With intensifying competition and increasing dependence on external partners, open innovation has been becoming an inevitable and prevalent strategy to achieve long-term competitive advantage. Considerable research has investigated the benefit of open innovation, the mechanism through which open innovation translates into sustainable competitive advantage have yet been well examined. Drawing on the strategy-competence-competitive advantage framework and the knowledge-based view, this study examines the role of ambidextrous organizational learning in mediating the relationship between open innovation and sustainable competitive advantage as well as the moderating role of knowledge management capability. Based on data collected from 269 Chinese high-tech enterprises in 2021, we found that open innovation contributes to sustainable competitive advantage through enhancing organizational learning including both exploratory and exploitative learning as well as their balance. Moreover, knowledge management capability positively moderates the relationships of open innovation to exploration and exploitation as well as their combination. Research and practical implications are discussed.
As a result of globalization, technological complexity, increased competition and resource scarcity, organizations are changing and adopting a more open, cooperative approach to building their competitive advantage (Barrett et al., 2021; Lewis et al., 2010). Hence, open innovation has been becoming an important concept in both academic research and industrial practice; it refers to “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively” (Chesbrough, 2006). Compared with closed innovation, open innovation permits firms to explore outside knowledge and to externally exploit existing internal resources to gain a competitive edge (Drechsler and Natter, 2012; Popa et al., 2017). The more a business interacts with other organizations, the higher its chances of acquiring external ideas, capabilities, knowledge, technology and other intangibles, and the greater its chances of successful innovation (Greco et al., 2016). Moreover, the complementarity and collaboration of internal and external innovation resources will gradually improve enterprises' innate innovation capability, helping them to ultimately form their own core competitiveness (Lichtenthaler, 2011).
7.4. Limitations and future studies
This study has several limitations. First, this study only examines the mediating effect of organizational learning. But, with the logic of SCC, many kinds of competences take the roles of transforming open innovation strategy into competitive advantage. Future research may explore other mediation mechanisms such as dynamic capabilities, adaptive capabilities, among others. Second, this study only examines the moderating effect of knowledge management capability to help resolve the inconsistent findings on the relationship between open innovation and competitive advantage. Future studies may further to resolve this problem by investigating other factors (such as industrial factors, managers' personalities, among others) that affect such relationship. Third, the using cross section data collected by survey may be another limitation, as it fails to interpret the temporal relationships among open innovation, exploitative and exploratory learning, and sustainable competitive advantage (Latan, 2018; Latan et al., 2019; Ullah et al., 2018). Future works may employ panel data to examine these relationships with considering the issue of endogeneity. Fourth, while the data was collected from firms locating in the Yangtze River Delta region, and the sample was relatively small, which may affect the generalizability of the conclusions to some extent.