Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Do Collectivist Teams Matter? Effects of Project Group Context and Interdependence on Innovative Capabilities

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Do Collectivist Teams Matter? Effects of Project Group Context and Interdependence on Innovative Capabilities

Article excerpt


The information processing dynamics of 27 R&D workgroups were studied within nine Japanese multinational firms. R&D workgroups developed manufacturing applications for subsidiary deployment worldwide. The study tested fit/performance relationships and a set of workgroup variables as moderators. The dependent measure, technology transfer effectiveness, was a composite of productivity, project effectiveness, and group satisfaction. Testing of the research model evidenced only moderate support for the central fit relationship, but significant moderating effects of managerial support, technology policy, training, and interdependent feedback and rewards. The findings contribute a unique behavioral perspective to the international body of innovation and technology management literature.


Scholars have long noted the benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship for the competitive advantage of organizations (Burns and Stalker, 1961; Kanter, 1988; Damanpour, 1991; Hitt, Ireland, Camp and Sexton, 2001, Tushman and O'Reilly, 2002). In today's global economy, escalating competition requires that organizations continuously craft appropriate capabilities to achieve survival through innovation (Barney, 1991; Rothaermal and Hess, 2007). Innovative capabilities are organizational capacities constructed from tangible and/or intangible resource combinations that evolve new forms of competitive advantage. Innovative capabilities might exist in such missioncritical activities as basic research, technological scanning, product or process development, or organizational learning (Burgleman, Kosnik and bon den Poel, 1988). Each of these capabilities relies on specialized knowledge as a necessary but not sufficient resource for realization. Indeed, specialized knowledge resources constitute a common thread enabling all forms of innovation. However, an additional thread of innovation is the human resources that create, share and exploit that knowledge to their competitive advantage.

The dynamics of innovation are often accomplished through teams or small groups of human resources. To meet constraints of the new global environment, organizations have increasingly embraced work groups and teams as structural responses to enable their survival. Teams are characteristic of organic (vs bureaucratic) organizational forms that facilitate innovation through more rapid, flexible adaptations to their environments (Burns and Stalker, 1961; Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967). Paralleling this transformation in organizations has been a rapidly growing body of research on the structure and functioning of small groups and teams (Kozlowski and Bell, 2003). As the body of small group and team research has grown, its authorship has migrated more from its traditional home of social psychology to the fields of organizational psychology and organizational behavior (McGrath, 1997). This migration reflects the importance of teams to business scholars that seek a better understanding of how group processes contribute to the competitive or innovative capabilities of organizations. In addition, research at the team- or group level exhibits particularly meaningful clues for understanding technology's role in facilitating innovation, organizational effectiveness, and consequent competitive advantage (Fry, 1 976; Tushman and Katz, 1980; Ancona and Caldwell, 1992; Keller, 1994).

The present study analyzes team-level technology transfer as a capability to support sustainable innovation and corporate entrepreneurship. Leonard-Barton (1991) defined technology as any tool, technique, product, process, physical equipment, or method of doing or making by which human capability is extended. Technology transfer occurs wherever systematic, rational knowledge developed by one group or institution is embodied in ways of doing things by other groups or institutions (Brooks, 1966). These definitions align with an organizational learning theme of innovation and imply a distinct relocation of knowledge between both a supplier and a receiver of technology. …

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