Engelsberger, Aurelia, Jillian Cavanagh, Timothy Bartram, and Beni Halvorsen “Multicultural Skills in Open Innovation: Relational Leadership Enabling Knowledge Sourcing and Sharing”. (2021) Personnel Review.
Purpose: In this paper, we argue that multicultural skills and relational leadership act as enablers for open innovation. We examine the process through which teams can utilize multicultural skills to support the development of relational leadership and knowledge sourcing and sharing (KSS) through individual interaction and relationship building. We address the following research question: How does relational leadership enable open innovation (OI) among employees with multicultural skills?
Design: This paper applies a multi-level approach (team and individual level) and builds on interviews with 20 employees, middle and senior managers with multicultural experiences, working in OI environments.
Findings: Our findings shed light on the process through which social exchange relationships among team members (e.g. research and development (R&D) teams) and knowledge exchange partners are enhanced by the use of multicultural skills and support the development of relational leadership to facilitate KSS and ultimately OI. The decision for participants to collaborate and source and share knowledge is motivated by individual reward (such as establishing network or long-lasting contacts), skill acquisition (such as learning or personal growth in decision making), and a sense of reciprocity and drive for group gain. The authors encourage greater human resource (HR) manager support for relational leadership and the development and use of multicultural skills to promote KSS.
Practical Implications: Our findings provide managers with improved understandings of how to enable an individual’s willingness and readiness to source and share knowledge through multicultural skills and relational leadership. Managers need to ensure human resource management (HRM) practices celebrate multicultural skills and support relational leadership in innovation teams. We suggest managers engaged in open innovation consider the components of social exchange as described by Meeker (1971) and utilize reciprocity, group gain, rationality and status consistency to support the emergence relational leadership and KSS in innovation teams.
Originality/Value: In this paper, we contribute to the dearth of literature on the boundary conditions for OI by examining the role of relational leadership and characteristics/skills of the workforce, namely multicultural skills. We contribute to the scarce research on the role of employees with multicultural skills and their impact on open innovation and present multicultural skills/experiences and relational leadership as enablers for open innovation.
Key words: Open innovation, HRM, relational leadership, knowledge exchange, multicultural skills