Managing stakeholders in team-based innovation: The dynamics of knowledge and trust networks


Purpose – Team-based innovation requires a balance of creative and pragmatic processes both within teams and between teams and their organizational stakeholders. However, prior research has focused primarily on the internal team dynamics that facilitate innovation, paying comparatively little attention to team-stakeholder dynamics. The purpose of this study is to address this limitation by studying the impact of team-stakeholder networks and shared cognition on the effectiveness of innovation teams.

Design/methodology/approach – This study investigates the knowledge and trust linkages between 51 new product development (NPD) teams and their organizational stakeholders using a mixed methods design that combines network analysis, surveys, and qualitative interviews. Multiple indicators of team effectiveness were collected at various stages of the innovation process.

Findings – The results show that effective NPD teams establish knowledge ties with many non-redundant organizational stakeholders and foster a high level of agreement among stakeholders about team innovation factors. Conversely, effective NPD teams also establish highly centralized trust networks that are focused on only a few key stakeholders in the organization.

Research limitations/implications – This study focuses on NPD teams in chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Future studies should seek to replicate the findings using larger samples of teams involving diverse innovation tasks. Practical implications – These results have implications for the most effective way to build and manage innovation teams, considering both pre-existing stakeholder linkages and networking strategies for the future. Originality/value – The results suggest that the optimal characteristics of team-stakeholder knowledge and trust networks differ and highlight the unique importance of shared understanding about risk-taking and creativity beyond higher overall levels.
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