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Exploration versus exploitation: how interorganizational power dependence influences SME product innovation? An empirical study in China

Zhengyang Wu (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Feng Yang (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Fangqing Wei (School of Economics, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, China)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 14 December 2022

48

Abstract

Purpose

Interorganizational power dependence has become an increasingly important factor for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve product innovation. This paper examines the role of power dependence in SMEs' product innovation trade-offs between exploration and exploitation. The article further studies the mediating effect of supply chain adaptability and the moderating effect of knowledge acquisition on the relationship between power dependence and product innovation.

Design/methodology/approach

The study proposes a model to verify the impact of power dependence on SMEs' product innovation trade-offs based on social network theory. Two conceptually independent constructs, “availability of alternatives (ALTRN)” and “restraint in the use of power (RSPTW),” are used to evaluate the power dependence. The model also analyzed how these effects are mediated by supply chain adaptability and moderated by knowledge acquisition. The authors test these relationships using data collected from 224 SMEs in China.

Findings

The empirical analysis shows that ALTRN has a more substantial effect on exploration for product innovation, while RSTPW has a more significant impact on exploitation for product innovation. Moreover, empirical data indicate a partial mediating effect by supply chain adaptability between power dependence and product innovation of SMEs. The results also show that knowledge acquisition positively moderates the relationship between ALTRN/RSTPW, supply chain adaptability and product innovation.

Originality/value

Overall, the findings of the study advance the understanding of the roles of power dependence in product innovation for SMEs. In addition, the research also uncovers the impact mechanisms of existing theoretical frameworks and extends the boundaries of the theory.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 72101246, 71991464, 71921001, and 72004052), Major Project of the National Social Science Fund of China (18ZDA064), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2019M662210), Anhui Provincial Natural Science Foundation (No. 2208085MG187), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Nos. WK2040000024, WK2040000027, and JS2022ZSPY0044), and Anhui Science and Technology Innovation Strategy and Soft Science Research-Key Research Projects (202206f01050026).

Citation

Wu, Z., Yang, F. and Wei, F. (2022), "Exploration versus exploitation: how interorganizational power dependence influences SME product innovation? An empirical study in China", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-10-2022-0544

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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