Bridging firm-internal boundaries for innovation: Directed communication orientation and brokering roles

Hendrik Leendert Aalbers*, Wilfred Dolfsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Knowledge flowing across firm-internal (unit) boundaries is an essential contribution to an organization's innovative performance. Knowledge, unfortunately, does not cross firm-internal boundaries as a matter of course. The different contacts an individual maintains in a firm's instrumental-formal and expressive-informal networks defines their personal communication profile - a profile that may or may not match their formal position within the firm. Through the contacts individuals maintain, they can entertain five different communication roles as they transfer knowledge within their firm; either internal to their own unit or brokering to other units. From among the five different roles, two are (unit) internally oriented and three are oriented toward others outside the unit, crossing firm-internal boundaries. We find that individuals who in their formal (but not in their informal) contacts are predominantly externally oriented will particularly contribute to innovative activity within the firm. Detailed case analysis of knowledge flows at a large European electronics and engineering multinational, provides evidence that certain combination of roles are more likely than others to be successful at bridging firm-internal boundaries as basis for innovative knowledge transfer, allowing individuals who combine these roles to play a special role in stimulating innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-115
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Engineering and Technology Management - JET-M
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Communication orientation
  • Directed brokerage
  • Firm-internal boundaries
  • Innovation
  • Intra-firm networks

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