(Re)organising for interaction within innovation networks – an exploratory study in the public sector

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Espelid, Theodor Sommersten
Corsaro, Daniela
Henneberg, Stephan C.
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Issues around innovation have seen considerable increase of academic and managerial interest over the last decades. In parallel, the role of business relationships and networks has also attracted growing attention. Consequently, the concept of innovation networks (INs) is positioned at the interface of these two streams. At the core of the concept of INs is the proposition that relationships, i.e. interactions with other business partners, are critical for key innovation activities. However, research on INs has focused mostly on network structure-related aspects, while not providing enough insights into the processes of organising for interactions. In particular, this study explores the role of actors’ perceptions and interpretations regarding business relationships on how actors organise for innovation activities. Furthermore, this paper sheds light on the reciprocal influence that exists between cognition and action in such contexts, something that has been discussed in the field of organisational and cognitive science but not within innovation networks setting as part of business marketing studies. Longitudinal exploratory case study research was conducted, which analyses two ser vice innovation processes in an innovation network in a district within a municipality of a North European country. Our study shows how INs evolve over time as actors shape (and reshape) the network through specific interactions within and between realms of the IN, whereby the diverse views held by different actors are confronted. In particular, we find that perceptions and interpretations of power distribution and strength of relationships emerge as relevant aspects to determine actors’ intentions toward organising both in the innovation development and the implementation phases. At the same time, the changes (such as initiation, development, and termination) in the relationships with other actors, actor groups, or realms of the IN affect the actors’ interpretations, thereby generat ing a recursive interpretative path through which the innovation network is shaped.

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The IMP Journal
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