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The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving

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dc.contributor.advisor Erasmus, R.
dc.contributor.advisor Yannakou, K. Duncan, Robert David 2012-08-23T09:09:49Z 2012-08-23T09:09:49Z 2011-11
dc.identifier.citation Duncan, Robert David (2011) The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving, University of South Africa, Pretoria, <> en
dc.description.abstract This study examined how online social networking (OSN) leads to increased communication and collaboration across inter-firm boundaries. This online social networking behaviour represents significant opportunities to firms in the form of improved problem-solving, increased collaborative innovation and enhanced engagement with stakeholders. There are also risks inherent in the widespread use of OSNs, such as the loss of control over information flows to individuals outside the organization, potential damage to the reputation of brands and organizations, and loss of productivity due to excessive usage of OSNs during work hours. In particular, this study sought to test four research propositions, specifically, that usage of one particular OSN, LinkedIn (LI), results in: 1) an increased number of inter-firm connections; 2) an improved ability to communicate across inter-firm boundaries; 3) greater access to problem solving or innovation collaborators; 4) increased organizational problem solving or innovation ability. The study methodology involved both quantitative and qualitative research. The quantitative portion of the study involved survey research among over 500 LinkedIn (LI) users to determine changes they reported in various dimensions related to inter-firm relationship-forming, information-sharing and collaborative problem solving since using LI. The sampling approach was purposive and the sample frame consisted of the researcher’s own extended LI network, and an effort was also made to make the survey link available to all LI members through public posting in the site’s Q&A section. Though no individual or group was systematically excluded from the opportunity to take the survey, some limitations are inherent in the approach taken. The survey respondents were self-selecting, which makes it difficult to confirm that the sample is reflective of all LI users. Also, the use of the researcher’s own LI network as a key source of survey respondents may have biased the study toward more open networkers, since the researcher’s network was built up over time by practicing open networking behaviours. As a result, the sample may tend to under-represent more closed or restrictive networkers. Notwithstanding these limitations, no one particular group of respondents was excluded from the opportunity to take the survey, and the resulting data suggests that there were significant numbers of respondents who considered themselves closed networkers. Also, the spread of respondents by geographic area, occupation and age was found to resemble published statistics from LI on its user base, so it appears that the data is reasonably reflective of the LI user base, though this would be difficult to verify or measure. Qualitative research was also undertaken among senior managers at companies that have embraced the use of OSNs by staff to determine their experiences along similar dimensions. The findings from the quantitative survey showed that users of LI have experienced an increased number of social connections with individuals as a result of using LI, and that these connections are often with people in other organizations, including competitors and customers. Survey respondents also reported that they have been able to draw upon their LI networks in order to solve problems and be more innovative in their work. Analysis of the qualitative research yielded a list of suggested best practices that could be adopted by firms wishing to harness the collaborative power of OSNs. These suggested best practices have been grouped under the areas of strategy, listening, communication, guidelines, training, diffusion and measurement. Some suggested areas for future research included: the role of performance measurement and reward systems in managing OSN usage behaviour; the organizational risks of centralized versus decentralized control of messaging via OSNs; the role of training in the effective deployment of OSNs in an organizational context; and the organizational risk of increased connectedness with competitors resulting from OSN relationships. en
dc.format.extent 1 online resource (xi, 223 leaves) : col. ill.
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Online social networks en
dc.subject Collaborative innovation en
dc.subject Inter-firm collaboration en
dc.subject Social networks en
dc.subject Social media en
dc.subject Innovation en
dc.subject Communities of practice (CoPs) en
dc.subject LinkedIn en
dc.subject Facebook en
dc.subject Twitter en
dc.subject.ddc 658.04402856754
dc.subject.lcsh Strategic alliances (Business) -- Computer network resources
dc.subject.lcsh Joint ventures -- Computer network resources
dc.subject.lcsh Problem solving -- Computer network resources
dc.subject.lcsh Business enterprises -- Technological innovations -- Computer network resources
dc.subject.lcsh Online social networks -- Economic aspects
dc.title The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving en
dc.type Thesis en
dc.description.department Business Management en D.B.L.

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