Establishing relationships with distant suppliers to explore discontinuous innovation
by Sihem Ben Mahmoud-Jouini; Florence Charue-Duboc
International Journal of Technology Management (IJTM), Vol. 81, No. 3/4, 2019

Abstract: A controversy exists in the literature regarding the type of suppliers to consider when leveraging external knowledge for exploring discontinuous innovation (DI): familiar suppliers or distant ones. We argue that firms pursuing DI should establish relationships with distant suppliers along cognitive and relational dimensions and that this requires a specific process. Based on a longitudinal study of a firm that developed such relationships and succeeded in exploring DI, we find that firms can develop such relationships through an approach with three main characteristics: 1) a documented mapping coupling identified DI concepts and their underlying technologies with potential suppliers who master and can provide such technologies; 2) a structured and transparent process supporting mutual and progressive commitment; 3) a specific dedicated entity, separate from the rest of the firm, but at the same time connected to the experts who master the internal knowledge to be combined with the leveraged external knowledge as well as the top managers who will make the decisions regarding further development of the explored opportunities for DI. Simultaneous cooperation with both distant and familiar suppliers enables firms to achieve ambidextrous sourcing and pursue both incremental innovation and DI.

Online publication date:: Mon, 24-Feb-2020

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