Title: Establishing relationships with distant suppliers to explore discontinuous innovation

Authors: Sihem Ben Mahmoud-Jouini; Florence Charue-Duboc

Addresses: GREGHEC, HEC Paris, 1 Rue de la libération, 78351 Jouy-en-Josas, Cedex, France ' i3-CRG, Ecole Polytechnique, CNRS, IP Paris, 828 Boulevard des Maréchaux, 91120 Palaiseau Cedex, France

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.

Keywords: discontinuous innovation; early supplier involvement; distant search; open innovation; exploration; ambidextrous organisation.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.2019.10027012

International Journal of Technology Management, 2019 Vol.81 No.3/4, pp.143 - 165

Accepted: 06 Jul 2019
Published online: 24 Feb 2020 *

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