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How much do specialists have to learn from each other when they jointly develop radical product innovations?


  • Schmickl, Christina
  • Kieser, Alfred


Specialists of different domains have to collaborate whenever technically demanding product innovations are developed. Their respective knowledge contributions need to be integrated into a functioning whole. Two approaches provide insight into how this is achieved: the dominating cross-learning approach assumes that the specialists of different knowledge domains have to intensively learn from each other in order to be able to jointly develop the new product. This cross-learning implies that groups of specialists transfer their specific knowledge, which encompasses different concepts (theories), methods and world views, among each other. However, some researchers argue that intensive cross-learning between specialists is a considerable expense in time and effort and, therefore, inefficient. They insist that integration of specialists' knowledge is achieved through structural mechanisms that significantly reduce the need for cross-learning. This article is based on one of the latter approaches. We argue that the mechanisms of transactive memory, modularization and prototyping in combination can considerably reduce knowledge transfers. This assumption has found empirical support for incremental innovations. On the basis of a comparison between incremental and radical innovation projects in an electrotechnical company, we analyze whether the assumption that, on the basis of structural mechanisms, specialists can integrate their knowledge without having to intensively learn from each other, also holds for radical innovations.

Suggested Citation

  • Schmickl, Christina & Kieser, Alfred, 2008. "How much do specialists have to learn from each other when they jointly develop radical product innovations?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6-7), pages 1148-1163, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:37:y:2008:i:6-7:p:1148-1163

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jbrese:v:96:y:2019:i:c:p:26-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Keeran Kowlaser & Helena Barnard, 2016. "Tie Breadth, Tie Strength And The Location Of Ties: The Value Of Ties Inside An Emerging Mnc To Team Innovation," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(01), pages 1-31, January.
    3. repec:kap:jtecht:v:43:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10961-016-9553-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Waldemar Kremser & Georg Schreyögg, 2016. "The Dynamics of Interrelated Routines: Introducing the Cluster Level," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(3), pages 698-721, June.
    5. van Rijnsoever, Frank J. & Hessels, Laurens K., 2011. "Factors associated with disciplinary and interdisciplinary research collaboration," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 463-472, April.
    6. Denicolai, Stefano & Ramirez, Matias & Tidd, Joe, 2016. "Overcoming the false dichotomy between internal R&D and external knowledge acquisition: Absorptive capacity dynamics over time," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 57-65.
    7. Ann Majchrzak & Philip H. B. More & Samer Faraj, 2012. "Transcending Knowledge Differences in Cross-Functional Teams," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(4), pages 951-970, August.
    8. repec:spr:scient:v:112:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2386-y is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Andreas Reinstaller, 2011. "The Modularity of Technology and Organisations. Implications for the Theory of the Firm," WIFO Working Papers 398, WIFO.
    10. Huang, Chin-wei & Ho, Foo Nin & Chiu, Yung-ho, 2014. "Measurement of tourist hotels׳ productive efficiency, occupancy, and catering service effectiveness using a modified two-stage DEA model in Taiwan," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 49-59.
    11. repec:eee:intman:v:24:y:2018:i:4:p:386-403 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Boh, Wai Fong & Evaristo, Roberto & Ouderkirk, Andrew, 2014. "Balancing breadth and depth of expertise for innovation: A 3M story," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 349-366.
    13. Fu-Sheng Tsai & Gayle Baugh & Shih-Chieh Fang & Julia Lin, 2014. "Contingent contingency: Knowledge heterogeneity and new product development performance revisited," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 149-169, March.
    14. repec:spr:scient:v:117:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-018-2853-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Caroline Sargis-Roussel & François Deltour, 2012. "Beyond cross-functional teams: knowledge integration during organizational projects and the role of social capital," Post-Print hal-00787480, HAL.
    16. Ozer, Muammer, 2009. "The roles of product lead-users and product experts in new product evaluation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 1340-1349, October.
    17. Melero, Eduardo & Palomeras, Neus, 2015. "The Renaissance Man is not dead! The role of generalists in teams of inventors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 154-167.

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