Multicultural Skills in Open Innovation:  Relational Leadership Enabling Knowledge Sourcing and Sharing

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

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Human resources management and open innovation: the role of open innovation mindset

Engelsberger, Aurelia, Beni Halvorsen, Jillian Cavanagh, and Timothy Bartram. “Human resources management and open innovation: the role of open innovation mindset.” Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources (2021).

There is growing interest in the role of strategic human resource management (SHRM) in managing employees and supporting their capacity for innovation in high‐tech firms. In this paper, using dynamic capabilities theory we examine the role of SHRM in supporting open innovation (OI) performance of employees in four US multinational technology firms. We introduce OI mindset as a new concept that is critical for organisations engaging in OI and conceptualise it as consisting of values, attitudes, and beliefs that capture an individual’s openness towards knowledge sourcing and sharing inside and outside organisational boundaries. We examine the mediating role of OI mindset on the relationship between SHRM and OI performance. Our results confirm three hypotheses and that OI mindset mediates the relationship between SHRM and OI performance. These findings demonstrate the utility of OI mindset and the important role of SHRM in predicting OI performance. We draw implications for theory and HR practice in the Asia‐Pacific region.

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It´s all about the People: How do Multicultural Employees Open Up?

Engelsberger et al. (2019), presented at AoM Annual Meeting, Boston

Not sharing knowledge costs Fortune 500 companies $31.5 billion a year. The ability of organizations to benefit from knowledge inside and outside the boundaries of the firms depends on the employee’s engagement in knowledge sharing and sourcing (KSS). Surprisingly, little attention in the open innovation (OI) literature has been paid to the role of individuals. This article provides a two-level framework of an open innovation enabling culture (OIEC), brought to the company by their employees (bottom-up). We view culture rather as a chance than a challenge and present an individual’s multicultural identity as an enabler to overcome barriers in a cultural diverse team. This study offers contributions at two-levels: 1) at individual level, we provide a deeper understanding on how multicultural identity impacts OI mindset and negative attitudes toward KSS. 2) At team level, we contribute to the understanding of leadership in OI by integrating relational leadership (RL) theory. We introduce RL as a facilitator for KSS and emphasize the importance of a mutual, non-hierarchical relationship between knowledge exchange partners which offers practical implementations. Moreover, this research sheds light on multicultural employees as key driver to move from closed to OI and thus offers recruiting recommendations for OI companies.

From the Bottom to the Top: Open Innovation Culture

Engelsberger et al. (2019) presented at EURAM conference, Lisbon

A deeper, micro-foundational understanding of innovation enablers is highly important for both theoretical and practical standpoint. Although the ability of organizations to benefit from knowledge inside and outside the boundaries of the firms depends on the employee’s engagement in knowledge exchange, surprisingly little attention in the open innovation (OI) literature has been paid to the role of individuals and their openness toward knowledge sharing and sourcing (KSS). OI scholars highlight firm’s openness to external knowledge as enabler to move from closed innovation to OI but neglect the individual or team level attributes. With this conceptual paper we react to this call and present enablers for OIC brought to the company by their employees (bottom-up). We provide a two-level framework that introduces the concept OI mindset and presents a multicultural identity and relational leadership processes as enablers to overcome negative attitudes towards KSS and cultural diversity. Hence, this research offers contributions at two-levels: 1) we provide a deeper understanding on how individual’s multicultural identity impacts an OI mindset and KSS. 2) We take a constructionist view and introduce relational leadership processes to explain how KSS unfolds collectively through co-created relationships, mutual adjustment and shared sense-making among team members.

Using Experience Sampling Method to Measure the Impact of Collective Leadership in Open Innovation

Engelsberger (2019); presented at R&D conference, Paris

With this conceptual paper, I react to the call for new research methodologies to utilize a micro-foundational perspective in open innovation. I introduce experience sampling method (ESM) as an innovative method in research at the intersection of leadership and open innovation to track innovative behaviour in daily work life. Especially in an innovative environment, where open-space offices and flexible workplace settings are common, it becomes increasingly difficult to survey participants through an online survey delivered to their computer. Promoting the importance of variety and depth in data sources rather than increasing the number of cases, I develop a methodological and conceptual model along with research propositions to holistically study the role of collective leadership in open innovation in a real-life setting. Given the increasing importance of ‘agile working’ and ‘flat-hierarchies’ in practice, collecting in-depth real-time data in non-hierarchical teams without formal role distribution is a promising approach to provide managers with advice on how to lead innovative teams. This research aims to contribute to the emerging field of behavioural innovation and add to the current conversation about the role of attitudes and innovative behaviour.