanning activities can shape absorptive capacity of the firm, especially its alignment of external ideas with internal capabilities.

Project Outputs

Practitioner Dissemination: Results from this project were presented to the Forum of Industry Fellows representing major multinationals and an opportunity to present our work to a broad international practitioner audience. Within our focal firm, our insights are being discussed at a senior management level and used by an internal task force to rethink and redesign company policy. In the autumn of 2012, the project extended the original survey of 600 R&D senior technical staff to include R&D managers, leading to great insight into innovation practices for both our focal firm, and the wider industry.

Academic Dissemination: In the final year, the project developed several papers,submitted to leading management journals. Presentations were given at numerous international conferences including the DRUID Society, Sunbelt and Academy of Management conferences during the lifespan of the ISC.

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