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Leveraging social media in new product development: organisational learning processes, mechanisms and evidence from China

Yuanzhu Zhan (Management School, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Kim Hua Tan (Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Leanne Chung (Cardiff University Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Lujie Chen (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China)
Xinjie Xing (Management School, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 3 July 2020

Issue publication date: 19 September 2020




The main purpose of this paper is to investigate how social media can provide important platforms to facilitate organisational learning and innovation in new product development (NPD) process.


Using a multiple case-study approach, this study assesses qualitative data collected via 56 interviews from 13 world-leading Chinese companies in the high-technology industry.


The study identified three distinct types of organisational learning mechanisms for firms to extract potential innovation inherent in social media. It further determined various organisational enablers that facilitate the connections between these mechanisms and NPD performance.

Research limitations/implications

This research contributes to the emerging literature on digital product development and organisational learning. The cases were conducted in the Chinese context, hence, the results may not be fully generalisable to other organisations, industries and countries without appropriate re-contextualisation.

Practical implications

The empirical evidence showcases the various mechanisms adopted by managers in different NPD phases. It identifies several technological and organisational adaptations that managers can apply to smartly scale their social presence and facilitate NPD.


Despite the exponential growth of social media use in identifying and interacting with external stakeholders, managerial practice and academic research have paid little attention to how social media can be leveraged for NPD. The value of this research comes from applying a qualitative method to gain in-depth insights into the mechanisms for leveraging social media to facilitate innovation in NPD.



The authors are indebted to the guest editors and the anonymous reviews for their constructive feedback that helped us to improve our paper significantly. Comments from participants in the 2019 International Journal of Operations & Production Management Special Issue Workshop helped to improve this research during its evolution. Thanks also to the interviewees of the case companies, who contributed their valuable thoughts and time to this research.


Zhan, Y., Tan, K.H., Chung, L., Chen, L. and Xing, X. (2020), "Leveraging social media in new product development: organisational learning processes, mechanisms and evidence from China", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 671-695.



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