ArticlePDF Available

Online communities and open innovation: Governance and symbolic value creation

  • ESMT Berlin
  • Aarhus School of Business and Social Science
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [] Date: 29 January 2016, At: 09:58
Industry and Innovation
ISSN: 1366-2716 (Print) 1469-8390 (Online) Journal homepage:
Online Communities and Open Innovation
Linus Dahlander , Lars Frederiksen & Francesco Rullani
To cite this article: Linus Dahlander , Lars Frederiksen & Francesco Rullani (2008)
Online Communities and Open Innovation, Industry and Innovation, 15:2, 115-123, DOI:
To link to this article:
Published online: 01 Sep 2009.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 4371
View related articles
Citing articles: 35 View citing articles
Online Communities and Open
Innovation: Governance and
Symbolic Value Creation
*Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London, London, UK,
**Department of Innovation and Organizational Economics, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
How can firms make use of online communities as part of an innovation strategy aimed at
leveraging resources and ideas outside the four walls of the enterprise? Online communities
are today a widespread phenomenon that takes a variety of forms. Free and open source
software is probably the most well-known case, where geographically dispersed individuals
collectively develop new software and produce innovation. In 1991 Linus Torvalds founded
the Linux kernel, the heart of an operating system with the ability to have a real impact on
Microsoft’s market share. Torvalds’ initial ideas led to the building of a community that
collectively developed the Linux kernel. From the original incorporation of some 10,000 lines
of source code, by 2005 the community had developed more than 6,000,000 lines of code.
But online communities are more than simply free and open source software. For instance,
social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which have memberships of
millions, have grown rapidly, allowing individuals to share experiences and socialize with
each other. From initially being exclusively for participation by Harvard students, Facebook,
according to recent estimates, now has more than 60 million users worldwide. The popular
press has been swift to document these successes, and it is tempting to conclude that
online communities have great potential. Yet, their diversity, in terms of objectives, typology
of organization, production and reasons behind individuals’ use of them, is becoming
Correspondence Address: Lars Frederiksen, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, Tanaka Business School,
Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK. Fax: +44 (0)20 7594 5915; Tel.: +44
(0)20 7594 3041; Email:
Industry and Innovation,
Vol. 15, No. 2, 115–123, April 2008
1366-2716 Print/1469-8390 Online/08/020115–9 #2008 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13662710801970076
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
Using different theoretical lenses, a growing body of literature in social sciences
attempts to unfold this phenomenon (see, e.g. recent special issues in Research Policy,
2003; Management Science, 2006; and Organisation Studies, 2007). Much of the research
on online communities suggests that the nature of these communities with permeable
boundaries and self-organization makes them a new powerful locus of collective creativity
and innovation (Lee and Cole, 2003). This is because individuals distributed across the
globe can work with other individuals with whom they have affinities and shared interests.
There has been much less research on how firms use communities where they have limited
control, which might even jeopardize their competitive advantage, as part of their business
In recent years, a growing number of papers has adopted the open innovation concept
to highlight that innovation processes span organizational boundaries. As Chesbrough
(2003: XXIV) puts it: ‘‘firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and
internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology’’. This
stream of research highlights that firms have to rely on ideas from the external environment
to stay abreast of competition (Chesbrough, 2003). Research on open innovation focuses
on situations where firm boundaries are permeable, resulting in an interactive and
distributed innovation process in which ideas, resources and individuals flow in and out of
organizations (Laursen and Salter, 2006). Some contributions to this line of thinking suggest
that firms can adopt strategies to integrate ideas that originate from communities, into their
internal processes (Dahlander and Wallin, 2006; Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006). Firms
can act strategically, by selectively revealing internal resources (Henkel, 2006) or by
establishing communities to enable individuals to start using their products (Jeppesen and
Frederiksen, 2006).
Online communities, therefore, can constitute an important external source of
innovation for those firms able to implement a constructive relationship with them
(Dahlander and Magnusson, 2005). Individuals in these communities may not only be
able to develop innovations that can be integrated into the firm, but also may come up with
new perspectives on and ways of framing problems. The community may develop a shared
and mutual understanding of what it is about, what in the new product design or features is
valuable; it may create product/firm loyalty and establish among community participants a
sense of belonging and meaning (Rindova and Petkova, 2007).
Despite these benefits, there is also a range of challenges for firms that adopt the open
innovation approach (Chesbrough, 2006). This is particularly evident when managing online
communities as individuals participating in these communities are beyond the firms’
hierarchical realms. Individuals can decide where to work, who to work with and what to
work on, making it difficult for firms to steer the direction of development (Dahlander and
Wallin, 2006). Moreover, in online communities the social processes behind members’
participation are intrinsically dissipative because in such self-organized processes, many
individuals have to be mobilized to make the most productive ones emerge (David and
Rullani, forthcoming). This greatly increases the resources firms have to pour into these
communities, and increases the risk of such investments. A large number of involved
parties with misaligned goals, different capabilities and diverse degrees of involvement,
raise the issue of governance of online communities.
In order to advance our understanding of the open and distributed nature of the
innovation process taking place through online communities, this Special Issue revolves
116 L. Dahlander et al.
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
around the two themes identified above as crucial: (1) the importance of conceptually
including the symbolic value of the artefacts in the innovation process, as online
communities can be fundamental tools by which firms can innovate in this sphere
thickening the symbolic value of their product; and (2) the issue of governance and how it is
associated with the way in which firms try to harness these communities. Both themes have
been relatively unattended by earlier research. The papers in this issue were selected
precisely on the basis of the questions and answers they might generate with respect to
these overall themes.
We structure this editorial piece as follows. We begin by placing the collection of papers
within the themes of governance and symbolic value creation. We then conclude by charting
areas for future research.
Theme I: Governance in Online Communities
Many scholars are interested in how online communities are governed. Sometimes these
communities emerge quickly and appear to be successful, without the reporting
mechanisms and organization charts visible within firms (Fleming and Waguespack,
2007). Firms are often involved in online communities as the protagonists of a single
community (Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006), hosts of a system composed by a myriad of
project-centred communities (David and Rullani, 2008) or collaborators integrated in an
existing community (Dahlander and Wallin, 2006).
Research on governance in online communities looks at how individuals in these
communities make collective decisions about future directions, control and coordination
(see, e.g. the discussion by Markus, 2007). Dealing with governance is not a simple matter,
as it is clearly a composite and dynamic concept, based on the nexus between very
neterogeneous actors (O’Mahony & Ferraro, 2007; Shah, 2006). The dimensions that it is
necessary to take account of are several, and their links are not always clear.
The paper by Langlois and Garzarelli, ‘‘Of Hackers and Hairdressers: Modularity and the
Organizational Economics of Open-Source Collaboration’’, is the first paper in this Special
Issue and sets the stage for a discussion on governance inonline communities, allowing us to
tease out what are the important dimensions. In this mainly conceptual paper, the authors
employ the empirical illustration of an open source online community to explore the generic
question in organizational economics of how the division of intellectual labour is based on a
trade-off between modularity (i.e. specialization) and the opportunity to integrate various
individually developed components of knowledge. The paper claims that the trade-off allows
the individuals populating the open source community to exchange efforts rather than
products, under a regime in which the providers of code self-identify themselves as suppliers
of products in a market, rather than employees in a firm. Through their discussion, Langlois
and Garzarelli build a useful two-by-two matrix of product vs. efforts on one axis and self-
identification of contributors vs. no self-identification on the other. In this matrix the firm, the
market, outsourcing and voluntary production as it occurs in open source communities are
situated and, hence, presented as different modes of innovation production.
This provokes a series of questions on how communities can be managed when the
connection between incentives—that is, the voluntary basis upon which the community is
built—and the particular dynamics of the organization of labour in an open community—
exchanging effort and not product—is taken into account. Firms and communities have
Online Communities and Open Innovation 117
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
diverse and sometimes incommensurable goals (O’Mahony, 2003), and it is a challenge for
firms to derive benefits from working with communities.
The West and O’Mahony paper, ‘‘The Role of Participation Architecture in Growing
Sponsored Open Source Communities’’, offers an answer to the previous implicit question
about governance structures and the contradictions of a series of open source communities
classified according to the typologies of firms’ participation in these communities. Based on
a qualitative study the paper shows that firm-sponsored online communities or open source
online communities initiated by a firm, differ from organically grown open source
communities. To demonstrate the differences between these two archetypical forms of
open source online communities West and O’Mahony develop the concept of ‘‘participation
architecture’’. The concept is created by the joining together of three important design
dimensions for the coordination of tasks and communication in an online community:
management of intellectual property rights, development approach and model of community
governance. The study makes it explicit that various participation architectures exist in the
two kinds of open source communities. The authors find that corporate sponsorship in open
source communities influences the design and evolution of them and that this affects: (1)
the degree of transparency of community participants to follow the community’s collective
process of development; and (2) accessibility for participants, to contribute to code
development. Despite oftentimes trying to imitate the organization and design of organic
open source communities, firm-sponsored communities face the classic tension between
control and growth. This is because firms that are sponsoring an open source community
struggle to maintain an open structure supportive of growth in the community in parallel with
managing and maintaining control over the direction of and the activities taking place in the
open source online community. For example, a firm sponsoring a community may define
and potentially limit the opportunity structure for others to enter the community, as well as
deciding who has access to the code/core of the community. The final contribution of this
paper to the debate invoked in this Special Issue demonstrates that it is rarely the technical
architecture and set-up of online communities that single-handedly determines participation
frequency and structure. To better understand the differences in the character and quality of
participation in different types of online communities, and thus be better informed about how
innovation through these communities is managed and incentivized, we need to note that
the organizational structure hinges upon the community sponsor’s decisions regarding the
design of governance mechanisms.
The paper by den Besten and Dalle provides an opportunity to explore this issue from a
different perspective, taking a very timely phenomenon as the empirical setting. Stretching
the argument presented in the paper by West and O’Mahony, they offer an intuition on the
relationship between organizational structure and governance of online communities: the
coordination devices the community uses in its everyday work embodies, ‘‘expresses’’, its
(implicit or explicit, consciously or unconsciously taken) decisions relative to governance.
Evaluating the role of these mechanisms in the effectiveness of the community activity
develops into an interesting exercise, as it suggests visions of new ways—and new
mechanisms—by which firms can realize the effective governance of an online community.
The paper by den Besten and Dalle focuses on the exciting example of Wikipedia, the
online encyclopaedia, developed at tremendous pace by a vibrant online community. From
its inception in 2001 to the end of December 2007, the Wikipedia community had collectively
written an astonishing 9 million plus articles, in over 200 languages. Interest has surged
118 L. Dahlander et al.
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
among organization and management theorists to understand how the community’s efforts
have been organized to develop at this pace. The paper studies Simple Wikipedia—an
offspring of Wikipedia—which develops articles written in Basic English, aimed at children,
people with learning disabilities and individuals who are not fully literate in English. Simple
Wikipedia has a mechanism that allows members to label pages as ‘‘unsimple’’, to ensure
readability. Using an impressive data-set of more than 25,000 pages written by almost
20,000 contributors, the paper investigates how this labelling influences the readability of
articles. The paper adopts methods used in linguistics and information science, such as the
Flesch formula, which measures the readability of articles, counting the number of syllables
per word and the number of words per sentence in texts. The results suggest that labelling
plays a key—yet insufficient—role in ensuring articles are readable. The implications,
suggested by the authors, are that an artificial companion—configured as a managerial and
editorial assistant—could be developed using the relatively straightforward metrics
suggested in the paper. These companions could continue work left unattended by
members of the community, and also free up time for them to do more creative tasks.
Because such mechanisms as the companion mentioned above, would have an impact
on the content of the everyday work of contributors, it could also be used to shape the
governance of the community. Drawing on the Simple Wikipedia example analysed by den
Besten and Dalle, we can imagine a wider application of ‘‘bots’’ able to grease the
coordination between contributors. Once the ‘‘bots’’ are set, only certain tasks will be left to
human coordination and discussion—for instance, to confrontation of different interests—
while other issues will be ‘‘hidden’’ and taken care of by the automatic procedures for
specific tasks. This would have a great impact on the evolution of governance structure in
online communities.
Theme II: Different Types of Value Creation in Online Communities
The literature has underlined the role of users as innovators. The usual perspective
uncovers the role of lead users as those individuals whose everyday life is affected by the
consumption of the firm’s product, and who have the skills to modify and personalize the
product. The innovation process, however, most of the time is described as ‘‘atomistic’’:
the user tries to match her needs with the features of the product, and produces a modified
version of it. Users in online communities are embedded in a social environment where they
can get advice from others to solve particular problems. As suggested by the user
innovation literature, communication plays a function as a propagation device, distributing
innovative features or voicing needs in the user community and eventually carrying them to
the firm. While being sympathetic to this argument, we would contend that communication
among users is more than this. In other words, we need to look at the communication that
was going on before, during and after Schumpeterian inventions and innovations
proliferated, because that is the mechanism that joins together the two processes allowing
invention and innovation to link up to produce the potential to become both creative and
In line with this perspective an emergent view on value creation in the context of
innovation is that consumers or potential consumers are not only attracted to the functional
aspects and features of products (Rindova and Petkova, 2007). Issues such as symbolic
and aesthetic value as well as sense-making qualities seem equally important for creating
Online Communities and Open Innovation 119
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
value through successful product development (Ravasi and Rindova, 2007). The literature
on user innovation and online communities, in our view, has frequently focused perhaps too
narrowly on innovation as improvements to technological features and innovative task
partitioning, and seldom recognized that innovation and invention in online communities
also takes place through communication among participants and thus through the
recombination of ideas, voicing of future product wants and convergence towards a
common perception of what is valuable. Being part of the community and making sense of
one’s practices with the product by interacting with fellow users may be an important driver
of innovative behaviour.
In a growing number of online communities where transparency in the actual product
development process is relatively low and access to the product source code is restricted,
the value created for the consumer lies as much in being part of the community, infusing the
product with an extended meaning beyond the utilitarian one. As such, firms that in different
ways are involved with online communities may benefit from the communication among
product users and their sense-making of their activities with the product.
The contribution by Finotto and Di Maria in this Special Issue is an example for this
reasoning. As the authors state: ‘‘Understanding and managing innovation in the present
competitive scenario requires a stronger integration between innovation studies—
traditionally focused on R&D and technological innovation in product development—and
the analyses offered by the marketing and customer behaviour framework.’’ They refer to
the concept of brand communities to capture the process of value creation through
communities. ‘‘A brand community is a specialized, non-geographically bound community,
based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand’’ (Muniz and
O’Guinn, 2001: 412). They initially review the literature in both fields and argue for a mixed
approach. They then focus on brand communities and discuss how taking account of
innovation in collective sense-making processes could become a fundamental element of
firms’ strategies. The core of their argument is that in mature sectors, where technological
progress has reached a plateau, the locus of value creation resides mainly in the immaterial
features of the product. They report fashion as the most important example of this process,
where product innovation along dimensions such as the identity and lifestyle carried by the
brand are the main determinants of consumers’ choices. To give an empirical illustration of
this process they report two case studies from low-tech firms exploiting consumer
communities to deepen and broaden the sets of meanings coupled to their products. The
two firms analysed are particularly interesting as they are among the most important
representatives of the ‘‘Made in Italy’’ industries. Predominantly present in low-tech
industrial districts, firms representing ‘‘Made in Italy’’ have always benefited from
geographic proximity to the customers. Proximity was at the basis of the processes of
information gathering, of adaptation to new trends and tastes. Nowadays, the changes
induced by the widening of worldwide markets have exposed firms to a different, mostly
unknown and heterogeneous, demand. As the authors argue, small Italian companies can
overcome the sudden gap between them and these new markets by means of online
communities. The two case studies they develop offer an interesting first step to thinking
about possible strategies firms could apply to reach this goal.
The paper by Finotto and Di Maria focuses on the symbolic value of the product for the
consumer. This, however, is just one side of the coin. In communities where consumers
also play the role of innovators, the meanings carried by the product are not confined to the
120 L. Dahlander et al.
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
consumption sphere. Production becomes a matter not only of maximizing job
opportunities, the fitting of the product to one’s own needs or simply earning money. The
drivers behind innovation include also intrinsic motivation, where the meaning of the action
and the symbols the product embodies create the context that nurtures enjoyment and a
sense of fulfilment.
The paper developed by Kaiser and Mu¨ller-Seitz, ‘‘Leveraging Lead User Knowledge in
Software Development—The Case of Weblog Technology’’, helps to illustrate the point
made above. It demonstrates that the same incentive schemes based on the coexistence of
extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, which previous studies found in open source communities,
can be found in firm-centred communities operating in the blogsphere.
The authors analyse the motivations driving individuals’ participation in a peculiar
online social environment: the Microsoft Longhorn Blogsphere (MLB). The authors explain
‘‘the blogsphere’’ as a network of messages posted online, where all refer to a specific topic,
environment or interest and are connected by means of a series of interlinks (blogrolls,
permalinks and trackbacks). MLB is a corporate blogsphere centred on discussion of
bloggers’ experiences and developments of the Microsoft product ‘‘Microsoft-Longhorn’’.
Despite the peculiarities of the environment, the tools, and the typology of participants and
contributions, the main message of the paper is that the bloggers’ incentive structure is not
so very different from that observed in open source communities. The paper makes this
point through an accurate analysis of the contents of the messages posted on MLB,
classifying them and matching the categories obtained to the literature on open source
developers’ incentives. They show that bloggers are motivated both intrinsically and
extrinsically. In particular, intrinsic motivations are found to belong to three main ‘‘realms’’:
(1) feelings of freedom to choose (topic, task and time allocation, etc.); (2) feelings of having
an impact on the reality; (3) socialization. The authors highlight that the minimum common
denominator of these three sets of motivations is the concept of ‘‘flow state’’, that is, an
experience that totally captures an individual’s attention and stimulates intrinsic feelings of
enjoyment. Extrinsic motivations are summarized by the categories of signalling one’s
abilities, participation perceived as a means to get support for one’s activities and writing on
the blog as a self-reflective learning activity. These motivations are found to closely map
those emerging from the empirical studies of open source software. This result leaves the
door open for generalizing our discussion, as it shows that online communities share similar
incentive structures irrespective of the specific means of interaction through which they
develop or their ‘‘corporate-centred’’ nature.
This editorial has elucidated the richness of the online community research field when
considered in the light of firm-based open innovation strategy. The selection of papers for
this Special Issue allowed us to identify two themes that are central for the management of
online communities: (1) governance and (2) symbolic value creation. As argued in this
Special Issue, these themes have implications for how we think about online communities
and how firms can go about managing them.
The papers in this collection contribute to an ongoing debate on open, distributed,
cumulative and collaborative innovation processes by highlighting the role of individual
Online Communities and Open Innovation 121
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
users embedded in online communities. The papers highlight a number of intriguing new
perspectives and introduce new empirical settings, with implications for research and
managerial practice. After having read them and the concluding research note, answers to
some of the important questions about the nature of online communities emerge, but many
new questions proliferate.
This emphasizes that studies on online communities for innovation may propose
important improvement to conventional theories developed for other empirical settings. It
appears that researchers interested in online communities have been moving into this area
because of an interest in the phenomenon itself. Scholars from different backgrounds and
using different theoretical perspectives have all written contributions to how online
communities work. As a consequence, the body of knowledge is diverse and points in
various directions. Apart from only being fascinated by the research settings—we as a
community of scholars—could do a better job in building theory and think more carefully
about the theoretical implications of our research. This was also discussed at the
conference leading up to this Special Issue by two keynote speakers. In the first keynote at
the track, Joel West discussed how different theoretical streams fit together. In the second
keynote, Karim Lakhani talked about how researchers within the community define the core
concepts. Indeed, as argued by West and Lakhani in the final piece of this Special Issue,
several fundamental core concepts remain ambiguously defined. In order to build a more
coherent body of literature, scholars pursuing research in this area therefore need to think
carefully about these core concepts.
The existence of online communities, we argue, has many implications for how we
think about innovation processes, and we hope that researchers will continue to address the
issue, extending research and our understanding in this area.
In the autumn and winter of 2006 a call for papers was issued inviting researchers to submit
papers to the track ‘‘Managing Open Innovation Through Online Communities’’ at the
European Academy of Management conference (EURAM) in Paris, May 2007. During a few
wonderful days in Paris, a group of highly qualified scholars was brought together for a lively
discussion. Given the very constructive debate, it is believed that all the authors left the
track with lots of ideas and suggestions for how their papers might be improved.
Participants in the track were invited to submit their papers for publication in this Special
Issue. After another round of peer review, five papers were selected for inclusion. Lots of
help and guidance were received on the way. First, the authors who submitted manuscripts
for the EURAM conference track 2007 and for review for this Special Issue are thanked.
Second, the guest editors are grateful to Mark Lorenzen for inviting them to edit this Special
Issue and for assistance in bringing it to print. It has provided great opportunities to develop
an active community of researchers working on online communities and their relationship to
open innovation. They are also very grateful to the EURAM conference and the more than
25 Special Issue reviewers whose constructive comments significantly improved the quality
of the papers. Finally, the guest editors acknowledge Taylor & Francis publishers and the
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London
for financial support.
122 L. Dahlander et al.
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
Chesbrough, H. (2003) Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (Boston: Harvard Business
School Press).
Chesbrough, H. (2006) Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape (Boston: Harvard Business School
Dahlander, L. and Magnusson, M. G. (2005) Relationships between open source software companies and communities: observations
from Nordic firms, Research Policy, 34(4), pp. 481–493.
Dahlander, L. and Wallin, M. W. (2006) A man on the inside: unlocking communities as complementary assets, Research Policy, 35(8),
pp. 1243–1259.
David, P. A. and Rullani, F. (forthcoming) Dynamics of innovation in an ‘‘open source’’ collaboration environment: lurking, laboring and
launching FLOSS projects on SourceForge, Industrial and Corporate Change.
Fleming, L. and Waguespack, D. M. (2007) Brokerage, boundary spanning, and leadership in open innovation communities, Organization
Science, 18, pp. 165–180.
Henkel, J. (2006) Selective revealing in open innovation processes: the case of embedded Linux, Research Policy, 35(7), pp. 953–969.
Jeppesen, L. B. and Frederiksen, L. (2006) Why do users contribute to firm-hosted user communities? The case of computer-controlled
music instruments, Organization Science, 17(1), pp. 45–63.
Kogut, B. and Metiu, A. (2001) Open-source software development and distributed innovation, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 14(2),
pp. 248–264.
Laursen, K. and Salter, A. J. (2006) Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among UK
manufacturing firms, Strategic Management Journal, 27, pp. 131–150.
Lee, G. K. and Cole, R. E. (2003) From a firm-based to a community-based model of knowledge creation: the case of the Linux kernel
development, Organization Science, 14(6), pp. 633–649.
Markus, M. L. (2007) The governance of free/open source software projects: monolithic, multidimensional, or configurational?, Journal of
Management Governance, 11, pp. 151–163.
Muniz, A. M. and O’Guinn, T. C. (2001) Brand community, Journal of Consumer Research, 27, pp. 412–432.
O’Mahony, S. (2003) Guarding the commons: how community managed software projects protect their work, Research Policy, 32, pp.
O’Mahony, S. and Ferraro, F. (2007) Governance in production communities, Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), pp. 1079–1106.
Ravasi, D. and Rindova, V. P. (2007) Symbolic value creation. Technology, Innovation and Institutions Working Paper Series, TII-16, pp.
Rindova, V. P. and Petkova, A. P. (2007) When is a new thing a good thing? Technological change, product form design, and perceptions
of value for product innovations, Organization Science, 18, pp. 217–232.
Shah, S. (2006) Motivation, governance, and the viability of hybrid forms in open source software development, Management Science,
52(7), pp. 1000–1014.
von Zedtwitz, M. and Gassmann, O. (2002) Market versus technology driven in R&D internationalisation: four different patterns of
managing research and development, Research Policy, 31(4), pp. 569–588.
Online Communities and Open Innovation 123
Downloaded by [] at 09:58 29 January 2016
... C ROWDSOURCING is broadly understood as the engagement of a large group to perform an outsourced activity or task using a specific digital infrastructure [1], [2], [3]. The literature usually defines crowdsourcing as a mechanism by which public or private organizations (seekers) engage with large groups of external individuals (crowds or solvers) to solve a defined problem [4], [5], generate new ideas and knowledge, or create innovations [6], [7]. ...
... In the open innovation literature, crowdsourcing has mainly been studied from a firm-level perspective, such as the examination of the profit-related benefits of crowd engagement [1], [2], [3]. In this regard, crowdsourcing enables companies to overcome local search bias and tap into external knowledge sources (e.g., [42]). ...
... In these initiatives, participants come together to solve problems without prior contracts or predefined expectations of who will solve which problem. They openly decide whether they will join and what they will contribute [1], [49], [50], [51]. Participants are mainly volunteers collaborating for a short period for a particular purpose [47]. ...
Driven by recent calls for more research that examines forms of crowdsourcing used to address social challenges, in this article, we contribute to the broader literature on open innovation and crowdsourcing by investigating how crowdsourcing platforms enable the transformation of crowd-based resources. We have focused on initiatives with broader social purposes, rather than those that are for-profit and single firm-driven, where the resulting resources are usually solely controlled by a specific organization. By analyzing 19 crowd-based initiatives with a similar context-responding to the coronavirus disease pandemic-we studied a variety of initiatives and identified three distinct types of crowd-sourcing platforms that enable resource transformation: resource pooling; resource cocreation; and resource enabling beyond the platform boundaries. We depict how access to and control of resources vary across initiatives. We have framed our contribution as crowd-resourcing, providing a reference model for the design of platforms based on the type of involvement and expected degree of resource transformation.
... Over the past few decades, we have witnessed new organizational forms that have reshaped how people participate in collaborative knowledge creation. Examples of these new approaches are scientific consortia [9,10] and online communities for open-source software development [11]. The innovative element in these approaches is organizations' ability to create open and collaborative knowledge-forming practices and digital platforms [12] and the ability to create university, industry, and government partnerships [13,14]. ...
Full-text available
This study applies a social transformation perspective and aims to provide a conceptual framework for different innovation-driven communities and platforms designed to answer complex problems. Based on the SDG goal # 17 (The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) on the importance of creating partnership, we examine the structures, strategies, and processes designed by the Israel Innovation Institute (III) in the creation of communities and innovation ecosystems. Our research questions are what are the processes and strategies applied to create an ecosystem for an innovation community and to advance partnerships, and how do they evolve and develop. Based on data from interviews, participant observations, and document analysis, we analyzed the pre-conditions for establishing these communities and innovation ecosystems, the community managers’ main strategies, and the processes in which these ecosystems evolve and develop. We find that the III creates a bottom-up process based on three inter-related functions: the creating encounters or partnerships within the community, leading to a second level of collaboration based on bringing various actors, knowledge, and resources from institutions or large organizations outside the original community. These functions lead to further reconfiguring the system higher-order change by setting additional encounters with multinational actors, state actors, and more. This study has significant policy implications for facilitating innovation for complex societal challenges.
... While OI has emerged as an important pathway to sustaining innovation, there remain many challenges associated with managing OI communities and success is far from guaranteed (Abhari and McGuckin, 2022). Extant literature often investigates the intraorganizational challenges (Salter et al., 2015) or challenges associated with governance and intellectual property (Dahlander et al., 2008). Yet, research related to the role of OI members and communities in the OI process, as either individual or collective contributors to the creation of new knowledge and innovations, or as receivers of knowledge that is used to generate innovations (Bogers et al., 2018), is scarce. ...
... While OI has emerged as an important pathway to sustaining innovation, there remain many challenges associated with managing OI communities and success is far from guaranteed (Abhari and McGuckin, 2022). Extant literature often investigates the intraorganizational challenges (Salter et al., 2015) or challenges associated with governance and intellectual property (Dahlander et al., 2008). Yet, research related to the role of OI members and communities in the OI process, as either individual or collective contributors to the creation of new knowledge and innovations, or as receivers of knowledge that is used to generate innovations (Bogers et al., 2018), is scarce. ...
Purpose: Organizations increasingly seek to leverage open innovation (OI) communities to generate and advance novel ideas through collaborative innovation efforts of their members. However, success is far from guaranteed as OI communities can only thrive depending on individual and collective member contributions. This research examines individual and social determinants that encourage members to first generate novel ideas, then collaboratively advance these ideas through cocreation with other members, a process we term member ‘(co)creativity’. Design/Methodology/Approach: A survey design was used to collect data from 301 OI community members, which we analyzed through component-based structural equation modeling using SmartPLS. Findings: Drawing on componential theory of creativity and innovation, this study demonstrates the role of members’ creative identity, creative self-efficacy, and domain-relevant knowledge as determinants for their novel idea generation. While novel idea generation leads to members’ participation in collaborative innovation, this relationship is partially mediated by members’ willingness to cocreate in this process. This process is further conditioned by social determinants and leads to members’ creative self-enrichment as a result of collaborating in OI communities. Research Implications: Taking a member perspective, this study advances marketing innovation theorizing by investigating critical determinants of effective OI communities, informing managers about success factors that promote collaborative innovation in OI communities.
... Dahlander et al. stated that based on long-term trusting relationships, users' suggestions and ideas constitute an essential source of innovation for companies. Once adopted, they promote product innovation, increase users' understanding of new products, and improve loyalty [60]. As a result, in implementing OI in an environment of high trust, firms are more willing to communicate with each other to obtain complementary, explicit, or even implicit resources and obtain economic rewards. ...
Full-text available
Open innovation (OI) has great significance in innovation management. OI builds a bridge between firms and other organizations, which can help firms to quickly integrate into value chain innovation and discover the value stored in external resources, and thus can improve the performance of firms. The Chinese economy is accelerating its high-quality development. In this process, the importance of social capital is emphasized. However, less evidence is provided to discuss whether and how social capital from the resource perspective affects OI and firm performance. Therefore, we constructed a moderating model to deeply examine the mechanisms of the two models of the effects of inbound OI and outbound OI on firm performance and the impact of multidimensional social capital within it from the resource perspective. Our sample comprises 6899 observations of 1850 A-share listed manufacturing firms in China from 2016 to 2020. Considering the lag of resources into firm profitability, we decided to lag the firm performance by one year behind other indicators, so the sample data cover the period of 2016–2021. Then, we used Excel 2019 to complete the calculations of indicators and used multiple regression analysis of STATA17 to test the hypotheses. It is found that inbound and outbound OI have an inverted U-shaped relationship with firm performance. Institutional and technological social capital positively moderates the relationship between inbound and outbound OI and firm performance. Compared with the other two types of social capital, market social capital is the most widely owned among the sample firms, but its moderating effect is insignificant. The findings enrich and expand theoretical research on OI and firm performance and guide firms to implement OI, promoting their sustainable development.
Nonmonetary reward systems that recognize high-quality contributions are a common feature of online communities. A growing body of work demonstrates positive links between nonmonetary rewards and increases in voluntary contributions, but negative externalities that may arise with these systems have received little attention. Concomitant performance pressures could incite counterproductive behaviors, and whether counterproductive behavior would be at the expense of productive contributions is unclear. Using proprietary data of members’ suspensions for counterproductive behavior in the online community, Stack Overflow, which enlists a nonmonetary reward system to sustain voluntary contributions, this study examines site members’ weekly movements through the system and their corresponding behaviors. I find being near a milestone reward threshold is associated with an increased likelihood of suspension for counterproductive behavior. However, members also increase productive contributions near the time of their suspensions, which may help offset their counterproductive behaviors. By contrast, formal suspensions for counterproductive behavior are associated with a reduction in post-suspension contributions. Jointly, these findings support the use of nonmonetary rewards systems to sustain voluntary contributions in online communities but offer a note of caution regarding the unintended consequences of enforcement. Funding: The author thanks the Stephen M. Ross School of Business for financial and institutional support. Supplemental Material: The online appendix is available at .
The paper explores the concept of cultural proximity and its effects on firm innovation, paying specific attention to the moderator role played by digital technologies. In order to improve the innovative performance, firms should construct and maintain relationships with the members of other organizations and should develop and take care of the relationship between the members inside the firm. Previous studies show that innovation is easily reached through the joint efforts of different actors, such as competitors and suppliers, and customers. Cultural proximity refers to cultural compatibility, identity, and shared creativity norms of organization members or between different firms. Similar firms can communicate, transfer, and acquire knowledge more effectively and efficiently. In this paper, we explore the relationship between cultural proximity and innovation. Moreover, we investigate the moderator role of digital technologies on the relationship between cultural proximity and firm innovation. The development of digital technologies allowed firms to implement a remote production control and to promote innovative forms of work organization such as smart working. After the digital revolution, people started to adopt different tools to communicate, cooperate, and be connected with. The virtual face-to-face interactions facilitates economic activities; digital technologies enable the development of shared values stimulating collaborations and interactions between people located in different places. The relationships between people belonging to different cultures (i.e., with low cultural proximity) are facilitated by employing digital tools. Developing testable propositions, we contribute to the debate about the importance of cultural proximity and the development of digital-based interactions on innovative activities.KeywordsCultural proximityDigital technologiesInnovation
Full-text available
This paper provides a quantitative study of free revealing of firm-developed innovations within embedded Linux. Firms voluntarily contribute developments back to public projects, receiving informal development support. Revealing selectively still allows them to protect their intellectual property. Revealing is strongly heterogeneous among firms, which can partly be explained by firm characteristics.
Full-text available
Studies of the sources of innovations have recognized that many innovations are developed by users. However, the fact that firms employ communities of users to strengthen their innovation process has not yet received much attention. In online firm-hosted user communities users freely reveal innovations to a firm's product platform, which can put the firm in a favorable position (a) because these new product features become available to all users through sharing on a user-to-user basis, or (b) because it allows the firm to pick up the innovations and integrate them in future products and then benefit by selling them to all users. We study the key personal attributes of the individuals responsible for innovations, namely the innovative users, to explain creation of value in this organizational context. The main question is why such users contribute to firm- hosted user communities. Analyzing data derived from multiple sources (interviews, a web log, and questionnaires) we find that innovative users are likely to be (i) hobbyists, an attribute that can be assumed to (positively) affect innovators' willingness to share innovations, and (ii) responsive to "firm-recognition" as a motivating factor for undertaking innovation, which explains their decision to join the firm's domain. In agreement with earlier studies we also find that innovative users are likely to be "lead users", an attribute that we assume to affect the quality of user innovation. Whether or not a firm-hosted user community can be turned into an asset for the firm is to a great extent conditioned by the issues studied in this paper.
Full-text available
Innovation researchers recognize that the uncertainty with regard to the value-creating potential of product innovations increases with their technological novelty, and have argued that the usefulness and value of novel products are socially constructed. Despite this recognition, researchers have not explored how the outer form in which a technological innovation is embodied influences the processes through which the innovation's value is constructed and perceived. In this paper we argue that by embodying novel technologies in objects with specific functional, symbolic, and aesthetic properties, innovating firms also endow their products with cues that trigger a variety of cognitive and emotional responses. Drawing on psychological research we articulate how such cognitive and emotional responses underlie initial perceptions of value and theorize how innovating firms can influence them through product form design. Our framework explains how product form contributes to perceptions of value by modulating the actual technological novelty of a product innovation and facilitating how customers cope with it. Our theoretical framework makes an important contribution to innovation research and practice because it articulates how product form can be used strategically to achieve specific cognitive and emotional effects and enhance the initial customer perceptions of the value of an innovation.
Full-text available
Little is known about how communities producing collective goods govern themselves. In a multimethod study of one open source software community, we found that members developed a shared basis of formal authority but limited it with democratic mechanisms that enabled experimentation with shifting conceptions of authority over time. When members settled on a shared conception of authority, it was more expansive than their original design. A statistical test of the predictors of leadership reinforced this finding. By blending bureaucratic and democratic mechanisms, the governance system evolved with the community's changing conceptions of authority.
Full-text available
A central part of the innovation process concerns the way firms go about organizing search for new ideas that have commercial potential. New models of innovation have suggested that many innovative firms have changed the way they search for new ideas, adopting open search strategies that involve the use of a wide range of external actors and sources to help them achieve and sustain innovation. Using a large-scale sample of industrial firms, this paper links search strategy to innovative performance, finding that searching widely and deeply is curvilinearly (taking an inverted U-shape) related to performance. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
What types of human and social capital identify the emergence of leaders of open innovation communities? Consistent with the norms of an engineering culture, we find that future leaders must first make strong technical contributions. Beyond technical contributions, they must then integrate their communities in order to mobilize volunteers and avoid the ever-present danger of forking and balkanization. This is enabled by two correlated but distinct social positions: social brokerage and boundary spanning between technological areas. An inherent lack of trust associated with brokerage positions can be overcome through physical interaction. Boundary spanners do not suffer this handicap and are much more likely than brokers to advance to leadership. The research separates the influence of human and social capital on promotion, and highlights previously unexamined differences between brokerage-and boundary-spanning positions. Longitudinal analyses of careers within the Internet Engineering Task Force community from 1986--2002 support the arguments.
We propose a new model of knowledge creation in purposeful, loosely-coordinated, distributed systems, as an alternative to a firm-based one. Specifically, using the case of Linux kernel development project, we build a model of community-based, evolutionary knowledge creation to study how thousands of talented volunteers, dispersed across organizational and geographical boundaries, collaborate via the Internet to produce a knowledge- intensive, innovative product of high quality. By comparing and contrasting the Linux model with the traditional/commercial model of software development and firm-based knowledge creation efforts, we show how the proposed model of knowledge creation expands beyond the boundary of the firm. Our model suggests that the product development process can be effectively organized as an evolutionary process of learning driven by criticism and error correction. We conclude by offering some theoretical implications of our community-based model of knowledge creation for the literature of organizational learning, community life, and the uses of knowledge
Research and development are subject to different location drivers. The analysis of 1021 R&D units, each distinguished by its main orientation towards either research or development work, reveals that research is concentrated in only five regions worldwide, while development is more globally dispersed.Our research is based on 290 research interviews and database research in 81 technology-intensive multinational companies. We identify two principal location rationales—access to markets and access to science—as the principal determinants for four trends that lead to four archetypes of R&D internationalization: ‘national treasure’, ‘market-driven’, ‘technology-driven’, and ‘global’. Their organizational evolution is characterized by four trends. The model is illustrated with short cases of international R&D organization at Kubota, Schindler, Xerox, and Glaxo-Wellcome.Differences in R&D internationalization drivers lead to a separation of individual R&D units by geography and organization. Current belief is to integrate R&D processes; separation seems to contradict this trend. We argue that this need not be the case, for there are good reasons to maintain some independence between research and development.