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Effects of divergent communication schemes in new product development alliances

Robin Pesch (Department of Strategic Management and Organization, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)
Ricarda B. Bouncken (Department of Strategic Management and Organization, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)
Sascha Kraus (Institute for Entrepreneurship, University of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 21 March 2016



Firms build new product development alliances to cope with the demands of continuous and rapid new product development. Such alliances allow surplus access to complementary capabilities and knowledge. However, the successful use of specialization advantages requires coordination and effective communication between alliance partners. Communication is vital to alliance success, as it allows a timely flow of information and resources across partners and supports the coordination within the alliance. The aim of this study is to research how divergent communication schemes influence firms’ new product development performance in alliances.


A paper-and-pencil survey about firms’ collaborative new product development performance in the German medical device industry was conducted. Results are derived from a survey of n = 184 new product development alliances in the medical device industry. To test the hypotheses, structural equation modeling (SEM) using the Mplus 7.0 software was applied.


The empirical results indicate that divergent communication schemes enhance product innovativeness and speed to market in new product development alliances. The development of new insights and solutions through joint sensemaking builds the theoretical fundament for the supportive effects of divergent communication schemes. Divergent communication schemes go hand in hand with ambiguity, that is, the source of joint dialogues and discussion through which alliance partners refine and adapt their different perspectives and interpretations. However, the supportive effect of divergent communication schemes on speed to market declines with increasing collaboration intensity.

Research limitations/implications

The assessment of divergent communication schemes and new product development performance of the dyadic relationships in this survey is only based on one respondent. Furthermore, the study’s focus on a specific industry sector, albeit one fitting particularly well to the research question, may further limit the generalizability of the empirical findings. Future research should thus strive to take both firms of the dyadic relationship into account and moreover attempt to investigate mediating effects such as joint sensemaking or creativity.

Practical implications

The results indicate that alliance managers should become aware that different ways of communication are not per se dysfunctional. To achieve beneficial effects, they should enhance dialogues and constructive discussions through which the alliance partners develop novel insights and solutions on the fundament of occurring misunderstandings that root in divergent communication schemes. Regular meetings and conferences as well as inter-organizational teams should be applied because they stimulate joint dialogues and discussions in alliances. These instruments also enable learning processes and the development of trust that are both crucial for sensemaking processes in alliances.


Prior research has stressed the importance of interorganizational communication for the success of alliances. However, little is known about the effect of divergent communication schemes in alliances. This study shows theoretically and empirically that divergent communication schemes can improve new product development performance in alliances. The supportive effect of divergent communication schemes is contrary to the argumentation that communication problems and misinterpretations hamper alliance success.



Pesch, R., Bouncken, R.B. and Kraus, S. (2016), "Effects of divergent communication schemes in new product development alliances", Management Research Review, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 289-309.



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