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Article
Publication date: 16 January 2017

Emmanuel Josserand, Achim Schmitt and Stefano Borzillo

This paper aims to analyze how business units can use their employees’ external social capital to explore and exploit the resources available in their environment. Based…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze how business units can use their employees’ external social capital to explore and exploit the resources available in their environment. Based on multiple interviews with the employees of the global commodity firm Gamma Chemical (around 50,000 employees), the research aims at gaining an understanding of the contextual conditions required to successfully build and leverage individuals’ external social client network ties for business unit ambidexterity.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a single-case study at Gamma Chemical that entailed 33 semi-directive interviews, each of which lasted 1-4 h, at different organizational levels (ranging from top-level management to production workers). We had access to three regional business units. The interviews addressed the links between the individuals in the business units and external actors. The authors also collected information about the company’s strategic objectives, the local competitive environment and work organization. Open-ended questions were used to allow the interviewees to freely relate anecdotes about their own network development. In particular, the authors asked the respondents to identify business contacts with whom they interacted privately and to describe the relationships.

Findings

The research findings are two-fold. First, and contrary to prior studies, the authors find that individuals’ social capital contributes to both exploration and exploitation at the business unit level. Second, developing and leveraging individuals’ external social capital requires a specific organizational context at the business unit level that allows employees to develop and nurture their personal business relationships with clients.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited by the scope of the sample (a study of one large multinational firm). Further research conducted in similar contexts may therefore be useful for comparability purposes and to generalize the results.

Practical implications

Several practical recommendations describe how managers can effectively make use of their employees’ social connections with clients. In particular, the results suggest that managers should seek business unit flexibility on the basis of team-based structures, an autonomous leadership style and by actively creating a degree of critical social network tie redundancy, encouraging a shared network culture. These three specific conditions allow employees’ personal client networks to not only flourish but also contribute to business unit ambidexterity.

Originality/value

Prior social capital studies have analyzed intra-firm and inter-firm relationships in terms of contributing to firm ambidexterity. However, these findings have often been difficult to translate into specific organizational levels. Given business units’ critical role in identifying and implementing business opportunities for a firm, the authors focus on the micro-foundations of exploratory and exploitative learning by using a social capital perspective to explore the link between employees’ private external social relationships with clients and business unit ambidexterity. In this way, we contribute to the social capital literature and research on business unit ambidexterity and to extant contextual ambidexterity research by specifying the conditions that help firms develop and leverage their employees’ own external social capital for exploration and exploitation.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 38 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 15 May 2017

Stefano Borzillo

This research aims to uncover three forms of communities of practice (CoPs), based on a set of six governance mechanisms. The focus is on the specific question of how…

Abstract

Purpose

This research aims to uncover three forms of communities of practice (CoPs), based on a set of six governance mechanisms. The focus is on the specific question of how organizations combine different governance mechanisms to balance autonomy and control in the management (steering) of CoPs. This paper is based on a study of 16 CoPs in nine multinational organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The method used is a multiple case study conducted in 16 CoPs within nine multinational organizations. Ninety-two informants were interviewed over a period of four years.

Findings

Data revealed three distinct governance patterns for CoPs (three forms of CoPs), each associated with different knowledge processes and representing a different path toward a balance between autonomy and control. Expanding communities focus on improving existing products by recombining bodies of knowledge supported by a governance pattern that achieves balance by making moderate use of a wide selection of governance mechanisms. Leveraging communities are dedicated to improving operational efficiency by transferring best practices supported by a governance pattern that combines strong technical authority (leadership) with low disciplinary authority. Probing communities focus on generating new practices by exploring new knowledge domains supported by a governance pattern that replaces direct managerial control with indirect nurturing of the community’s routines. Probing communities also establish linkages beyond the community’s boundaries to enable knowledge to be shared with individuals throughout (and outside) the organization (boundary-spanning).

Research limitations/implications

The size and scope of the sample limit the generalizability of the findings. Although the study involved a variety of different organizations, it concentrated merely on large and multinational organizations. Thus, larger-scale empirical work is needed to statistically evaluate the relationships that are described in the findings, and to help specify the conditions according to which these relationships may vary.

Practical implications

This study should help managers understand which form of CoP is most appropriate to meet a particular knowledge objective. If the objective is the creation of new knowledge via the recombination of bodies of existing knowledge, expanding communities are appropriate. Leveraging communities are better suited for transfers of best practices within the organization. Finally, probing communities should be used to explore new knowledge domains.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the understanding of CoP dynamics by revealing different governance patterns deployed to balance autonomy and control in CoPs. It also contributes to organization learning by revealing different learning processes that constitute the three forms of CoPs.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 38 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 5 February 2018

Renata Kaminska and Stefano Borzillo

The purpose of this paper is to gain a better understanding of the challenges to the emergence of a learning organization (LO) posed by a context of generational diversity…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to gain a better understanding of the challenges to the emergence of a learning organization (LO) posed by a context of generational diversity and an enterprise social networking system (ESNS).

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses a qualitative methodology based on an analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews in a high-tech organization and internal company documents relating to the introduction of a new, centralized ESNS.

Findings

This study uncovers fundamental differences between Generation X and Y employees regarding their ESNS adoption and use. While Xers take more time to adopt the new centralized ESNS introduced into the company, their use seems in line with the company culture and corporate norms of behavior. At the same time, even if Yers are faster ESNS adopters, they use it as they use Facebook disregarding the hierarchy and organizational boundaries. This creates tensions between Generation X and Y and undermines the formation of the LO.

Research limitations/implications

As conclusions are specific to a context of a single organization, the authors recommend other case studies, to enrich the findings.

Originality/value

By highlighting how the use of social networks modifies who has the power and the control over knowledge in an organization, this paper enriches the theory on the LO. It has implications for managers wishing to design LOs in the context of intergenerational diversity.

Details

The Learning Organization, vol. 25 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0969-6474

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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2014

Francesco Schiavone and Stefano Borzillo

The purpose of this paper is to show how members of a “vintage community of practice” (CoP) – the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) community – recombine old…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show how members of a “vintage community of practice” (CoP) – the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) community – recombine old technological knowledge with new technological knowledge. A vintage CoP is a group of aficionados of old technology who keep using it even after superior new technologies have emerged and technological change has taken place. This paper presents mechanisms through which developers and gamers in the MAME community and its subcommunities or hubs select and recombine old and new technology to update old arcade videogames in a format that is playable on current personal computers (PCs).

Design/methodological approach

An inductive single-case exploratory case study was conducted in the MAME community. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with core community members to uncover mechanisms through which old technology-related knowledge (T-RK) was combined with new T-RK to update old versions of arcade video games into software versions that can be played on current PCs. Informant discourses were analyzed using first- and second-order coding methods.

Findings

Our data revealed three mechanisms through which community leaders positively impact new and old T-RK recombinations that led to new knowledge creation within the MAME vintage CoP. We named these mechanisms leader mentorship, leader self-development propensity and clustering in the community. Our data also revealed a two-phase knowledge creation process in an open-source software community (OSSC) that supports the MAME community: knowledge selection and knowledge recombination.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited by the size of the investigated community, so further research should be conducted in multiple vintage CoPs so as to generalize our results.

Practical implications

Our results offer practitioners insights into the internal knowledge creation mechanisms that occur in vintage CoPs. Our findings seek to motivate managers to start collaborating with vintage CoPs to develop products for the niche vintage product markets.

Originality/value

This research is one of the first in the field of vintage communities of practice. It affords understanding of social mechanisms by which old technologies are combined with new ones to give rise to vintage products that suit the needs of niche vintage product markets.

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Article
Publication date: 18 January 2016

Thibaut Bardon and Stefano Borzillo

The purpose of this paper is to address the question of how two seemingly opposite principles – managerial control and autonomy – simultaneously affect, positively and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to address the question of how two seemingly opposite principles – managerial control and autonomy – simultaneously affect, positively and negatively, managers’ motivation to develop together innovative practices in a community of practice (the Custoprog community).

Design/methodology/approach

A single-case study was conducted in the Custoprog community, during which 22 semi-directive interviews with Custoprog members were conducted over a period of eight months. Members are all EuroAirport middle managers of EuroAirport (a Western Europe international airport).

Findings

The findings highlight how Custoprog members experience the conflicting situation of enjoying some autonomy (granted by top management), while being subjected to some degree of managerial control. Our results focus on how these two opposite principles (control and autonomy) simultaneously (positively as well as negatively) affect the motivation of Custoprog members to develop innovative practices together.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited by the scope of the sample. Further research conducted in multiple communities of practice (CoPs) may therefore be useful for comparability purposes, and to generalize our results.

Practical implications

We provide a set of practical recommendations to steer CoPs effectively, by achieving a delicate balance between control and autonomy.

Originality/value

Our investigation contributes to understanding the strategic benefits of using CoPs as an informal means of developing and diffusing customer-related innovative practices.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 37 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 29 May 2009

Stefano Borzillo

Prior research on managing communities of practice (CoP) has not investigated top management's involvement in detail. The purpose of this paper is to present three

Abstract

Purpose

Prior research on managing communities of practice (CoP) has not investigated top management's involvement in detail. The purpose of this paper is to present three detailed and successful mechanisms through which top management contributes to the guidance of CoPs.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents an investigation of 47 CoPs conducted in several organizations. Data collection was achieved using a qualitative questionnaire, followed by in‐depth interviews with leaders of CoPs.

Findings

This study explored three mechanisms used by sponsors to successfully guide CoPs. More specifically, the findings highlight a set of operational means used by top management – via sponsors – to supervise and facilitate best practice development and sharing within CoPs.

Research limitations/implications

The CoPs should be examined by means of an ethnological approach, thus interacting with many members of the same CoP to gain an in‐depth understanding of each mechanism's significance for the sponsorship's success. There is also a need to further explore how the three sponsorship mechanisms are interrelated.

Originality/value

Through numerous examples extracted from different multinational organizations, this paper offers clear guidelines for top managers on how to improve their support to CoPs in their organization.

Details

Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1367-3270

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Article
Publication date: 15 July 2014

Daniel Schwenger, Thomas Straub and Stefano Borzillo

This paper aims to empirically investigate competition within the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, and presents some strategic approaches to managing it…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to empirically investigate competition within the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, and presents some strategic approaches to managing it. Porter’s five forces (1980) model was used as a theoretical framework to understand and quantify competition in the NGO sector, as well as to explore the differences between NGOs’ budget sizes. Traditional strategic management often fails to meet NGOs’ needs. While economization is prevalent within the NGO sector, little is known about how NGOs address competition.

Design/methodology/approach

An online global survey was conducted between November 2010 and May 2011. Data were collected from 1,211 NGOs that either function as consultants or work in association with the United Nations (UN). The key informants were leaders and executive managers of NGOs. The respondents’ fields of work varied from international advocacy and development (38 per cent), education and research (14 per cent), community and neighborhood (8 per cent), health (8 per cent), environment (8 per cent) and social services (7 per cent) to civil liberty (6 per cent), labor (6 per cent), culture (3 per cent), philanthropy (2 per cent) and religion (1 per cent).

Findings

The findings suggest that the NGO sector is becoming increasingly competitive. However, the data suggest that the lower and upper budget classes have different priorities and perceptions. Small NGOs (with budgets <USD250,000 and especially <USD10,000) compete more aggressively for funding, as they have less bargaining power over donors and large foundations, and face stronger competition from social entrepreneurship. This results in income reductions. Large NGOs (with budgets >USD250,000 USD and especially >USD1 million) experience increased pressure for accountability.

Research limitations/implications

This research is aimed at a wide range of NGOs. The findings are based on an empirical and open survey that was held among NGOs in association with the UN. Future research should survey NGOs that are not associated with the UN to generalize the results. This may lead to contradictory or more varied results.

Practical implications

The findings can help NGOs adapt their strategy to cope more effectively with increasing competition in the sector. Large NGOs seem to prioritize fundraising measures and their positioning (uniqueness) through specialized knowledge. Small NGOs, on the other hand, seem to consider sharing resources, co-operation with other NGOs and co-operation with the private sector slightly more important. To enhance their competitive position, small NGOs are advised to improve their potential by concentrating on developing specific skills that are hard to imitate and to improve their fundraising measures. Finally, large NGOs could benefit from pooling their resources and collaborating with other NGOs and private organizations.

Originality/value

NGOs have to pursue their missions under increasing competitive pressure. This paper comprehensively assesses competition, analyzes the various facets thereof and tests these aspects’ relevance to NGOs. It furthermore proposes strategies that are more appropriate for NGOs of different sizes to cope with this competition.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 35 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 3 May 2011

Stefano Borzillo and Renata Kaminska‐Labbé

To provide managers, researchers, and consultants with practical insights on using Communities of Practice to support innovation in organizations.

Abstract

Purpose

To provide managers, researchers, and consultants with practical insights on using Communities of Practice to support innovation in organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The research design is based on a four‐year longitudinal case study of five Communities of Practice (CoPs) within a Specialty Chemicals division of a multinational company Alpha. Primary (interviews, direct observation) and secondary (internal documents) data were collected and analysed resulting in several conclusions about the role of Communities of Practice in supporting organizational innovation.

Findings

The main conclusion drawn from the study is that supporting innovation involves switching between different degrees of managerial involvement in Communities of Practice, namely step‐in and step‐out modes. The step‐in mode results in knowledge expansion, which supports incremental innovation while the step‐out mode leads to knowledge probing which supports radical innovation.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on a single case study of a firm which successfully used CoPs to support innovation across its R&D teams; generalizing these results would require the analysis of additional cases.

Practical implications

The paper provides managers with practical recommendations on how to align CoP dynamics with the specific innovation needs of an organization. On the one hand, CoPs require a great deal of autonomy if they are to generate radical innovation. On the other, when incremental innovation is needed managers can and should steer CoP activities.

Originality/value

The data, approach, and analysis are all original. This paper enriches the existing theory on the role of CoPs in supporting innovation by highlighting the need to adapt the degree of managerial involvement. The findings resolve the existing tension between two opposing streams of research – that which considers CoPs as self‐organized, emergent and fully autonomous systems and the other, which advocates that CoPs require managerial guidance.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 32 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 26 October 2012

Stefano Borzillo, Achim Schmitt and Mirko Antino

The purpose of this paper is to provide managers, researchers, and consultants with insights into the ways communities of practice (CoPs) simultaneously support

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide managers, researchers, and consultants with insights into the ways communities of practice (CoPs) simultaneously support organizations' product refinements (their knowledge exploitation and alignment thereof to today's business demands) and the search for and discovery of new products (knowledge exploration and adapting it to changes in the business environment).

Design/methodology/approach

The research design is based on a four‐year longitudinal case study of five CoPs within a specialty chemicals division of a multinational company. Primary (interviews, direct observation) and secondary (internal documents) data were collected and analyzed, resulting in several findings on the role of CoPs in supporting organizational ambidexterity by simultaneously exploiting existing knowledge (aligned to the current business) while exploring new knowledge (adaptive/reactive to business environment changes).

Findings

The main conclusion drawn from the study is that supporting organizational ambidexterity involves switching between different degrees of managerial involvement in CoPs, namely “aligned” and “adaptive” modes. Alignment results in knowledge exploitation that supports “product refinements”, while the adaptive mode leads to knowledge exploration that supports the “search & discovery of new products”.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on a single case study of a firm that used CoPs successfully to support product refinements and search for new products across its R&D teams. Hence, generalizing these results would require analyzing additional cases.

Practical implications

The paper provides managers with practical recommendations on how to align CoP dynamics with an organization's specific needs to simultaneously exploit and explore new knowledge. On the one hand, CoPs require a great deal of autonomy to generate a search for and discovery of new ideas or knowledge. On the other hand, managers can and should steer CoP activities when their alignment to business and product refinement is required.

Originality/value

The data, approach, and analysis are all original. This paper enriches existing theory as it fulfills an unexplored gap between CoPs and organizational ambidexterity. In this respect, CoP and organizational ambidexterity theories are all enriched.

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Book part
Publication date: 22 November 2012

Thomas Straub, Stefano Borzillo and Gilbert Probst

This chapter develops a decision-making framework to analyze important dimensions of mergers and acquisitions. Using a PLS approach, we show that strategic deals…

Abstract

This chapter develops a decision-making framework to analyze important dimensions of mergers and acquisitions. Using a PLS approach, we show that strategic deals’ performance – measured by means of synergy realization, relative performance (compared to the competition), and absolute performance – is determined by three dimensions: strategic logic, organizational behavior, as well as finance. We find that the following significant variables, which stem from each of these dimensions, should be taken into account to ensure a successful deal: market similarities, market complementarities, operational similarities, operational complementarities, market power, purchasing power, acquisition experience, relative size, and due diligence.

Details

Advances in Mergers and Acquisitions
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-460-2

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