Loughborough University
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Behavioral foundations for open innovation: Knowledge gifts and social networks

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-01-09, 13:51 authored by Wilfred Dolfsma, Rene Van der Eijk
The literature on “open innovation” so far focuses almost exclusively on strategic issues. In this largely conceptual paper we propose behavioral foundations for knowledge exchange and knowledge sharing to address this gap in the literature. Innovation and knowledge development that result from knowledge transfer, is an uncertain and cumulative process that typically involves a number of parties. Knowledge transfer between people and firms has been fruitfully studied from a structural or network perspective. The social network literature however, faces an “action problem”. Focusing on structural elements such as an agent’s position in a network and the types of relations entertained cannot explain why actors actually do share knowledge. The exchange of knowledge is elusive and is a discretionary act for the people involved, certainly in the case of open innovation (OI). It is argued here that social network analysis is to be complemented by the concept of gift exchange, drawing on social exchange literature. Gift exchange – following Mauss’ dictum to “give, receive and reciprocate”– establishes obligations between people especially under circumstances of ambiguity, which explain why and how knowledge exchange relations are established, persist, and may also end. Relationships in a social network and the social capital that inheres in these cannot be drawn on at will to exchange knowledge. These obligations established by gift exchange between individuals who share a connection explain why agents exchange knowledge with each other even in the absence of markets or hierarchy.



  • Loughborough University London

Published in

Innovation: Management, Policy and Practice: the international journal for innovation research, commercialization, policy analysis and best practice


DOLFSMA, W. and VAN DER EIJK, R., 2017. Behavioral foundations for open innovation: Knowledge gifts and social networks. Innovation: Organization & Management, 19 (2), pp. 287-306.


© Taylor & Francis


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Innovation: Organization & Management on 01 Feb 2017, available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14479338.2016.1276406.




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