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Sustaining the Flow of External Ideas: The Role of Dual Social Identity Across Communities and Organizations

Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2014

41 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2014 Last revised: 5 May 2015

Benedikt Langner

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Victor P. Seidel

Babson College; Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; University of Oxford

Date Written: April 9, 2014

Abstract

Firm-hosted online communities are increasingly a part of innovation efforts which seek to provide a flow of external ideas into organizations. However, many online communities do not gain traction or die out over time. One possible but under-researched driver of sustained engagement by members of firm-hosted communities is a social identity that makes community members feel like they are part of the firm. We sought to empirically derive the organizational practices that support community members having a dual social identity with both communities and organizations. We completed extensive field work and over ninety interviews regarding two firms that had a history of sustained engagement by members of their communities: T-shirt firm Threadless and automotive firm Local Motors. We identified eight organizational practices that supported dual social identity. Four of these practices made members perceive a porous boundary between firm and community, including an ‘open house’ policy and hiring from the community. Another four practices made members feel supported in community efforts, including promoting community projects and having top management active in the community. We describe the practices in detail and the implications for firms using online communities as one component of their portfolio of innovation efforts.

Keywords: Firm-hosted online communities, community engagement, social identity, innovation

JEL Classification: O32

Suggested Citation

Langner, Benedikt and Seidel, Victor P., Sustaining the Flow of External Ideas: The Role of Dual Social Identity Across Communities and Organizations (April 9, 2014). Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2423020

Benedikt Langner

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/directory/vseidel

University of Oxford ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

HOME PAGE: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/community/people/victor-seidel

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