Research Spotlight - Professor Sirkka Jarvenpaa
Beyond Trust to Vigilant Knowledge - Collaboration in Open Innovation Networks and Global Offshoring
Professor Jarvenpaa’s research focuses on innovation and information in highly dynamic and risky settings such as large scale research networks where private and public sector organizations collaborate on breakthrough technologies (e.g., secure cloud computing platforms) as well as problems of counterterrorism that demand highly creative problem solving and close collaboration between private and public sectors. In these settings, innovation opportunities are unforeseen but also fleeting and risks from failing are high ranging from the loss of competitive advantage to the fall of organizations to death of individuals.
Despite the risks, in the increasingly competitive global economy, collaborating with one’s competitors or other organizations with different or competing interests is a necessity. For example, the research collaboration on secure cloud computing network involves 31 different partner organizations with additional affiliates creating cloud software based ecosystems. The prevailing ways to govern these collaborations have been to institute policies that regulate sharing or limit sharing to trusted parties. However, limiting innovation with trusted parties leads to promoting stability over change and limiting “bountiful friction” for reflection, greater variation, and creative abrasion. Trust without distrust is either a sign of nonstrategic research collaboration or a sign of naiveté. Trust without distrust makes one-sided dependencies riskier because the more one party accepts the other party’s information unquestioningly, the more likely that party will ignore the opportunistic risks of the collaboration and fail to protect itself.
Dr. Jarvenpaa’s research develops strategies that organizations and individuals can use in these settings that allow knowledge sharing to facilitate protection as well as protection that facilitates sharing among vigilant interactors. Such strategies are critical in both face-to-face settings but particularly so in online settings such as discussion boards, open discussion boards, open source development, wiki sites, social media sites, and online knowledge management systems. Strategies are developed that enable interactive emergent dialogue in which knowledge is shared while it is protected, requiring deep appraisals of each others’ actions in order to determine how each action may influence the outcomes of the collaboration. For example in the context of open innovation (such as open software where both collective and private interests prevail), strategies need to promote open revealing but at the same time provide grounds for the innovators to reap financial benefits.
We have developed a repertoire of strategies that individuals need to be trained to master and utilize in high risk collaborations. Besides managing the high level paradox between sharing and protection, the vigilant interaction strategies themselves create further micro-paradoxes so that individuals are constantly managing the changing dynamics created by a series of micro-paradoxes. The strategies heavily rely on managing stress including emotion regulation.
The research has implications for example in managing outsourcing relationships. In the past, policies that limit providers to share staff among competing customers has limited learning and reuse of practices that can actually add value to the client’s business. The research that is being carried out provides an alternative for this policy. The repertoire of strategies can be also applied in open innovation networks that take the private-collective model of innovation. Needless to say, individuals have to educated and trained to master the broad repertoire of sharing-protection strategies as well as situationally apply them; for example to enable collaboration among staff working for competing outsourcing clients or researchers from competing organizations collaborating on joint research.