Sub-theme 30: Innovation from the outside: cognition, interaction and distance

Markus Perkmann
Imperial College London, UK

Call for Papers

Claims of open innovation need to go beyond the current hype and engage in a deeper analysis of the sources of its advantages as well as its problems and limitations. Previous research has emphasized the combination of diverse knowledge assets and skills as an essential element of innovation.


In this sub-theme, we invite participants to take a broader view on innovation 'from the outside'. Combining knowledge from different sources might constitute a necessary condition for innovation but is unlikely to be sufficient. Difference should be combined with proximity: some degree of proximity is needed in order to bridge differences in knowledge.


We encourage participants to reflect on two factors in particular:


First, cognition does not only involve declarative and procedural knowledge, but also perception of others and judgement of value and morality (Noteboom and Stam, 2008). In other words: not only what people know and can do matters, but also how they think about dealing with each other. In addition, participants' attitudes and affective reactions, as well as their preference of accepted ways of doing things, are relevant in determining actors' ability and willingness to engage in open innovation. This touches upon issues of shared interpretation systems (Weick, 1979; Dougherty, 1992), knowledge boundaries (Carlile, 2002) and shared social spaces (Bathelt, Malmberg and Maskell, 2004).


Second, the way people think is in turn informed by how interactions between people and organizations are structured. Alliances, communities, technology-transfer deals and spin-outs are among the different ways in which open innovation might be organized. Instances of interaction in turn differ in terms of governance mechanisms, trust and social capital (Noteboom, 2004). This opens up questions as to how modes of interaction in turn influence the cognitive, affective and norm-based aspects of relationships.


The aim of this sub-theme is to further explore the cognitive and interactional foundations for innovation. We encourage presenters to submit innovation-related work on interorganizational collaboration, individual networking across boundaries, networks and communities, boundary-spanning processes, technology transfer and entrepreneurial agency at the interstices of organizations.


Some topics that fit in this theme (indicative, not exhaustive) are: 

  • The role and workings of variety, proximity and distance of different kinds (geographical, cognitive, cultural, organizational, …)
  • Way of accessing and measuring variety, proximity and distance

  • Forms of absorptive capacity, for different kinds of knowledge

  • Antecedents and consequences of absorptive capacity

  • Measuring absorptive capacity

  • Behavioural-cognitive, social psychological aspects of understanding, decision making, mental framing, relational signaling, in interaction for innovation

  • Role of intermediaries, brokers, boundary organizations

  • Use of metaphor to achieve innovative novel combinations

  • Interactive processes of discovery, creativity

  • Ways of governing relational risk and interaction problems

  • Effects of location/agglomeration/regional clusters

Both conceptual/theoretical and empirical papers are welcome.


Bathelt, H., A. Malmberg and P. Maskell (2004): "Clusters and Knowledge: Local Buzz, Global Pipelines and the Process of Knowledge Creation." Progress in Human Geography, 28, 31–56.

Carlile, P. (2002): "A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development." Organization Science, 13 (4), 442–455.

Dougherty, D. (1992): "Interpretive Barriers to Successful Product Innovation in Large Firms." Organization Science, 3 (2), 179–202.

Nooteboom, B. (2004): "Competence and governance: How can they be combined?" Cambridge Journal of Economics, 28 (4), 505–526.

Nooteboom, B. and E. Stam (2008): Micro-Foundations for Innovation Policy. Amsterdam: Chicago University Press.

Weick, K.F. (1979): The Social Psychology of Organizing. Reading (MA): Addison-Wesley.

Markus Perkmann