Why Open Innovation is Easier Said Than Done: An Organizational Identity Perspective

Maral Mahdad, Chiara E. De Marco, Andrea Piccaluga, Alberto Di Minin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article, we explore and interpret organizational identity transformation associatedwith the open innovation strategy of the largest telecommunication company in Italy, Telecom Italia(TIM). When TIM established eight joint laboratories within five major Italian universities to benefitfrom opening its business model, it transferred some R&D employees to the new laboratories to workwith the university scientists. This organizational transformation imposed challenging conditions forR&D employees engaged in the open innovation activities of the firm. We conducted an interpretativephenomenological analysis (IPA) to answer the question of “how do R&D employees experience theimplementation of an open innovation strategy from an organizational identity perspective?” Our analysisis based on the interpretation of the lived experiences of 14 employees. Studying the phenomenon ofopen innovation implementation using the lens of organizational identity suggests the following: (1) Theprocess of open innovation through mobility of skilled R&D employees triggers organizational identityambiguity and change, (2) Organizational identity ambiguity phase in the process of open innovationcan be shortened by the support of parent company and managerial skills highlighting sensemakingmechanisms, (3) Constructing a shared organizational identity with university members involved in thisprocess is an undeniable element of OI success. We contribute to the literature by establishing linkagesamong organizational identity and open innovation and building on recent works on the role of individualswithin open innovation ecosystems. Our qualitative analysis draws on a conceptual framework for openinnovation and organizational identity transformation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-67
JournalJournal of Innovation Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020


  • Joint Laboratories
  • Open Innovation
  • Organizational Identity
  • University−Industry Collaboration


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