Innovation in small business: comparing face-to-face with virtual networking

Hardwick, Jialin Y., Cruickshank, Douglas and Anderson, Alistair R. (2012) Innovation in small business: comparing face-to-face with virtual networking. Journal of Business Strategy, 33 (5). pp. 51-58. ISSN 0275-6668

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Purpose - The paper aimed to better understand the process of networking by small business with their customers to achieve innovations. In particular the relative roles of face-to-face and virtual interaction were investigated.

Design - Initially a week of participant observation was undertaken then 17 in-depth interviews were conducted and analysed. The biotechnology sector was used for the sample.

Findings - Networking interaction could be categorised into stages. A deepening of the relationship developed on two fronts: increasing exchanges of technical information but necessarily supplemented by increased sharing of social information to facilitate tacit knowledge exchanges. As the relationship continued to develop, virtual modes could be used in an increasing capacity. The paper developed a stage model and identified the role of face-to face and virtual exchanges at each stage.

Research limitations/implications - Generalisability is unproven. However the issues appeared typical of any technology or science-based sector and suggest broader applicability.

Practical implications - Business people cannot assume that all steps in the process of generating an innovation with a customer can be achieved virtually. The stage model provides guidance to practitioners on the appropriate interaction modes to avoid wasteful face-to-face meetings and ineffective virtual exchanges.

Originality value - While the usefulness of networking by small business is well recognised, little is known about the process of networking and in particular the potential role of virtual communication and what can and cannot be achieved. The paper sheds light on these issues and develops an explanatory framework.

Article Classification: Research paper

Keywords:Networks, collaboration, innovation, virtual networks, email, small business, biotechnology sector
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N200 Management studies
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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ID Code:6435
Deposited On:04 Oct 2012 21:03

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