This study investigates the role of entrepreneurial leadership in the orchestration of resource domains towards effective value creation and capture in open innovation (OI). To do so, it proposes a threefold framework that, first it explores the role of OI leaders in cultivating an environment that supports diverse motivational drivers of network members in the input domain. Second, it explains the impact of establishing facets of power by emergent OI leaders on setting the direction of a dominant flow of innovation in the institutional domain. Third, it postulates the impact of entrepreneurial contributions of OI leaders — opportunity-seeking and advantage-seeking activities — in aligning knowledge-asset creation and monetization strategies with the dominant demands and dynamics in the market domain. The proposed model is discussed by drawing on instances from open source communities hosted on GitHub. This study makes contributions to literature on open innovation and entrepreneurial leadership. By highlighting the importance of entrepreneurial contributions of OI leaders, it expands the research on open innovation beyond the traditional focus on leaders’ social and technical contributions. By examining the construct of entrepreneurial leadership from the OI perspective, this study offers insights into the complexities of developing and monetizing innovation in novel collaborative environments, which deviates from the organizational proprietary approach dominant in this literature.
The information age has witnessed the prevalence of novel approaches to creating and capturing value from innovation that reach beyond organizational boundaries. These approaches are fueled by the proliferation of Information Technologies that facilitate interorganizational collaborations in the knowledge economy (West and Bogers, 2014; West et al., 2014; Gassmann et al., 2010). This shift has led to the increasing popularity of new forms of innovation networks and ecosystems such as open source communities, crowdsourcing innovation platforms, and virtual marketplaces for ideas (Chesbrough, 2004; Yoo et al., 2012; Birkinshaw et al., 2008; Natalicchio et al., 2014). The global pandemic intensified this shift, because in absence of face-to-face interactions, approaches such as open source became a dominant learning, co-creation, and social tool. For instance, open source project creation on GitHub, the most popular social coding and project hosting service, increased by 40% in the year 2020 (Forsgren, 2020).
To adapt, innovation leadership practices have evolved accordingly to focus on creating information and social capital through interactions and collaboration with other organizations and unaffiliated actors (Fountain, 1998). Leaders in such contexts improve economic performance by directing the flow of innovation toward recognizing new opportunities and mobilizing internal and external resources toward exploiting them (Fleming and Waguespack, 2007; Wang et al., 2015; Boxenbaum and Linda, 2011). However, leading these collaborative initiatives present unique challenges that are most evident in open innovation (OI). For instance, leading diverse actors, including transient members and unaffiliated innovators, with varying motivational incentives poses unique challenges (Von Krogh et al., 2003; Von Hippel, 2001a,b). Further, systematic internal and external exchange of knowledge in OI requires innovation leaders to adopt a dual focus on accelerating the development of innovation in pursuit of value creation, while growing outside markets in the quest for value capturing (Chesbrough and Crowther, 2006; Chesbrough, 2012; West et al., 2006; Lichtenthaler, 2011). Lastly, OI’s lack of formal structure and bureaucratic functions warrants employing complex leadership techniques to ensure the success of innovation processes.
The discussions and theoretical postulations in this study elucidate the complexities of the emerging landscape of OI leadership and governance. The theoretical and practical implications of these novel complexities are immense, especially amid a global pandemic that fueled the need for collaborative innovations. In this section, first, the inferences related to the theoretical implications of this study are discussed, followed by the practical implications. Next, the potential areas for future research are noted, while acknowledging some of the limitations of this study.
Regarding the theoretical implications, the results of this study help address several gaps and deficiencies in literature on OI leadership. First, the literature on OI leadership is primarily concerned with the emergence of leaders due to social and technical contributions, and subsequently tend to overlook the importance of leaders’ effectiveness in managing human and social resources towards knowledge-asset creation and appropriation (O’Mahony and Ferraro, 2007; Fleming and Waguespack, 2007). The proposed framework in this paper addresses this gap by highlighting the importance of entrepreneurial contributions of OI leaders. In doing so, it expands the research on OI leadership beyond the traditional focus on leaders’ social and technical contributions. In doing so, this study also offers insights that address the research gaps in understanding the linkages and differences in criteria for the emergence and effectiveness of leaders in OI. Meaning, while social and technical contributions are most conducive to the emergence of OI leaders, entrepreneurial contributions are central to their effectiveness in achieving innovation objectives.