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Collaboration and Innovation: Management Challenges Explored.

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Term paper Innovation Management

Collaboration and Innovation: Management Challenges Explored.

Author: J. Venema, 6137822, Coordinator: Professor W. van der Aa


Words: 2941


Knowledge sharing is an import part of the innovation process, this is a widely acknowledged fact amongst scholars (Nissen, Evald and Clarke, 2014,;Hansen, Mors and Lovas, 2005; Cuijpers, Guenter and Hussinger, 2011). Moreover, knowledge sharing is the most important part of collaboration in innovation processes. Knowledge sharing and collaboration can bring huge benefits to the innovation process and company performance (MacFayden, 2014; Hansen, 2009; Cuijpers et al., 2011). However, collaboration in companies also poses management with many challenges because besides benefits, collaboration also brings downsides, which are mostly referred to as collaboration costs (Cuijpers et al., 2011, Hansen, 2009).

There is a big amount of debate in the academic literature on how to tackle, or even describe the management challenges that collaboration offers. Especially in the field of innovation management much controversy exists (Hansen et al., 2005). It is therefore interesting to develop an overview of the challenges and propose solutions to these challenges, supported by academic frameworks. This paper will add to the literature on innovation management by exploring the concepts of collaboration and knowledge sharing and combining contemporary literature to come up with solutions for management.

In the course of the paper, the following central question will be answered: Considering contemporary academic research, what are the main management challenges concerning collaboration and innovation and how to overcome them?

Considering that collaboration plays an integral part in knowledge sharing (Hansen et al. 2005; Cuijpers et al., 2011), the paper will contain two separate chapters dedicated to these topics. First, an overview of academic literature concerning knowledge sharing and an overview concerning collaboration will be given in the context of innovation management. Next, the management challenges that come with collaboration for innovation purposes will be addressed. Hereafter, the solutions the literature and this research has to offer will be disclosed and finally, the paper will end with a discussion and reflection.

Knowledge sharing

For innovation processes being performed by teams, knowledge sharing seems to be performed through the use of different forms of interaction (Nissen et al., 2014). According to Nissen et al. (2014) these interactions are collaboration and cooperation. Collaboration in this distinction refers to a strongly linked team with high levels of trust and knowledge sharing whereas cooperation is associated with the transfer of knowledge amongst team members.

Concerning distinctions, Hansen et al. (2005) have broken down knowledge sharing in

three phases: deciding to seek knowledge, searching for knowledge and transferring knowledge. It is interesting to see that Nissen et al. (2014) break up knowledge sharing in collaboration and cooperation whilst Hansen et al. (2005) took knowledge sharing apart into the three phases described above.

The research by Hansen et al. (2005) examined if properties of social networks could explain the outcomes of these three phases in terms of search and transfer cost of knowledge. It appeared that network size increases one's probability of seeking knowledge meaning that the bigger the network of connected people in the company, the higher probability of knowledge being sought.

Hansen et al. (2005) also found that inter subsidiary relation strength and perceived competition increases search costs, and that perceived competition also increases costs of transferring knowledge where inter subsidiary relation strength decreases costs of transferring knowledge. An important finding by Hansen et al. (2005) is the effect that perceived competition amongst employees has on both the search and transfer of knowledge. If a direct contact of the focal actor (the one seeking knowledge) perceives the participant as a competitor, it might hoard knowledge or be more reluctant to share it.

Returning to Nissen et al. (2014), knowledge sharing and transferring occur in different team interactions; collaboration and cooperation. In order to let heterogeneous teams integrate different disciplines, ideas, knowledge and information from its members, these two actions together create a shared knowledge base, based on the comparison between team members’ mental models (Nissen et al. 2014). This base is developed in congruence with all members and contains tacit knowledge.

Knowledge transferring consists of two types of knowledge being transferred: tacit and explicit knowledge (Hansen et al., 2005; Nissen et al., 2014). The tacitness of knowledge refers to the ability to transfer knowledge, this can be hard because the value of knowledge that is required is not clear for the one that needs to transfer it or because the person that is asked to transfer the knowledge or information is not aware of having this knowledge (Hansen et al., 2005). There is no unifying description for tacit knowledge as there is for explicit knowledge, which is generally information that can be written down and passed on. Explicit knowledge is a more tangible concept. When looking into these two different types of knowledge and knowledge sharing, Hansen et al. (2005) found out that the tacitness of knowledge is modifying the negatively correlated effect of relationship strength on transfer costs. This indicates that the more tacit knowledge is, the higher the transfer cost of knowledge is, even within strong relations. Nissen et al. (2014) argue that, in order to transfer tacit knowledge, strong cooperation is needed. With

strong cooperation, close interaction and the establishment of a shared understanding among team members is meant.

It is a notable result from the research of Hansen et al. (2005) that a high relationship strength of team-members and of inter subsidiary network relations, lead to fewer knowledge seeking events and is adding up in the search costs for knowledge than average or low relationship strength. However, stronger relations improve the transfer of more tacit knowledge.


In theory,



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