External Knowledge Sourcing and Absorptive Capacity: The Role Family Involvement in Ownership and Management


Drs. Nicolas Classen and Prof.dr. Martin Carree

Further information

Introduction and Position in the current literature
Increasingly turbulent business environments have focused attention on knowledge as a major source of competitive advantage. Trying to stimulate their innovativeness firms frequently rely on a variety of external knowledge sources. Collaboration with outside parties such as customers, suppliers or universities may on the one hand enrich companies’ knowledge pool and enhance recombinatory search. On the other hand, businesses face substantial organizational and managerial challenges in accessing, transferring and utilizing external knowledge. The main goal of this project is to investigate how family involvement in firm ownership and management affects these different parts of the knowledge absorption process.

Research questions and hypotheses
The degree to which a single family is involved in firm ownership and management is an important contextual firm variable, because family business owners and managers are said to have distinct incentives which may alter strategic preferences, behaviors and outcomes regarding innovation-related collaboration. Family involvement has also been related to various distinctive organizational practices which may mediate the relationship between family involvement and various phases of knowledge absorption. This project consists of two subparts investigating the role of family involvement in shaping 1) the preferences regarding external knowledge sourcing (e.g. regarding partner selection, collaboration duration/intensity or equity involvement) and 2) the absorptive capacity of a firm (defined as the ability to recognize the value of new information, assimilate it and apply it to commercial ends).

Research methods
Our theoretical models will be tested using firm-level survey data which we plan to collect from small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms located in the Netherlands. In total we will contact 4,000 firms and our aim is to receive multiple executive respondents from each enterprise. Up to two follow-up letters will be sent to non-responding firms to elevate the response rate and to ensure the representativeness of our sample.

Results and follow-up
Research in progress