Alliance Network and Knowledge Network: The Effect of Network Memory, Density Asymmetry, and Alliance Ambidexterity on Firm Innovation

聯盟網路和知識網路:網路記憶,密度不對稱,和聯盟多元化對企業創新的影響

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date1 Aug 2019

Abstract

Strategic alliances are a major driver of firms’ innovations. Although previous studies have emphasized the importance of strategic alliances in firm innovation performance, scholars still have a limited understanding of the dimensions of strategic alliances and the influence on firm innovation. Therefore, this study tends to address the effect of strategic alliances on firm innovation from three different aspects. Specifically, in study 1, I investigate the joint effect of current and previous alliance networks on firm innovation. While most prior studies merely focus on current alliance network, little is known about the interplay of existing and ghost ties. Drawing on the literature on knowledge exchange in interfirm networks, I contend that the benefits and costs associated with network consistency (i.e. the consistency between a firm’s current and previous alliance networks) on interfirm knowledge sharing and transfer result in an inverted U-shaped relationship between network consistency and firm innovation performance. I further contend that organizational absorptive capacity and network cohesion moderate this inverted U-shaped relationship. An analysis of 231 firms in the U.S. electronic components industry from 1990 to 2012 provides general support for my hypotheses.

In study 2, I reconcile the dilemma of cohesive and sparse alliance networks by proposing the decoupling between a firm’s alliance network and its knowledge network. By adopting the network pluralism approach, I contend that strategic alliances result in two distinct types of networks—alliance networks (composed of interfirm relationships) and knowledge networks (composed of linkages among knowledge elements). While most studies on strategic alliances have implicitly assumed the consistency between alliance networks and knowledge networks, I propose that a firm’s alliance network is decoupled from its knowledge network. Drawing on the literature on network cohesion and network pluralism, I argue that the directed density asymmetry between a firm’s alliance network and knowledge network has a positive effect on the firm’s exploratory innovation. I also argue that this positive relationship is strengthened by alliance ambidexterity while weakened by environmental uncertainty. An analysis of 634 firms in the U.S. computer software industry from 1995 to 2014 provides general support for my hypotheses.

In study 3, I investigate the influence of alliance ambidexterity (i.e., a balance between exploratory and exploitative alliances in a firm’s alliance portfolio) on the speed of external knowledge absorption. While most previous studies on the exploration-exploitation framework focus on the financial consequences of ambidexterity, the speed of external knowledge absorption has received little attention. Building on organizational learning theory, I contend that alliance ambidexterity accelerates a firm’s speed of absorbing external knowledge. I also contend that large firms with affluent resources and firms characterized by high internal knowledge variety will tend to benefit more from maintaining a balance between exploratory and exploitative alliances. An analysis of 411 firms in the U.S. computer software industry from 1990 to 2012 provides general support for my hypotheses.

In summary, this study investigates the influence of strategic alliances on firm innovation performance from three different perspectives. In particular, study 1 investigates how the interplay of a firm’s previous and current alliance networks affects the firm’s overall innovation performance. Study 2 investigates the influence of the interplay a firm’s alliance network and knowledge network on firm exploratory innovation performance. Study 3 investigates the influence of the interplay of exploratory and exploitative alliances within a firm’s alliance portfolio on its speed of absorbing its partners’ knowledge. Therefore, this study provides some novel and comprehensive insights to the literature on strategic alliances and firm innovation performance.

    Research areas

  • network memory, knowledge network, alliance ambidexterity, innovation performance