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THE EFFECTS OF HRM-RELATED MECHANISMS ON
COMMUNICATION IN R&D COLLABORATION

Author:HEIDI OLANDER, PIA HURMELINNA-LAUKKANEN

Source:International Journal of Innovation Management. Jun2010, Vol.
14 issue 3, p415-433, 19p, 1 diagram, 4 images.

Abstract:Prior research has shown that the level of communication has an on the learning outcomes in R&D alliances and, subsequently, on performance. The level of communication depends on issues such as the systems that enhance knowledge sharing and the factors that deter knowledge flows, such as tacitness of knowledge and (deliberate) barriers set up to limit knowledge transfer. Innovations and value can only be created through sufficiently open knowledge sharing. But on the other hand, too open knowledge sharing might outrun the value gained by innovations if the knowledge lost would leave the knowledge sharing firm vulnerable. Yet, there is still a lack of understanding on which factors are responsible of the level of communication and to what extent. In particular, it has often been forgotten that HRM-related mechanisms are not only functional within firms, but also between firms. Thus, in this study, the HRM-related mechanisms that contribute to both of these areas are examined by using empirical quantitative data gathered from 83 Finnish R&D intensive firms.  

Theory and Hypotheses

Strong HRM system for knowledge sharing has been extensively researched in different disciplines, but especially in the inter-firm context (Doz and Hamel, 1997; Mowery et al., 1996;Zahra and George, 2002) and in many cases, knowledge sharing has been discussed in terms of innovation (e.g., Hoecht and Trott, 1999; Jantunen, 2005).

Knowledge sharing between firms has often been thought of including firms that specialize in speedy and efficient knowledge creation and transfer (Kogut and Zander, 1992). Dhanaraj and Parkhe (2006) discuss knowledge mobility as the ease of knowledge sharing and transfer in collaborative networks. Without knowledge sharing, the potential residing in the varying knowledge bases of partners cannot be realized, which would diminish the innovativeness and success of the collaborative endeavour (Dhanaraj and Parkhe, 2006). Thus, knowledge sharing should not be limited by bureaucracy or too tight formal arrangements, but formal structures should support efficient knowledge exchange (see, e.g., Möller and Svahn, 2006; O’Neill and Adya, 2007; Riege, 2005 on organizational factors affecting knowledge sharing). Cohen and Levinthal (1990) argue that the ability to exploit external knowledge resources is a critical component of innovative capabilities, and that in this process, the organizational capabilities and social capital embedded in individuals play an important role. While the processes that lead to the creation of new knowledge are quite well tackled, the ways to govern employees in aim to support knowledge sharing are not so well understood. Considering that the employees of a firm are the ones that hold a lot of relevant knowledge (although some of it can also be found in the routines, practices, technologies, and documents of the firm), it seems quite natural that the HRM system and practices should be a vehicle in adjusting the levels of knowledge flows. If such practices are very confusing, the employees of a firm cannot be sure what information is free to be discussed in collaboration, or how and when it can be disseminated. In such situations, they may deter knowledge flows — just to be on the safe side, or be unmotivated to share knowledge (Gagné, 2009). Doz and Hamel (1998) have noted that, especially in the initial phases, the context of the collaboration seldom encourages cooperation. The people involved will likely find themselves in an unfamiliar situation in which they have no clear frame (Kelly et al., 2002). In inter-firm collaboration, it has been noted that firms that feel their background knowledge is properly protected by...
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