Learning Capability, Technological Parity, and Innovation Mode Use
Journal of Product Innovation Management 27 (1), 97-114, (2010)
41 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016
Date Written: 2010
The purpose of this research was to examine whether a firm's learning capability interacts with industry technological parity to predict innovation mode use. Learning capability is conceptualized in the current research as a firm's ability to develop or acquire the new knowledge-based resources and skills needed to offer new products. Industry technological parity is conceptualized as the extent to which similarity and equality exist among the technological competencies of the firms in an industry. Three generic modes of innovation are considered: internal, cooperative, and external innovation. These modes reflect the development of new products based solely on internal resources, the collaborative development of new products (i.e., with one or more development partners), and the acquisition of fully developed products from external sources, respectively. The premises of this research are that (1) technological parity can create incentives or disincentives for innovating in a particular mode, depending upon the value of external innovative resources relative to the value of internal innovative resources and (2) firms will choose innovation modes that reflect a combination of their abilities and incentives to innovate alone, with others, or through others. Survey research and secondary sources were used to collect data from 119 high-technology firms. Results indicate that firms exhibit greater use of internal and external innovation when high levels of industry technological parity are matched by high levels of firm learning capability. By contrast, a negative relationship between learning capability and industry technological parity is associated with greater use of the cooperative mode of innovation. Thus, a single, common internal capability—learning capability—interacts with the level of technological parity in the environment to significantly predict three distinct innovation modes—modes that are not inherently dependent upon one another. As such, a firm's internal ability to innovate, as reflected in learning capability, has relevance well beyond that firm's likely internal innovation output. It also predicts the firm's likely use of cooperative and external innovation when considered in light of the level of industry technological parity. A practical implication of these findings is that companies with modest learning capabilities are not inherently precluded from innovating. Rather, they can innovate through modes for which conditions in their current environments do not constitute significant obstacles to innovation output. In particular, modest learning capabilities are associated with higher innovative output in the internal, cooperative, and external modes when industry technological parity levels are low, high, and low, respectively. Conversely, strong learning capabilities tend to be associated with higher innovative output in the internal, cooperative, and external modes when industry technological parity levels are high, low, and high, respectively.
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