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Multiplex boundary work in innovation projects: the role of collaborative spaces for cross-functional and open innovation

Paula Ungureanu (Department of Sciences and Methods for Engineering (DISMI), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy)
Carlotta Cochis (Department of Sciences and Methods for Engineering (DISMI), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy)
Fabiola Bertolotti (Department of Sciences and Methods for Engineering (DISMI), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy)
Elisa Mattarelli (Department of Management, San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA)
Anna Chiara Scapolan (Department of Communication and Economics, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 24 April 2020

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigates the role of collaborative spaces as organizational support for internal innovation through cross-functional teams and for open innovation with external stakeholders. In particular, the study focuses on collaborative spaces as tools for multiplex (i.e., simultaneous internal and external boundary management in innovation projects).

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a qualitative study in a multi-divisional organization that set up in its headquarters a collaborative space for collaborative product development. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and participant observations.

Findings

Findings highlight that the relation between expectations and experiences about the collaborative space impact on employees' ability to perform boundary work inside and outside the organization. In addition to the collaborative space's affording role for expectations about hands-on collaborative innovation (space as laboratory), the study also highlights a set of collaboration constraints. These latter are generated by perceived boundary configurations (i.e. degree of boundary permeability and infrastructure in internal and external collaborations) and by discrepancies between expectations (space as laboratory) and actual collaboration experiences in the space (i.e. space as maze, cloister, showcase and silo). We show that space-generated constraints slow down internal and external boundary work for innovation and generate a trade-off between them.

Originality/value

Using the process-based perspective of boundary work, the paper connects studies on cross-functional teaming and open innovation through the concept of “multiplex boundary work.” It also contributes to the literature on boundary work by showing the challenges of using collaborative spaces as organizational support tools for multiplex boundary spanning.

Keywords

Citation

Ungureanu, P., Cochis, C., Bertolotti, F., Mattarelli, E. and Scapolan, A.C. (2020), "Multiplex boundary work in innovation projects: the role of collaborative spaces for cross-functional and open innovation", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-11-2019-0338

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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